Kapil Sibal, then and now
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Last week, when HRD Minister Kapil Sibal gave in to offended parliamentarians objecting to political cartoons in NCERT textbooks and ended up agreeing with them and ordering the withdrawal of the textbooks, it completed the image of a minister who believes in taking people along, in going the extra mile when politics demands it.
There had been a time when he had been criticised for not being accommodating enough of the views of others. When he took charge in May 2009, he came across as one who would brook no opposition. He took little time setting off a series of reforms in the education sector, booting out the entire top brass of AICTE after they were found engaged in corruption, getting scores of deemed universities blacklisted, reviewing the performance of practically every institute under his ministry and churning out legislation after legislation to usher in reforms in higher education.
Announcing the big shift from marks to grades in CBSE schools and then doing away with the Class X board exams altogether, Sibal ruffled many more for trying to avoid long-drawn consultations and red tape. How much resentment this caused became apparent when one of his key reforms bills— the National Education Tribunal Bill — was deferred by the Rajya Sabha with his own party men leading the attack and bringing much embarrassment for the party and the minister. The Parliamentary Standing Committee headed by Congress veteran Oscar Fernandes lambasted Sibal and his ministry for hastily rushing in bills without adequate homework or consultation. The ministry rejected each one of the standing committee's recommendations for this bill, alienating still more MPs.
One by one, his bills ended up being questioned and held up in Parliament. Until the beginning of this Parliament session, the HRD minister had as many as 14 education legislation stuck in Parliament. Resigned to the situation, Sibal had in fact also asked his ministry to look at non-legislative reforms to push through his reforms.
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