Days before Tamil Nadu went for elections on April 6, in a free-wheeling interview to THE WEEK, Chief Minister M.K. Stalin, as the then opposition leader, said: "We will fight for the state rights while being friendly with the Union government." He was answering a question on the dynamics of the relation between the Centre and the state. Now, exactly a week after taking charge as the chief minister of the state, the new dispensation under him has clearly conveyed its message to the Central government by boycotting the virtual meeting called by the education department to discuss the new National Education Policy (NEP).
The DMK-led Tamil Nadu government on Monday boycotted Union Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal’s virtual meeting with the education department secretaries of the states. The meeting was called by Pokhriyal to discuss the implementation of the New Education Policy, board exams and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the education sector. The Union ministry, however, did not invite the education ministers to the meeting. Marking its protest against the Union ministry directly interacting with the state officials, Tamil Nadu government boycotted the meeting. “You cannot say that we boycotted. We did not attend only to register our protest against the Union government calling for a meeting with the state secretaries when there are elected representatives,” Tamil Nadu’s newly sworn-in school education minister Anbil Mahesh Poyyamozhi said in a press conference.
Clarifying that the state is not intending to confront the centre, Poyyamozhi said that “the move was to register our protest against the Union government based on our principles.” The DMK has been strongly opposing the NEP 2020, since its proposal. In fact, the DMK, when in opposition, formed its own committee to look into the NEP and submitted a report to Ramesh Pokhriyal saying: “Several of the recommendations in NEP including three-language formula, closure of rural schools, higher education institutions and Entrance test for admissions to higher education institutions will adversely affect the educational rights of rural students and the progress of education.” Despite the state government’s request to hold discussions at the ministerial level, the Centre chose to go ahead with its plan to hold discussion with the officials.
Said Poyyamozhi: “None of the suggestions proposed by the DMK to the draft policy has been accepted. In our opinion, the NEP will just help people who are settled well to get education. We do not see any schemes or policies that would uplift the backward class, Scheduled Castes, and other communities. We want poor students to benefit from any education policy.” The minister also said the government suspected that the three-language formula was an “indirect” way of “imposing Hindi language” in Tamil Nadu, and maintained that the state had adopted a two-language policy since the days of C.N. Annadurai's chief ministership.