By Aishwarya Puri
Edited by Nandita Singh, Senior Editor, The Indian Economist.
It has been a long time since this controversy broke out on the national platform, but I believe that some stories usher in, along with them, more pertinent issues, and it is never too late to address these issues because of their quality of universal suitability. In this age, where we strive to stay informed about events around us, mere silence leads to unacceptability, and this particular past-episode helps me highlight my opinion –
Smriti Irani loses to Rahul Gandhi after the much-hyped battle for the constituency of Amethi, but her shining stars led her way to the Human Resource Ministry. Modi’s decision to make Irani step into the shoes of HRD minister was received as a big blow by the entire nation. Big-shot techies, bureaucrats, politicians, various penholders, students et cetera, flooded an assorted range of platforms to speak their minds. Interestingly, a clash of opinions happened to surface as the controversy gained pace; one was either pro-Irani or against her.
Critics argued that Irani was not that qualified, if just literate, to be efficient enough to handle the chair of the HRD ministry. Among the supporters of this argument were many eminent political leaders like Ajay Maken of Congress who tweeted ‘Not Even Graduate!’ addressing the fact that Irani is a college dropout. Such comments and views induced a political storm in the nation, but these attacks were refuted by an equally numerous group who asserted that a degree does not buy skill. They countered with the contention that Irani’s position as the chief of the women wing of the Bhartiya Janta Party and her numerous speeches proving her mettle as an eloquent spokesperson and witty politician, were enough to give her a green card to the HRD ministry. Furthermore, the entire BJP came to rescue Irani’s image by attempting to spill similar dirt on Sonia Gandhi’s persona. “Can we know how qualified Mrs. Gandhi is?” echoed many BJP leaders including Uma Bharti. The clash got worse day after day, while Smriti Irani chose to adopt a ‘zip-your-lip’ policy.
Amidst all this hullabaloo and fuss, my mind entered a dimension that was composed of questions and only questions. While I agree that such buzz, derogatory remarks, pointed fingers, and blabbering mouths, are something politicians are fairly used to, Irani’s complete calm over the issue did not help her establish credibility as the best candidate for this role. Of course, I am not trying to assert that I know how good or bad an HRD minister she has the potential to be, but if she is to act as the architect of future educational policies of a developing India, she is accountable to those who seek higher education. If she plans to make strategies for our education system, we do have a right, as its stakeholders, to know why she dropped out and why the potential stakeholders should not. Silence was not what was needed, rather she should havecome out in the light and told everybody why she had to drop out, clarifying whether it was a personal obstacle or some loophole in the Indian education system that kept her from becoming a graduate. Sitting on the captain’s chair as the HRD minister, she has to come up with stratagems and policies to eradicate illiteracy in India, as well as promote accessible and quality education in order to make more young Indians skilled and adequately employed. More than this, I believe she has to strike a chord with those who, like her, are vulnerable to becoming college dropouts. She has to be candid about the challenges she faced in the Indian education system in her time, and what new policies she would want to incorporate in her agenda to fill those potholes. By revealing the difficulties she faced as “Not Even Graduate”, she could pour light on the value of higher education and the need for appropriate qualifications in the modern economic era. All this could have struck a cord with the youth of India, who already possess hungry minds charged with the drive to break stereotypes. Her clarifications could have also potentially swayed those opposing her appointment, thereby shutting the jabbering mouths and effectively tackling the derogatory personal comments.
All I can say is that silence is not always a wise option to choose, as sometimes one needs to break the hush and assert one’s notion of right and wrong, after which the outcome will be left in the hands of time and fate. Smriti Irani should have come out and revealed the true story behind her alleged “educational incompetency”. The idea was to be convincing, and we were ready to be convinced, as of course, good education does not ensure good governance.Aishwarya is a student of English Literature at Hindu College, Delhi University. An aggressive enthusiast of Politics and an avid reader of articles on public policy and national politics. A leader, orator, anti patriarchal and loud on expression of words and public speaking. She believes in her dynamic administrative qualities and swears by candid human resource management. Her analysis of any life experience is majorly scientific and pragmatic, yet never misses a touch of spiritualism and philosophy.