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Last Updated: Tuesday, 4 April 2006, 11:47 GMT 12:47 UK
Of donkeys, politicians and wives
By Narayan Bareth
BBC News, Jaipur

Donkey carrying goods in an Indian village
In praise of donkeys which 'never get upset'
A school text book in the western Indian state of Rajasthan that compares politicians unfavourably to donkeys is to have the offending chapter removed, following complaints from aggrieved politicians.

Rajasthan's education minister Ghanshyam Tiwari failed to persuade members of the state assembly that the chapter was nothing more than satire.

The offending chapter also gives donkeys a higher rating than wives as "the wife keeps nagging" while "the donkey does not complain".

Complaints about the book have only just surfaced, even though it has been in use for a year.

Hari Mohan Sharma of the Congress party is one of the politicians objecting to the comparison between donkeys and politicians: "It painted all the leadership in one colour, it is wrong and lowering the image of our respected leaders," he told the BBC.

"India has had great leaders like [its first prime minister] Jawaharlal Nehru... how can one tarnish the image of such leaders."

In annual exams fourteen-year-old students were tested on their knowledge of the book and were asked if the skin of the donkey is, like that of the Indian leaders, too thick.

The offending chapter tells students that: "Leaders can create problem by braying any time."

Now the Rajasthan Board of Secondary Education (RBSE) has decided to take action.

"I have directed the authorities to delete the chapter. When the next edition comes in the market, you will not find the chapter in the book," Vimal Agarwal, chairman of the RBSE, told the BBC.

But he still defended the chapter, entitled If the Donkey had Horns on it Head: "It was a satirical piece and not aimed to undermine any person."

'Serves its master'

The chapter was written by the late Hindi author Gopal Prasad Vyas, who was noted for his satirical writing. He makes the following observations on wives.

A donkey being loaded with water bags in Rajasthan
Rajasthan hosts one of the oldest donkey fairs in India

"Donkeys, like Indian wives, can go hungry and thirsty but continue working... but whereas the wife keeps nagging the donkey does not complain.

"When she gets angry she starts a non-cooperation movement and threatens to go back to her parents, but the donkey never gets upset and serves its master faithfully."

Commenting on modern Indian women, the chapter says that "devoted wives" are fast diminishing in number and soon enough the expression will just exist in the dictionary.

A senior education officer said he was surprised about the belated objection to the chapter.

"The book has been part of the curriculum for the last one year, but we did not get any complaints about the chapter. There are over 600,000 students in the 9th standard [school year], neither the students nor their parents came up with any such complaints," the officer told the BBC.

"But we have to remove the chapter as there was a hue and cry from political parties."

Donkeys are still highly valued in many rural communities.

The donkey population in Rajasthan is estimated to be more than 150,000 and the state hosts one of India's oldest and most renowned annual donkey fairs.

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