On a day when the agitation against the de-recognition of the Ambedkar-Periyar Study Circle at IIT Madras is at its peak, the Centre has announced the setting up of a Prime Minister-chaired committee for the 125th birth anniversary celebrations of Dr B R Ambedkar. The year-long celebrations will end on April 14 next year.

“Dr Ambedkar was the maker of modern India and a champion of social equity,” Communication Minister Ravi Shanker Prasad told reporters while announcing the Cabinet's decision to set up the committee.

The panel will be like a mini Cabinet with 11 senior Union Ministers (Home, Finance, External Affairs, Railways, Urban Development, Social Justice and Empowerment, and Law, besides others). It will also have the Speaker of the Punjab Assembly Sardar Charanjit Singh Atwal and founder of DICCI (Dalit Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry) Milind Kamble, and others as members from outside the Government.

The committee will suggest programmes /activities to be undertaken by various ministries/ departments and States/ UTs to celebrate the 125th birth anniversary of Dr Ambedkar. The activities and celebrations will aim to spread his thoughts and ideas.

The Cabinet has also been apprised of 16 major activities being undertaken by the Social Justice & Empowerment Ministry to promote Dr Ambedkar’s ideologies and philosophy. These include issuing a commemorative postal stamp and a coin, establishing the Ambedkar International Centre in Delhi (at a cost of Rs 197 crore and to be completed before March 2017), setting up a memorial in Delhi (where he lived from November 1, 1951, till he breathed his last on December 6, 1956), and presenting a tableau on Dr. Ambedkar in next year's Republic Day Parade, beside others.

Prasad and Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment Thawar Chand Gehlot ruled out a political motive behind the Government’s elaborate plans but hit out at Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi, who will kick off the Congress’ nationwide celebrations of Ambedkar’s anniversary from the Dalit icon’s birth place of Mhow in Madha Pradesh on Tuesday.

Congress leaders are also holding a meet today to chalk out plans for the celebrations. “Rahul Gandhi and his party never honoured Ambedkar. Neither was he given the Bharat Ratna nor was his oil painting installed in the Parliament premises as long as the Congress was in power. If today somebody is going there (Mhow), I want to ask why did he not do it so for so many years? Today they (Congress) are doing it as the land beneath their feet has slipped,” Gehlot said. Both the BJP and Congress are planning to observe Ambedkar’s birth anniversary in a big way this year in their attempt to reach out to the Dalit community.

De-recognition of student body at IIT Madras

A decision on the committee was announced on a day when the Congress and various other institutions are criticising the Modi Government on the Human Resources Ministry's alleged role in de-recognising a student body at IIT Madras following a complaint that it was critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

On Friday, the HRD Ministry had said IIT Madras had taken action against a students group according to its own procedure and established guidelines. Higher Education Secretary S N Mohanty said IIT Madras is an autonomous institute and has taken action within its law and the Ministry had nothing to do except for forwarding the complaint and seeking comments from the institute. However, this clarification did not satisfy student bodies such as the NSUI and DYFI, which protested in Delhi and Chennai respectively.