Controversies Surrounding our Politicians’ Degrees Reflect a Gap Between the Perception and Reality of India’s Education System

05 July 2015

At a cursory glance, there does not appear to be much in common between Delhi’s former law minister Jitender Singh Tomar, Maharasthra’s education minister Vinod Tawde and Smriti Irani, the Human Resource Development (HRD) minister of India. Indeed, it may be reasonable to assume that there isn’t; except for the nature of the controversy that has been hounding these three politicians in recent times. In the past month, news in India has been replete with a flurry of revelations centred around legislators and ministers across the country who have been accused of exaggerating and even faking their educational qualifications.  

The forgery of a variety of essential documents—from birth and death certificates to driving licenses, ration cards, professional degrees and educational qualifications—is hardly a new phenomenon in India. Complex systems that have been designed and carefully preserved to aid the fabrication of necessary documents ae now identified as an inherent part of the “Indian way of life.”

These cases reveal a far deeper story about the state of India’s education system. It would be relevant to note that several of the elected representatives who are currently in the eye of the fake degree storm belong to the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) or the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP); both of which are essentially non-elitist in terms of class.

Take for instance, the case of the AAP’s former law minister Jitender Singh Tomar. Accused of forging his educational degrees, the former law minister of Delhi claimed to have a Bachelor’s degree in Science from the Avadh University in Uttar Pradesh and a law degree from the Biswanath Singh Institute of Legal Studies (BSILS) Munger, which is affiliated to the Tilka Manjhi Bhagalpur University in Bihar. Both the universities presented conflicting versions on the authenticity of Tomar’s degrees. He is currently in judicial custody and has been charged with cheating, forgery and criminal conspiracy.

Meanwhile, the Delhi high court has also reportedly issued notices to AAP legislator Surender Singh for allegedly misrepresenting himself as a graduate from the Sikkim’s Manipal University in 2012. The university has denied having any record of Singh’s degree.This week, a court in Delhi also took cognisance of a complaint which claimed that AAP MLA Bhavna Gaur furnished the wrong information regarding her educational qualifications in two separate election affidavits.

Monobina Gupta is a senior journalist and author based in New Delhi.