Amid a raging controversy over saffronisation of education, IIT Delhi's decision to invite yoga guru Ramdev and an Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh affiliate for deliberations on a programme to leverage the technical strength of the IITs for development of rural areas has raised eyebrows.
Ramdev and members of RSS' Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram had attended the meeting on implementation of the Unnat Bharat Abhiyan in January this year along with other stakeholders and professors associated with the programme, including chairman of IIT Delhi Board of Governors Vijay Bhatkar.
The meeting, during which involvement of cows to address rural issues were discussed, came at a time when the then IIT Delhi Director R Shivgaonkar had stepped down from his post amid allegations of interference of the HRD ministry.
His resignation was accepted in June this year.
While Union HRD minister Smriti Irani had consistently denied saffronisation of education, on Saturday she held deliberations with RSS-affiliated bodies on the new education policy during which they are understood to have also discussed the appointments of possible candidates in various institutes and varsities in the country.
However, IIT Delhi sought to downplay the presence of Ramdev saying he was invited as he wanted to collaborate with the rural development initiatives.
Meanwhile, officials in the HRD ministry said they were not aware of Ramdev's presence in that meeting.
"He wanted to collaborate with rural development activities and we had invited him since he was in Delhi during that period. He also wanted to explore technologies which we wanted to establish in his clusters," said Professor Virender Kumar Vijay of the Centre for Rural Development and Technology at IIT Delhi, which is considered as one of the brainchild behind the programme.
Professor Vijay also sought to play down reports that they have collaborated with some spiritual gurus in taking ahead the programme.
"We have in fact collaborated with about 100 agencies in our mission which also comprised other spiritual gurus. They are having their people connect and if they are connected with the people and want to do something for rural technologies then only we will be considering," he said.
Unnat Bharat Abhiyan, a HRD ministry scheme anchored by IIT Delhi, seeks to leverage the technical strength of the IITs to help develop rural India through technological intervention.