Wednesday September 19, 2018
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Smriti Irani or Jitender Singh Tomar; fake degrees are the real issue not forgery

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By Rukma Singh

Hell seems to have broken loose for Aam Aadmi Party with the recent row over the authenticity of (now ex) Law Minister Jitender Singh Tomar’s academic qualification. While the media, masses and the masters are all united in screaming “Fraud!” directed either towards him or the current HRD minister Smriti Irani (or any other obscure and ostensibly educated member of government, for that matter) there is an issue which has gotten lost in the shuffle of heated arguments. Forgery of academic degrees.

Such cases of fake degrees are, more than political issues, classic examples of India’s pathetic education system. The notion of education to be a better human has been curtly shown the door ages ago. However, such instances of bribed qualification catch the claimants of professional quality and capability with their pants down, time and again.

Forging Ground

In May 2015, for instance, 29 candidates applying for the post of physical education (BPEd) instructor in government-run junior high schools in Lakhimpur-Kheri were caught holding fake degrees of Lucknow University. Before this on April 23, 47  candidates were found with fake marksheets while applying for the same job in the same area.

Allahabad, once known to be a hub of quality higher education, has also thrown up concerns over the issue of fake degrees. In the current academic session itself, Allahabad University has detected at least 129 cases of fake degrees. University officials claim that, on average, 125 cases of forged documents are detected every year. The majority of the degrees relate to the period from 2002 to 2012.

The biggest case detected till now being the fake BSc degree in possession of alleged Indian Mujahideen mastermind Mohammad Atif, who was shot in a Jamia Nagar encounter in 2008. What followed was a spate of fake degrees and certificates of AU being detected across India.

The Deep Rooted Nexus

After the reports of the Tomar fake degree case caught momentum, many Congress and AAP members have sought to draw attention back to the Smriti Irani case. In 2014, when Irani filed her nomination for the Lok Sabha elections, it was found that her educational qualifications were drastically altered. A huge furor followed  and she was labeled as an “undeserving” candidate to take up the Human Resource Development Ministry’s mantle. BJP has gone on to defend Irani by saying that hers was a case of “wrong information” whilst Tomar is guilty of the more serious charge, which is of a “fake degree.” The timing couldn’t be more imprudent for BJP as the court is slated to declare a verdict on her case on June 24th. Serious doubts will be raised on the issue from all quarters if Irani gets away scot-free.

However, these two by far are not the only instances of our politicians setting dismal standards of behavior for the Indian polity to emulate. Congress stalwarts like Sonia and Rahul Gandhi as well as Mamta Didi have been previously accused of providing misinformation regarding their educational qualifications in election affidavits. Now, the worrying aspect is the fact that attention is drawn to these particular cases because of the candidate’s relevance in Pan-India politics. This means that local and state level leaders are largely immune from such scrutiny by the media, the Election Commission, or even the police and can easily get away with fraud.

This merely goes on to show the deep-rooted nexus of fake degrees that exists within India and its connections with politicians who are eventually entrusted with the duty to root out such evils from our nation.

Post Script

If hard earned skills related to medicine, management, legality, teaching etc can be bought by waving currency in someone’s face then the services/disasters begotten by  ‘professionals’ of such skills are not logically impossible to predict.

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What Would Be The Outcome Of The Judgement On Homosexuality With BJP At The Centre?

If parties like the BJP and "cultural" organisations like the RSS realise the value and motivation of such mindsets, they will desist from their present attempts to impose a straitjacket of their pseudo-religious identity on the nation.

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Ruling on gays: Is the BJP out of sync with modern realities? Flickr

More than the social impact of the Supreme Court’s judgment on homosexuality, what will be of concern to the ruling party at the Centre is its political fallout. Hence, the eloquent silence of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on the subject.

For the BJP and its ideological mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), any expansion of the concept of civil liberties is fraught with danger to their restrictive worldviews since a widening of human rights carries the prospect of greater individualism.

If the rights of the homosexuals to live without legal constraints are conceded, it can only encourage the people to free themselves of other restrictions as well such as on choosing live-in partners (of whatever sex) and eating, dressing and speaking as they please.

Homosexuality, India
SC decriminalises homosexuality, victory for gay rights. Pixabay

It is noteworthy that the verdict on gays has come close on the heels of the judgment which described the right to dissent as a “safety valve” which the government can only shut off at its peril lest there is an explosion.

Moreover, the court had also upheld not long ago the right to privacy which the government described as an “elitist” concept.

For the Hindu Right, as also for other religious fundamentalists, this dalliance with civil rights — the freedom to criticise the government, the exaltation of privacy and now the decriminalisation of homosexuality — entails a push towards liberalism and modernism which are anathema to any group which wants the society to be bound by shackles of orthodoxy and obscurantism.

It is ironic that although the Hindutva brotherhood speaks of decolonising the Indian mind, the two colonial laws which have long been its favourites are the section on homosexuality in the Indian Penal Code and on sedition.

Now that one of them is gone, there is little doubt that these closet followers of Britain’s 19th century politician Lord Macaulay — even as they decry the secular groups as “Macaulay’s children” — will hold on resolutely to the law on sedition as their only safeguard against the “anti-nationals” who, they believe, stalk the land.

Homosexuality
It is ironic that although the Hindutva brotherhood speaks of decolonising the Indian mind, the two colonial laws which have long been its favourites are the section on homosexuality in the Indian Penal Code and on sedition.
Wikimedia Commons

It is also possible that the saffronites will keep a hawk’s eye on any social problems that may arise because of the assertion of gay rights. As the BJP MP Subramanian Swamy has said, with eager anticipation, if a five-judge bench can overturn an earlier judgment in favour of criminalising homosexuality, a larger bench can undo the present verdict if gay bars begin to flourish and there is a rise in the cases of HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) infections.

Interestingly, what these judgments underline is how the judiciary is more attuned to the changing world than the elected representatives of the hoi polloi who often argue in favour of giving greater primacy to the legislature than the judiciary since they claim to represent the people while the judges are unelected denizens of an ivory tower.

However, one possible reason why MPs and MLAs, especially of the BJP, seem to be out of sync with the present-day world is the presence in their midst of a large number of criminal elements who can hardly be regarded as the most progressive sections of society.

For instance, of the 543 elected members of the Lok Sabha, of whom 186 have a criminal record, 63 belong to the BJP, followed by eight of the Shiv Sena, four of the Trinamool Congress and three each of the Congress and the AIADMK.

Homosexuality
Gay Pride Procession. Pixabay

What the Supreme Court judgment appears to have done is to persuade parties like the Congress, which usually hedges its bets lest it should fall on the wrong side of public opinion, to come out in the verdict’s favour, presumably because it senses that this judgment, more than any other, has become a touchstone in the matter of breaking out from the stranglehold of the past.

To distance a party from it, as the BJP is doing, will amount to virtually alienating the entire youth community. Even if a majority among them do not have homosexual instincts — according to official figures, there are 2.5 million gay people in India, but this may be an underestimate since, till now, it was unsafe for them to reveal their sexual orientation — the youths nevertheless see the ruling as an assertion of living life on one’s own terms and not be held hostage by the dictates of a society steeped in conservatism and of political parties which believe that their agenda can only advanced if the country is made forcibly to conform to khap panchayat-style social and cultural norms.

Also Read: Why JDU & BJP Coalition Will Remain Instant

To these youths, being or not being aware of homosexuality is of little consequence. What matters to them is to be able to make up their own minds and not be told by elders to abide by certain rules which are regarded as outdated by the younger generation.

If parties like the BJP and “cultural” organisations like the RSS realise the value and motivation of such mindsets, they will desist from their present attempts to impose a straitjacket of their pseudo-religious identity on the nation. (IANS)