"We only recommend books for Class IX onwards. Books are chosen by individual schools. There is no monitoring of content of school books," CBSE chief Vineet Joshi told NDTV on Friday.
He was reacting to the story which showed the Class 6 book titled New Healthway: Health, Hygiene, Physiology, Safety, Sex Education, Games and Exercises. On page 56, the books says about non-vegetarians, "They easily cheat, tell lies, they forget promises, they are dishonest and tell bad words, steal, fight and turn to violence and commit sex crimes."
That's not all. On the same page, the book credits the tastiness of meat by saying that "it is the waste products which largely produce the flavour of meat". It is published by the reputed firm S Chand, which also prints texts used in hundreds of schools in the country. After the controversy, Himanshu Gupta, Joint Managing Director of S Chand Publication, has said that they will discontinue this book and rework new ones to prevent a recurrence. "We are also trying to contact the author who may have died because he was very old," Mr Gupta added.
A report had been prepared in 2005 by academics which had raised concerns about textbooks printed by private publishers. But no action was taken on it, Janaki Rajan of the Faculty of Education in Jamia University who was part of the committee that prepared the report told NDTV. "Since 1985 there has been concerns about what has been propagated by private publishers. An excellent report has been presented to the government but no action has been taken since," she said.
The same committee had advocated a National Textbook Council to oversee and approve content but that was rejected by states earlier this year.
Annie Koshy, principal of St Mary's school in New Delhi, said that while her school didn't use this book, it does serve as a test case for school books. "The CBSE recommends some publishers and not particularly books. It is a great way for us to actually see whether teachers are reading the books and teaching what the books say," she said.
The book in question makes several more bizarre statements. It has lauded the Japanese for their vegetarian diet, which it says leads to a longer life span, while ignoring that Japan is known for sushi and seafood.
"They are vegetarians and live longer than most other peoples. The generous use of green leafy vegetables, soya beans and grams has helped the people to maintain vigour, strength and endurance throughout the centuries", the book says; there is no mention of the fish in Japanese diet.
But diet isn't the only issue that's raised in the book. While talking about life lessons, the book advocates marriage for girls between 18 to 25. "To get married without a bad name is a dream of every young girl."