Directive on ‘selfie points’ with Odisha CM’s photo triggers row | Latest News India


Days after the University Grants Commission (UGC) directed colleges across the country to set up “selfie points” featuring Prime Minister Narendra Modi in the backdrop, the Odisha government asked all state colleges and varsities to create such points with chief minister Naveen Patnaik’s photograph in the background.

Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik (File Photo)
Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik (File Photo)

In a direction to all college principals and university officials on Friday, the state higher education department called for setting up of “selfie points”, with a photograph of Patnaik and the conch – the ruling Biju Janata Dal’s (BJD) party symbol – in the backdrop, at prominent spots across campuses.

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The directive, seen by HT, was sent via emails and WhatsApp.

The new selfie initiative has been taken up under the state’s NUA (Nutana Unnata Abhilasha) Odisha (NUA O) programme, which deals with the skill development and technical education of youngsters, the education department said.

“Following the order, selfie points have already come up in several colleges,” a person aware of the details said.

On December 1, the UGC had directed all universities to set up “selfie points” at strategic locations on campus against the backdrop of Modi’s photograph. It also recommended various themes like internationalisation of education, unity in diversity, Smart India Hackathon, Indian knowledge system, multilingualism, and India’s rise in higher education, research and innovation for the photo-ops.

Also Read: Giorgia Meloni takes selfie with PM Modi, Italian PM calls it a ‘Melodi’

The directive evoked sharp criticisms from the Opposition, with the Congress alleging that Modi was no stone unturned to save his “flailing image” in the run-up to next year’s Lok Sabha elections.

In defence, Union education minister Dharmendra Pradhan said colleges were asked to set up such points because Modi has made the country proud globally. He also said that it is not mandatory for students to click photos.

“We have been seeing since childhood that pictures of the president, prime minister and Mahatma Gandhi are on the walls in the schools and offices. Now, when we are putting selfie points with pictures of a leader who has made us proud globally and taken the country to different heights, what is your problem? It is a democracy… If you don’t want to click selfies, don’t,” Pradhan said on Thursday in the Lok Sabha.

“Children are clicking selfies, they are celebrating it. It is not mandatory… but a matter of pride… the prime minister of a country is not of any party or class but of everyone,” he added.

Also Read: ‘Meeting friends always a delight’: PM Modi reacts to ‘Melodi’ selfie with Italian PM Giorgia Meloni

Opposition parties in Odisha also criticised the BJD government’s move to set up such points with a photograph of Patnaik in the background, calling it a “gimmick” ahead of the assembly elections next year.

“The BJD is doing a gimmick and instead of focusing on improving infrastructure, research facilities and bringing better lecturers, it is focusing on promoting Patnaik through its Nua O scheme,” state BJP secretary Irashish Acharya said.

Congress spokesperson Kruschnachandra Pati said: “Our party will oppose the selfie points. Under no circumstances will politics be encouraged on campuses.”

There was no immediate response from the BJD.

Political analyst Rabi Das said both the BJP and BJD should desist from using college campuses to further their political agenda.

“At a time when several educational institutions lack playgrounds and adequate classrooms apart from shortage of lecturers, I see no point in having selfie points of either Modi or Patnaik. The state higher education department has not held the student union elections in colleges since 2018. Why are the elections stopped,” Das said.

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