New Delhi :  HRD Minister Smriti Irani clarified on Monday that listening to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s address to students on Teachers’ Day on September 5 was “completely voluntary”.

“This particular activity is completely voluntary and if there has been any miscommunication over this issue and is (seen to be) politically contrived, I would say it is regrettable,” she said.

According to a central government circular, all schools across the country have been told to make arrangements for children to view Modi’s live address on television.

The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), which sent out the circular, has directed schools to make arrangements for the event between 2.30 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sep 5. Modi is scheduled to address students and hold an interactive  question-answer session from 3 p.m. to 4.45 p.m. The interaction would be telecast live on Doordarshan. It would also be available on the web site of the human resource development ministry. Since schools usually close by afternoon, a section of school principals here has questioned the timing of the Modi-student interaction. “It is good the prime minister wants to connect with children. But he can do it during the school timing. Why hold the interaction in the afternoon when most schools are closed?” Jyoti Bose, principal of Springdales School in south Delhi, told the media. The principal of a private school told IANS: “We will have to stay in the schools till 5 p.m. Where is the respite for teachers on this special day?”

Modi is to interact with students of Delhi schools in person and those from Leh, Ladakh, Port Blair, Silchar (Assam) and Imphal among others through satellite links. All schools have been asked to submit a report by Monday 5 p.m. on the arrangements made by the authorities and the number of students likely to attend the address. Complying with the directive, some schools have sent messages to parents. “Students of Classes 1-12 must be present in schools Sep 5 from 2.30 p.m. to 5 p.m. to watch the prime minister’s live address,” said one such message.

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