Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Why To Lie About Degrees When Law Doesn't Ask For It?

The constitution permits any Indian citizen above 25 years of age to contest the Lok Sabha and 30 years to become eligible for Rajya Sabha, if he is not convicted of any offence and sentenced to an imprisonment for two years or more.

In other words, even if the member is illiterate and uses his thumb imprint to sign, he or she qualifies to become a parliamentarian.

If educational qualification is not a criterion to become a peoples' representative, why do parliamentarians lie about educational qualifications and produce fake degrees?

This is an old story and history is full of controversies over politicians' educational degrees. Starting from former prime minister Indira Gandhi to her grandsons Rahul and Varun, all have made exaggerated claims about their education qualifications.

Before Delhi law minister Jitender Singh Tomar, it was Union human resource development minister Smriti Irani, who was in the eye of a storm over educational qualifications. What has turned the two cases more controversial are their portfolios-- one is a law minister and the other HRD.

"Smriti Irani said she went to Yale. Several parliamentarians go for a week to get some degree.... The doubts about their degrees began with Indira Gandhi. It continues, becoming more devastating as you go along," says social scientist Shiv Visvanathan.

Indira Gandhi did go to Somerville College in Oxford, but returned without finishing her degree. But she always claimed to be an Oxford alumni. Rajiv Gandhi, too, is an engineering drop-out. His son Rahul Gandhi's M Phil degree has also been under the scanner. Whether or not he is an M Phil is still a matter of investigation.

Varun Gandhi, too, claimed to be an alumni of the London School of Economics and holds a degree from London's School of Oriental and African Studies, but his claims were allegedly inaccurate.

Late MP Gopinath Munde had produced a graduation certificate of 1976 from New Pune college. The college was established in 1978.

RJD Chief Lalu Prasad Yadav's daughter Misa Bharti, who had attended a lecture at Harvard University last year, lied that she was a speaker at Harvard. She even went ahead to post a photograph standing at the podium as if delivering a lecture. Harvard later left Misa red-faced when it clarified that she was only a part of the audience and not a speaker.

Visvanathan, a social scientist, says degrees had become a "collector's item" for parliamentarians. "All of them want certificates. In a middle class society, it gives some kind of legitimacy," he said.

Irani has mentioned three different education qualifications in affidavits submitted to the election commission. She later said she had a degree from Yale University. The degree later turned out to be a week-long leadership programme, where 11 other MPs participated along with her.

TMC supremo Mamata Banerjee's doctoral degree from East Georgia University, too, turned out to be fake.

Political scientists also believe that "political lie" is an art and is a part of history. "Lies like these have no relevance in a democracy like India where education is not a criteria to get into Parliament. It does not serve any practical interest. But they lie only for a feel good factor in social life," said Professor and legal scholar Upendar Baxi.

No comments: