In August 2020, Smt Kanimozhi, daughter of the DMK Patriarch Shri Karunanidhi, and the sitting MP for Thoothukudi, alleged that she was asked if she was an Indian when she refused to respond to a CISF official in Hindi at the airport.
In the wake of this, certain elements in the Tamil movie industry started a campaign of circulating their pictures on social media with the caption ‘I am a Tamil Speaking Indian’ or ‘Hindi Theiyadhu Poda’ – ‘I don’t know Hindi, man!’.
Some sections of Tamil social media celebrities questioned this premise, pointing out that
- All DMK MPs have availed of the MP quota to admit children from their constituency into Kendriya Vidyalayas.
- Many individuals that are part of the Dravidian movement or related to AIADMK and DMK party functionaries run CBSE schools, that implement the 3-language policy in teaching.
It was at this point that Tamil vLogger Maridhass, who has been in the cross-hairs of the DMK ecosystem for some time now, released a YouTube video on September 11th, 2020. In this video, he alleges that DMK MPs have been using caste considerations and also accepting donations for admitting children using their quota in Kendriya Vidyalayas.
The Kendriya Vidyalaya Sanghathan is the single largest chain of CBSE schools in India, for the purpose of providing quality education to children of Central Government employees at nominal cost and to ensure that childrens’ education is not compromised in transfers. The cost of setting up and operating these schools is borne by the Union Ministry of HRD and the premises are constructed on land that is part of premises belonging to Central Government enterprise.
As of 2020, there are 13 lakh students enrolled in 1247 Kendriya Vidyalayas across the country. Kendriya Vidyalaya follows the CBSE’s 3-language policy and teaches some subjects in Hindi. There are 59,000 students enrolled in 50 Kendriya Vidyalayas in Tamil Nadu alone. While the vast majority are children of Central Government employees, there is a smaller quota for children from the local population. Each MP can also recommend up to 10 children from his/her constituency per year to be admitted in the Kendriya Vidyalayas.
Incidentally, none of the MPs from Tamil Nadu has been ever known to give up this privilege on account of their opposition to Hindi imposition. Mr Ma Venkatesan, a prominent young intellectual of Tamil Nadu, tweeted a list of children admitted to Kendriya Vidyalayas in the academic year 2019-2020 in the quota to be availed by Smt Kanimozhi.
Mr Maridhass, in turn, tweeted a list of children admitted in the academic year 2020-2021 on the basis of recommendation by Dr Senthilkumar, DMK MP from Dharmapuri.
To this, Dr Senthilkumar tweeted rather blasely that this was common knowledge and what was to be gained by sharing this information
All data drawn from https://www.kvsangathan.nic.in/.
Between their avowed anti-Hindi stance and the habit of using their position as MPs to get children enrolled into Hindi-teaching Kendriya Vidyalayas, the Dravidian MPs from Tamil Nadu have shown quite a disconnect between beliefs and practice.
This seems to cut across party lines. In August 4, 2018, Smt V Sathyabhama, then AIADMK MP for Tiruppur, tweeted that she met Union HRD Minister Shri Javadekar and placed a demand for opening Kendriya Vidyalayas in her district.
Notably, her party has always opposed setting up Navodaya Vidyalayas in Tamil Nadu, which are of the same nature as Kendriya Vidyalayas, except that they are geared towards admitting rural children rather than children of Union Government employees.
Leaving that aside, let us now look at two categories of schools that are CBSE affiliated and apply the 3-language formula, to which all Dravidian parties have expressed opposition – the Navodaya Vidyalayas and private CBSE schools.
Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas
The National Policy on Education – 1986 envisaged the set up of centrally funded Middle and High Schools to be set up in rural areas, to provide high quality education to families that have been historically not had access to education due to geographical and socio-economic reasons.
As of 31-03-2019, 661 Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalayas are operating in 638 districts of India at a budget of Rs 3213 Crores per annum. The education system, recruitment is similar to the other Central Government run school system – the Kendriya Vidyalayas. These residential schools start from Class VI on a residential basis. The entire cost of education, including boarding, lodging and personal expenses of students are met by the Government. Children are selected from rural backgrounds on the basis of an entrance test. There are reservations for SC/ST/OBC and for girl children.
20% of Navodaya Vidyalaya students that have appeared for IIT JEE have cleared the JEE Advanced paper and 80% of JNV students that appeared for NEET 2019 qualified.
The student body is 2.65 lakh strong – of which 75% are rural, 40% female, 25% SC and 20% ST. While miniscule in comparison to the large population of underprivileged children in the country, it is still a laudable experiment in making good quality education available to them.
The only requirement from the State Government is that 30 acres of land must be made available for each school and premises provided for operation of schools until such time as construction is completed. All information drawn from https://navodaya.gov.in/
However, for decades, all Tamil Dravidian leaders have opposed setting up JNV in Tamil Nadu, on the grounds of Hindi imposition.
Private CBSE schools
According to the CBSE official site in 2020, there were 1171 schools affiliated to the CBSE in Tamil Nadu. This is more than 4-fold growth from 2010 when there were only 250 CBSE schools in the State.
This roughly 10% of all private unaided schools in the State, according to the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan. We can assume that roughly 13 lakh students, or 10% of the 1.3 crore school student population of Tamil Nadu are enrolled in private CBSE schools. All CBSE schools follow the 3-language formula. As a result, a good number of Tamil Nadu’s children are now learning Hindi.
Since private CBSE schools charge anywhere from 60,000 to 1.5 lakhs or above per year per student, these are students from privileged upper middle-class backgrounds. Of note is the fact that many of these schools are run by party members or relatives from the DMK or AIADMK, both of which have been opposing the Navodaya Vidyalayas.
Crunching the numbers
If we assume that 40 Jawahar Navodaya Vidyalaya Schools could have been set up in Tamil Nadu and allowed to operate for 20 years, here are some projections for what could have been possible.
The student body of a JNV, on average is composed of 400 children, of which 50 would be in each graduating class of Std XII. If the standard percentages are applied, 40 of these would be rural, 20 girls, 12 SC and 10 ST.
Over 20 years, this would imply 32000 rural students, 16000 girls, 9600 SC and 8000 ST students would have benefited.
All of this at the mere cost to the Tamil Nadu State Government of identifying and allocating some 1200 acres of poromboke land to the school. While this seems like a large sum, we must keep in mind that 37,000 Government run schools operate in the State, which represent more than 75000 acres of land that are already being utilized for the purpose of education. Another 1200 acres wuld hardly make a difference to the land bank under the control of the TN Government.
How much does the Government of Tamil Nadu Spend?
The Government of Tamil Nadu spend Rs 31,000 crores per year on school education. There are 6500 private aided schools in Tamil Nadu. Roughly 13-15% of the budget would be spent on teacher salaries or Rs 4000 crores. Even if we take a very conservative estimate of 50% of these schools being privately owned, the Government of Tamil Nadu spends Rs 2000 crores per year in subsidizing minority educational institutions.
There are 280 Urdu Medium schools in Tamil Nadu, of which 66 are Government-run. Even among the other 214 privately run Urdu medium schools, there could be a good number that is aided by the Government of Tamil Nadu. We could not find conclusive figures on the list of private aided Urdu medium schools online.
Even if the amount spent on JNVs were simply transferred to the Government of Tamil Nadu, it would be Rs 135 crores per year, or 0.4% of the annual school education budget. One wonders how this would make any material difference to the working of the School Education Department.
Why this resistance?
As we saw from the numbers, even if Navodaya Vidyalayas were allowed, the student body would be miniscule. They would not make a dent in the growth of private CBSE schools, since the target demographic for these two sectors are vastly different. They would not affect enrolment in schools that are run by Tamil Government (54 lakh students in 37,000 schools) or private aided schools (28 Lakh students in 8400 schools).
What they affect are several narratives
- That learning Hindi in schools would affect the growth of Tamil
- That central entrance examinations are biased against Tamils and specifically rural children from under-privileged backgrounds.
When people from rural, underprivileged backgrounds can see children from similar backgrounds take up CBSE education and succeed, they will begin to question the dominant narrative of the Dravidian movement.
And that will destroy one of the primary tricks of the Dravidian delusion among the rural under-privileged masses that have been the driving thrust of their movement.