The Gujarat assembly on Tuesday passed a bill which makes teaching the Gujarati language compulsory in all primary schools in the state, including those affiliated with CBSE, ICSE and IB boards.
If a school is found violating the provisions of the “Gujarat Compulsory Teaching and Learning of Gujarati Language Bill, 2023” for more than a year, the government would “direct the board or institution” to disaffiliate the school.
The bill, introduced by state Education Minister Kuber Dindor, was passed unanimously by the 182-member House, with both the Congress and the Aam Aadmi Party supporting its provisions.
According to the bill, schools which are currently not teaching Gujarati will have to introduce Gujarati as an additional language for classes 1 to 8 in phases from the upcoming academic year 2023-24.
“Every school shall follow textbooks prescribed by the Gujarat government for teaching Gujarati as an additional language. The state government will appoint a deputy director-level officer of the education department as the competent authority to implement the provisions of this bill,” said Dindor.
If a school violates the provisions for the first time, it will be fined Rs 50,000. The penalty will be Rs 1 lakh for the first offence and Rs 2 lakh for subsequent offences.
“If a school continues to make contraventions to this act for over one year, the state government may direct the board or institution to disaffiliate the school, to which such a school is affiliated,” as per the provisions in the bill. The penalty will not be imposed without allowing the school concerned to put forward its explanation.
Though the Congress supported the bill, its members slammed the Bharatiya Janata Party government, alleging that it “woke up” only after a PIL was filed in the high court recently for the proper implementation of the state government’s 2018 notification, asking all primary schools to introduce the Gujarati language as a mandatory subject in primary schools from class 1 to 8.
“Before this bill, the state government had issued a notification in 2018 for the same purpose. Thus, I urge the state government to make sure that this bill does not meet the fate of that notification. We hope that you will implement the act strictly. Moreover, the state government should think of increasing the amount of penalty,” said Congress MLA Amit Chavda.
He also urged the state government to introduce Gujarati as a compulsory subject at the secondary and higher secondary levels.
Last October, the public interest litigation was filed by an NGO seeking the Gujarat HC’s direction to the state government ”to ensure the Government Resolution of 2018 is implemented in its true letter and spirit so as to introduce the Gujarati language as one of the mandatory subjects in primary schools from standard 1 to 8”.
The petitioner had stated that primary schools, especially those affiliated with CBSE, ICSE, and IB boards were not offering Gujarati as a subject in the curriculum despite a state policy in place.
In December, the HC said schools affiliated with other boards like CBSE and ICSE cannot refuse to implement a state government policy. The HC had further said it will issue necessary directions if the government ”feels helpless” to compel schools.