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Dress code in works for state-run colleges in MP, Oppn asks what about use of ‘hijab, kada & kalava’

Oppn terms it tactic to divert from core issues, while others welcome move while adding it should be followed by measures to improve quality of education in state-run colleges.

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Bhopal: College students in Madhya Pradesh may soon have to wear a uniform. Higher Education Minister Inder Singh Parmar has asked the department to engage with stakeholders and come up with broad guidelines for enforcing a dress code in state-run colleges. 

The idea is to bring in uniformity and discipline, besides establishing brand value at a time when the BJP government in the state is gearing up to upgrade one college in each of the state’s 55 districts as Prime Minister College of Excellence.

Speaking to INDIAN EXPOSE, Higher Education Minister Inder Singh Parmar said the dress code for government colleges will first be enforced in the 55 colleges to be classified as a Prime Minister College of Excellence and later across the state.

But the decision has invited criticism from the Opposition Congress which termed it a tactic to divert attention from alleged corruption in state-run educational institutions.

“We are questioning the BJP government’s intention behind bringing in a dress code as everyone knows that they (government) after making the dress code compulsory, will then bring into question the hijab. And if that happens, several communities including Muslims, Sikhs and people from other communities who wear kada or kalava will have a problem with such a dress code. The BJP government should clarify if they have a problem with hijab,” said state Congress spokesperson Abbas Hafeez.

Hafeez also argued that if the government prohibits students from wearing a hijab, that would amount to denying them their right to education. “The government should only take such steps after consulting and taking all stakeholders in confidence,” he added. 

Congress MLA and the Leader of the Opposition in the state Assembly Umang Singhar, meanwhile, said college students enjoy a sense of liberty and freedom and as far as maintaining discipline is concerned, the onus rests with the college administration. “The government does not have to make uniforms mandatory to enforce discipline,” he said.

Singhar told INDIANEXPOSE that one must also look into who will eventually bag the contracts to stitch these college uniforms.

Also Read: ‘Poor grades based on religion, encouraging conversion’ — Ujjain university students accuse Muslim prof

Rationale behind dress code for colleges

Explaining the rationale behind the decision to frame rules for enforcing a dress code for college students, Higher Education Minister Inder Singh Parmar said several colleges in the state already have a dress code in place.

“We are now starting 55 colleges afresh as Prime Minister College of Excellence and want to ensure the best quality of education in these institutes. In this spirit and learning from past feedback in the form of complaints of outsiders entering colleges, creating ruckus and misbehaving with girl students, we decided to have uniform dress code for these institutes, considering that we want to create premium institutes.

“There are management colleges, medical colleges and nearly all private colleges have their own dress codes. And we also want to create institutes that have discipline, decorum and produce good results,” he said.

Parmar added that the government is taking all steps to ensure hundred percent faculty for all courses in these colleges.

“When we are taking all these steps, we thought we should also discuss a uniform. It will be done through consultation with all stakeholders, especially student bodies. Government will only issue a guideline stating colleges should move in this direction. These dress codes will not have a single colour but a set of colours inspired from nature which is suitable to students. Students should not feel bored of these uniforms,” the minister told INDIANEXPOSE.

He also said discussions are being held at the departmental level on reaching a consensus with student bodies in this regard. “Our intention is to decide on uniforms for every college with complete agreement of all only to ensure a healthy educational environment.”

Asked if the dress code will be implemented only in colleges classified as a Prime Minister College of Excellence or all colleges — including technical, vocational and non-technical institutes — Parmar said the plan is to first roll out the dress code in colleges classified as Prime Minister College of Excellence. 

Other colleges that have ‘A’ accreditation from NAAC or those that don’t but have a proven track record in terms of results will then be roped in, he said, emphasising implementation of the dress code in a staggered form over a period of two-three years.

“And in case there are still objections from any quarters, we will take them into consideration and discuss to resolve them,” added Parmar.

A senior official from the state Higher Education department explained that officials have been asked to consult various institutes and draft broad guidelines on the implementation of a dress code.

“It is unlikely that all colleges across the state will have a uniform dress code, but each of these institutes can decide their own colours and design based on the broad framework laid down by the department. The government when rolling out CM Rise Schools issued similar guidelines with the idea of establishing these schools as a brand. It’s the same with institutions classified as PM College of Excellence,” he added.

As Parmar pointed out, many autonomous colleges in Madhya Pradesh including the Maharani Laxmi Bai Girls PG Autonomous College in Bhopal already have a dress code. 

“Our students have been wearing a pink salwar kameez to college for the past 15 years and the system has worked very well. There has been no controversy, in fact there is no sense of insecurity among students over their dresses. It is just once a week that students are allowed to wear casuals,” said Praveen Tamot, principal, MLB College.

Focus should be on ‘quality of education’

Asked about the state government’s plan to implement a dress code for state-run colleges, professor Anil Sharma, president of the MP Government College Professors’ Association quoted a shloka from the Vishnu Puran. 

Sa Vidya ya Vimuktaye… which means knowledge is the one that liberates… in my view, when entering college a student gets his sense of freedom and explores his personality and having a uniform has absolutely no bearing on the quality of education and its outcomes,” he told INDIANEXPOSE.

Echoing Sharma’s view, retired professor Kailash Tyagi said, “Government has not issued a single directive to date to ensure all classes are conducted in colleges and the level of education improves, but will divert from core issues and run behind such frivolous ideas.”

On the other hand, professor Prakash Khatekar, president of the state arm of the Pragatisheel Sahayak Pradhyapak Sangh, welcomed the move and argued that a dress code will negate feelings of insecurity that may arise in the minds of students, especially those from lesser privileged backgrounds as has been observed in colleges in rural areas.

“At the same time, the government should give free uniforms to students and ensure that vacant posts across all colleges are filled up quickly which will enhance the quality of education in these institutes,” he said.

Much like Khatekar, Shalini Verma, national convener of ABVP, welcomed the move but added that it must be followed with concrete steps to improve the quality of education in state-run colleges. “I believe the decision has been taken to ensure there is a sense of decorum and discipline in these colleges which is a good and commendable move. But at the same time, the government should also work to ensure permanent faculty and sufficient infrastructure to support and give quality education to students,” she said.

State NSUI president Aashutosh Chouksey, too, welcomed the decision to enforce a dress code for college students but emphasised it should not be done at the expense of curtailing one’s religious freedom. “Having a uniform dress code in colleges is a welcome move as long as it does not stop anyone from practising their religious freedom,” he said.

(Edited by Amrtansh Arora)

Also Read: Schoolteacher arrested in MP’s Shahdol for ‘beating up student for chanting Jai Shree Ram’

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