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Is a College Degree Necessary for Smriti Irani to hold the HRD Portfolio?


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Myself By T.V. Antony Raj

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I do not subscribe to any political party. But, when I perceive talent in any form, I will be the first person to endorse it.

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Smriti Zubin Irani, incumbent Minister of Human Resource Development of Government of India since May 27, 2014.
Smriti Zubin Irani, incumbent Minister of Human Resource Development of Government of India since May 27, 2014.

Smriti Zubin Irani, a former model, television actress and producer represents the Bharatiya Janata Party and is the incumbent Minister of Human Resource Development of Government of India since May 27, 2014. She is a first time Lok Sabha polls contestant and a first-time minister and the youngest in the Narendra Modi cabinet.

Born on March 23, 1976, in Delhi to a family of Punjabi–Bengali background, Smriti Malhotra is the eldest amongst three sisters. She studied up to class 12 at Holy Child Auxilium School (HCA) in New Delhi and discontinued further education.

Smriti worked as a waitress at McDonald’s before finding stardom in modelling. In 1998, Smriti was one of the finalists of the Miss India beauty pageant.

In 2000, she made her debut with TV series Aatish and Hum Hain Kal Aaj Kal Aur Kal, both aired on Star Plus. In mid-2000, Irani bagged the lead role of Tulsi Virani in Ekta Kapoor’s production Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi on Star Plus. She holds the record of winning five consecutive Indian Television Academy Awards for the Best Actress (Popular), four Indian Telly Awards, eight Star Parivaar Awards.

In 2001, Smriti married Zubin Irani, a Parsi.

Smriti Irani is a Rajya Sabha MP from Gujarat and is now widely acknowledged in the BJP as a key member of Narendra Modi’s inner circle.

In her message to the Subject Toppers of Senior School Certificate (Class XII) Examination, 2014 conducted by the Central Board of Secondary Education, Delhi, posted on the website of the Government of India Ministry of Human Resource Development she said:

I congratulate all the students of CBSE who have excelled in their schools, districts and States in different subjects.

I applaud those who have worked hard and have got good results which make them and their families proud.

Examinations, marks, and above all values and Character in life, are the means to move forward and achieve progress

I wish all the students success in achieving their dreams in whatever walk of life they find joy and fulfilment and thereby contribute to a healthy, harmonious society and a strong nation.

But, there is something to be said about Smriti Irani’s own education.

Congress leader Ajay Maken questioned Smriti Irani’s credentials to lead the HRD ministry which oversees the country’s education system including the prestigious IITs and IIMs. Hitherto, the portfolio had always been held by a person with high academic qualifications. Maken tweeted: “Smriti Irani is not even a graduate,” triggering a political row, which until then had been fuelled online solely by her main detractor Madhu Purnima Kishwar, an Indian academic, and writer, who has been going hammer and tongs at Smriti Irani since the swearing-in.

In the past, Madhu Kishwar vociferously defended Narendra Modi both on Twitter and on television channels. Now, after the swearing-in, Kishwar seems to have taken on a new role of being his critic-in-chief.

Smriti Irani seemed unfazed by the drama. However, there is more to this controversy.

Her BIODATA published in the HRD website states:

Educated at Holy Child Auxilium, Delhi and School of Correspondence and Continuing Education, University of Delhi, Delhi.

Smriti Irani has herself provided conflicting affidavits of her educational qualifications.

In 2004, in the affidavit filed with the Election Commission of India she submitted that she had received a bachelor’s degree in Arts (B.A.) in 1996 from Delhi University (School of Correspondence).

Details of school and university education - 1

 

In the affidavit filed with the Election Commission of India for the recent 2014 elections Smriti Irani claimed that she only completed Part I (first year) of her bachelor’s degree in commerce (Part I B.Com.) in the year 1994 from Delhi University’s School of Open Learning (correspondence)..

Details of school and university education - 2

 

To add venom, a leak from the School of Correspondence, as reported by a newspaper, claims that Smriti Irani had enrolled in 2013, but had not written the examination.

This incidence of doubts raised about Smriti Irani’s education leads to the perennial question “What is education?

When knowledge, skills, and habits convey from one person to another through teaching, training, or research we call it education. So, we can say that education is any experience that has a developmental effect that leads to the way one thinks, feels, or acts.

Education - 1

By the way, do you think that all recipients of diplomas and college degrees are really educated?

At present, most people look at education as commonly divided into stages: preschool, primary school, secondary school and then college, university or apprenticeship under the guidance of others. But many do not freely acknowledge that education may also be autodidactic.

Autodidacticism or autodidactism or self-education is self-directed learning.

An autodidact is a self-teacher. Autodidactism is a contemplative and absorptive process. One may become an autodidact at any point in one’s life. While one may have studied a particular field in the conventional method they may choose to inform themselves in other, often unrelated areas by self-study.

Many autodidacts have complemented their formal learning with self-study. Though I have a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry, I am an autodidact in computer science. Forty-two years ago, I was not able to find any teacher who could teach computer science. So, I spent a great deal of time reviewing the resources found in physical libraries and buying whatever books on computer science that I came across in search of knowledge. I always say: “To learn, teach!” I gained most of my knowledge in computers by following this dictum — teaching others who sought knowledge in basic computer science.

Though autodidactism is only one facet of learning, many autodidacts have made notable contributions to the human race. Renaissance polymath Leonardo da Vinci is one of history’s best-known autodidacts.

Since most autodidacts do not advertise themselves, why not we consider Smriti Irani as one such person.

On May 19, 2014, Smriti Irani hit back at Congress leader Ajay Maken’s comments on her educational qualifications. She said,

Judge me by my work, I would only say this… Attempts have been made to deviate my attention from my work. The party has always entrusted me with assignments as they have confidence in me.

The late Kamaraj Nadar, former Chief Minister of Tamilnadu, India, was a 3rd grader. He was a visionary and he opened hundreds of primary schools accessible to rural kids to improve the literacy rate in Tamilnadu.

The current Chief Minister of Tamilnadu J. Jayalalitha is a 10th grader (Matriculation). She is fluent in several languages, including English, Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, and Hindi.

So, before you write off Smriti Irani as an ‘uneducated’ person, just listen to the speech she gave before an International audience at the International Women’s Conference in February 2014, at The Art of Living International Center, Bangalore, India, a few months before she was sworn-in as the Honourable Union Minister of Human Resource Development, and then form your opinion about her.

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Behind the Billowing Smoke


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Jawed Naqvi

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By Jawed Naqvi

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BEFORE he was stopped for questioning at the Boston airport last week, Azam Khan was perceived as a ghetto-embracing politician, an Indian Muslim with a provincial worldview.

He was once quoted as famously wanting to lead a mob to tear down the Taj Mahal because it symbolised a waste of money. He had earlier claimed that the Babri mosque could only be demolished over his dead body. Well? And he runs an educational institution after a Muslim hero who strove to restore the caliphate in Turkey against Kemal Ataturk’s modernising efforts.

After he was checked at the Boston airport, following which he kicked up a right royal fuss, Azam Khan comes across as the gross neighbour who walked into a house in mourning with an eye on the warm biryani.

The minister from Uttar Pradesh mistimed it though. He had gone to the United States to be feted by the Indian diaspora but was quizzed at the airport where security happened to be on a higher alert than normal.

He claimed he was singled out for being a Muslim. It is perfectly possible that the computerised data on the US terror watch flickered when it saw someone close to his description, and why not?

After all, Muslims have been in the thick of these things. Two Muslim migrants had shockingly wreaked havoc in Boston the other day, evidently in pursuit of their religious calling. They attacked a marathon race, making it the third time when people with Muslim names targeted sportspersons at events where the prize was a cornucopia of human fellowship.

How does Azam Khan respond to the fact that people bearing Muslim names killed 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics in 1972? They targeted a friendly Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore in 2009.

Who knows what the computer threw up on him, but Azam Khan is known to be so self-absorbed he wouldn’t have noticed that Meera Shankar was handed a pat-down at a US airport when she was India’s ambassador in Washington DC. It’s a country in serious trouble. Former defence minister George Fernandes and movie actor Shahrukh Khan were questioned too.

What seems even more ironical for Azam Khan’s pervasive sense of victimhood is the fact that Narendra Modi has been denied a US visa, ostensibly because of the extremist politics he practises in Gujarat.

The tangled skein of terror and counter-terror of course goes beyond easy references to religious pursuits as the source.

The example of Timothy McVeigh has been cited in the context of the Boston tragedy. McVeigh was a former US soldier with a disturbed childhood. He was decorated with a military medal for his services in the Kuwait-Iraq expedition before he rammed a truck loaded with explosives in Oklahoma into a government building packed with people.

His grouse with the American government seems to have had little to do with his Roman Catholic faith.

McVeigh was executed with a lethal injection, but every year militarist American policies create more and more disturbed war veterans. The Guardian in February detailed a horrific tragedy unfolding in the United States with practically every military outing.

Describing what it said was a suicide epidemic among US war veterans, The Guardian homed in on the heartrending story of William Busbee, “archetype of the US soldier” whose mother feels he was let down by the army he loved so much.

“Libby Busbee is pretty sure that her son William never sat through or read Shakespeare’s Macbeth, even though he behaved as though he had,” wrote The Guardian. “Soon after he got back from his final tour of Afghanistan, he began rubbing his hands over and over and constantly rinsing them under the tap.”

The reference was to Lady Macbeth’s writhing with guilt at the cold-blooded murder of King Duncan by his trusted lieutenant, her husband.

“Mom, it won’t wash off,” the 23-year old William Busbee said. “What are you talking about?” the mother replied. “The blood. It won’t come off.”

The paper records how on March 20 last year, the “soldier’s striving for self-cleanliness came to a sudden end. That night he locked himself in his car and, with his mother and two sisters screaming just a few feet away and with SWAT officers encircling the vehicle, he shot himself in the head.”

Busbee became part of a gruesome statistic. In 2012, for the first time in at least a generation, the number of active-duty soldiers who killed themselves, 177, exceeded the 176 who were killed while in the war zone, the report noted. “To put that another way, more of America’s serving soldiers died at their own hands than in pursuit of the enemy.”

But who is the enemy that young men like William Busbee and Timothy McVeigh are routinely deputed to fight? Before the blood of the three victims killed in the Boston blast was dry, President Obama had sanctioned $133 million or thereabout to arm religious extremists fighting the secular albeit undemocratic Assad regime in Syria.

The trouble is that many of the beneficiaries of the American largesse in the Syrian conflict are the same people whose ideological perversion was responsible for the tragedy of the World Trade Centre in New York in 2001.

This cynical American pursuit of make-believe strategic security becomes equally untenable when the Boston bombers turn out to be inspired by anti-Russian religious bigots who are considered to be kosher by Washington as long as they don’t harm Americans.

I can fully understand Azam Khan getting frisked at the Boston airport, but it is difficult to accept the rest of the story behind Boston’s billowing smoke, which masks America’s unending tryst with self-inflicted horrors.

The writer is Dawn’s correspondent in Delhi.

jawednaqvi@gmail.com

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Re-posted from DAWN.com