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Smriti Irani controversy: Does a minister really need educational qualifications?

Smriti Irani controversy: Does a minister really need educational qualifications?

By Biranchi Narayan Acharya

Edited by Liz Maria Kuriakose, Associate Editor, The Indian Economist

The controversy over Union HRD Minister’s educational qualifications although bizarre, provokes new thoughts and many more questions. For instance, is any educational qualification required for a person to be a minister or even to be an MP or an MLA? If yes, then did the founding members of the Constituent assembly commit a blunder by not prescribing a criterion on the basis of educational qualifications for an MP or an MLA or a minister?

Many are of the opinion that to be an MP/an MLA/a Minister, there should be a minimum educational qualification. Many academicians are vocal on this. Even some people are of the opinion that voters who are the ultimate electors need to possess some educational merits. Illiterate people are not worthy to elect a leader/representative. In fact, during the British era there was a provision of voting rights based on education, profession and social status.

Thus, can we assume that the Constitution makers were at fault in giving all people voting power, making it a fundamental right at the eligible age (earlier 21 and now 18) irrespective of their educational, social and professional status? Before coming to this, let me ask those academicians advocating for educational qualification:

Should the Defense Minister have an educational qualification on War and defense strategies? Does an External Affairs Minister need to have a degree in foreign affairs? Should the Railway Minister have a degree in Railway engineering? Should the Prime Minister hold at least an MBA (in governance)? One can go on and on!

If yes, then why all these elections? Why not hold an entrance test conducted by UPSC? To be a minister of a particular portfolio, the qualification and experiences should be prescribed and the contestant must give an examination and whoever wins on merit need to be the minister! Why a party should be elected and the Prime Minister be given the prerogative to appoint the ministers as per his wish, provided that the appointed minister must be an existing MP or should be elected to either of the houses of the Parliament within six months!

Plainly speaking our Constitution makers were far more visionary than the present academicians. A simple scrutiny says that there is an established bureaucracy having expertise on different subjects working under the political executive! The political boss who is a public representative is to oversee the policy implementation by the expert bureaucrats as per the cabinet’s approval! Thus, what a Minister needs to have is political wisdom!

Now my question is whether Wisdom is synonymous with educational qualification?

Let’s understand what an Institutional degree is! An Institutional degree means one has to study a specified curriculum for a fixed number of years and then give an examination to get the degree certificate. Now the curriculum varies for different courses. The curriculum is different for an engineer, a doctor, an economist and a scientist! All can become a graduate or a post graduate in their respective fields! But can we call it wisdom? Definitely not. We can say that these university degrees are the certificates gained after acquiring a particular skill. An engineering graduate has acquired a skill in a particular branch of engineering where as an Economics graduate has acquired the logic of Economics. Thus the institutional educational degree is nothing but an approval of the fact that the concerned degree holder has the skill of the subject of his degree!

Now let us know what ‘Wisdom’ means. The dictionary version is: the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment; the quality of being wise. This is exactly right as wisdom can’t be taught in any institution. It’s one’s effort of learning from various sources (not a fixed curriculum) devoting time with a focused mind and an intent to learn. Also experience plays a key role in being wise!

Thus to have wisdom or to be wise does not require any formal education! An illiterate can be a wise one! Mahatma Gandhi once said ‘my illiterate but wise mother taught me many lessons!’ The meaning is very simple. One might be illiterate on institutional educational basis, but wisdom never depends on it!

Thus it’s Smriti Irani’s political wisdom that matters in her HRD ministry and not her educational qualification! Let wisdom prevail on all to honor wisdom of our Constitution makers!

Biranchi Narayan Acharya: I am a professional Civil Engineer and Working in the Infrastructure sector since 1988. Apart from my profession, I have deep interest in political, social, spiritual, sports & current affairs. Generally writes various political analysis, social point of view, self- improvement & spiritual blogs in various web-journals. In my non-office hour I am also a part-time amateur activist in educating friend & relatives regarding citizens’ fundamental duty & responsibility. I believe that if we as master of the democracy change, then the society & polity will definitely change. Email id- [email protected]


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