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Recognition to new scouting body flayed

By Our Special Correspondent

JAIPUR, APRIL 27. The half century-old Scouts and Guides movement in the country is facing a crisis of identity with the Union Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports granting recognition to a new organization, ``Hindustan Scouts and Guides Association'' in addition to the existing national scouting body,``Bharat Scouts and Guides,'' of which the President is the chief patron.

The World Organization of the Scout Movement(WOSM), which recognised Bharat Scouts and Guides in 1950 as the sole representative for India, has already asked the Union Government to withdraw recognition to the new body in the ``interest of the unity of the scouting in India and at the international level''.

The formation of Bharat Scouts and Guides itself was the result of efforts made by national leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad to merge various scout and guides organizations in the pre-Independence India.WOSM and WAGGGS (World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts) do not recognise more than one organization in a country.

For the movement, which has 3.4 million members in India and 13 million internationally, the development may prove a major embarrassment as the Bharat Scouts and Guides is entrusted with the job of hosting the 20th Asia Pacific Regional Scout Conference in October.

In all probability, as part of a larger design to catch them young and saffronise,the Union Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports gave recognition to Hindustan Scouts and Guides Association on March 7. This was despite frantic attempts from January onwards on the part of Mr.Lalit Mohan Jain,the national commissioner, and Dr.S.Kumar,director, respectively of the Bharat Scouts and Guides to stop the authorities from introducing yet another scouting body.

Perhaps, the plea on the part of the Union Ministry in recognizing a parallel body had been that at least in some countries more than one scouting body does exit.A case cited is France where there are separate scout associations for Roman Catholics, Protestants, Jewish youth, for Muslims and ``others''. However they, according to a communication from Ms.Jacques Moreillon, secretary-general of WOSM, formed a single federation called ``Scoutisme Francais''.

``The historical reasons which lie at the basis of such structures clearly do not apply in a country such as India'', Ms.Moreillon pointed out in a communication to Mr.Brajesh Misra, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister. In fact, recently when scouting was re-introduced in Russia, there were four separate organisations seeking recognition and WOSM had insisted on their merger to a single entity.

The Rajasthan Chief Minister, Mr.Ashok Gehlot, who sought the intervention of the Prime Minister, Mr.Atal Behari Vajpayee, on the issue, said that it would be ``tragic to allow fragmentation of the scouting movement in the country by the creation of Hindustan Scouts and Guides Association''. ``The move may make us an international laughing stock'', Mr.Gehlot said in his letter faxed to Mr.Vajpayee today.

``The scouting movement, which represents a laudable effort, should be saved from the travails of fragmentation, politicization and strife'', the letter said.

Mr.Gehlot pointed out that the new entrant into scouting would create complications with regards to use of the emblems and other material associated with the world scouting. Various State Governments providing budgetary support to the State units of the Bharat Scouts and Guides would have a problem in deciding which one should be supported. The State Governments as well as the organizations would have problems with the vast infrastructure in the possession of the scouting movement, he noted.

On the part of WOSM, Ms. Moreillon has made it clear in her communications to Mr.N.N. Khanna and Mr.R.K. Misra, secretary and joint secretary respectively of the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports that there could not be a case in which the World Scout Committee accepted a united single national scout organization, be fragmented into a federation of two or more,after its getting into WOSM.

``Any individual members of the Hindustan Scouts and Guides Association who wish to be considered as members of WOSM would need to become members of the Bharat Scouts and Guides'', Ms.Moreillon pointed out.

The issue of recognition to Hindustan Scouts and Guides Association is now pending consideration of the Delhi High Court following a writ petition by the Bharat Scouts and Guides in the last week of March.

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