Millennium Post

People with vested interests are attacking Irani

Any union minister of human resources development from the Bharatiya Janata Party should be well prepared to face poison-dipped missiles from dispossessed individuals. The lack of an academic degree is inconsequential. Former union human resource development minister in the previous National Democratic Alliance government, Murli Manohar Joshi, was an erudite professor and well endowed with high academic qualifications. However, it did not lend him any immunity from being charged with all the sins of the present incumbent. Individuals, who had earlier dominated the world of academia, owing to the patronage and protection provided by its Congress- Leftists benefactors, are naturally angry at their ‘empires’ being snatched away. This has prompted them to level all kinds of irrelevant charges against Smriti Irani. The recent diatribe against Irani by MM Ansari is an example of the above.

One can legitimately question the qualification of the former chief information commissioner MM Ansari, who was nominated by the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance to the University Grants Commission (UGC). Ansari laments were based on the fact that the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) used Article 20(1) of the UGC Act to rollback the much maligned Four-Year Undergraduate Programme (FYUP). Does Ansari think that the minister should have sat quietly, while the Delhi University Vice-Chancellor wilfully flouted the National Policy on Education adopted by the Parliament? It was Irani’s duty to intervene through Article 20(1) to protect the sanctity of Parliament and the policies it laid down. It is pathetic that Ansari did not condemn Kapil Sibal, Sam Patroda, Ashok Thakur and Dinesh Sigh, when they were riding roughshod over all statutory and democratic processes to introduce FYUP. It is strange that when the UGC had asked DU to rollback FYUP, Ansari had supported it. It is indeed a mystery, as to why he has now taken a U-turn on FYUP.

Many people have attacked Irani on the pretext that she lacks serious academic qualifications and is therefore unfit to be the minister. This is ridiculous! The same sets of people do not tire of praising Indira Gandhi, who had no university degree. If she could rule as the prime minister, controlling all departments of the government, why can’t Irani handle the MHRD? A minister requires a quick understanding of the matters pending before the ministry, an analytical mind, the ability to set up targets and goals and a capacity for hard work. A clutch of academic degrees is unnecessary.

Ansari’s hypocrisy was further compounded, after he argued against Irani’s ability to interact with academics, considering her lack of suitable exposure to the portals of higher education. Ansari should tell us the basis on which he has made such an assertion. In fact my personal experience and the experience of many academics and educationists, who have interacted with the minister, are quite to the contrary. She comes across as a very sharp and committed person. As far as academic degrees are concerned Kapil Sibal must be on the top. However, he was a monumental failure as an education minister. His pomposity and total lack of empathy with educational processes resulted in the comprehensive decline of our systems at all levels.

Accusations of saffronisation against any BJP education minister falls within the realm of convenience. When opponents have no legitimate charge, the bogey of saffronisation comes handy.

Irani need not be overtly bothered about it. Mischievous people are deliberately providing a wrong twist to the ministry’s move on German language, vis-a-vis Sanskrit in Kendriya Vidyalyas. German was taught as a third Indian language under the three language formula! There is no restriction on teaching any foreign language, and this should be encouraged. German, however, is certainly not a modern Indian language.

When Modi nominated Smriti Irani as a cabinet minister in-charge of human resource development, it caused a lot of heartburns. Some of the stories against Irani’s nomination, which were planted then, were a direct result of this heartburn. A well entrenched cabal of St. Stephen’s College academics planted anti Irani and pro-FYUP stories. Irani’s move to review the functioning  of the UGC and scrap the hegemonic Higher Education and Research Bill has upset those academics, who had exploited the education system to their advantage. They are now raising empty slogans against Smriti Irani. She should ignore them and focus on her objectives.

The author is a retired Associate Professor, Kirori Mal College, DU
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