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'We don't need no education'

Monday, April 21, 2014

The eminent Lok Sabha hopefuls aren’t exactly highly qualified when it comes to education. That, sadly, has been the rule rather than exception, writes Gajanan Khergamker

Education isn’t a criterion for most things that matter. Whether it’s getting a government job or contesting polls, having enough assets and the right connections matter the most. A recent report suggests that many hopeful election candidates contesting the ongoing Lok Sabha elections from Mumbai aren’t exactly very well qualified when it comes to education.

According to data revealed through a RTI query, in all 45 candidates from Mumbai, around 38 per cent of them all, have only studied till Standard 10th or even lower than that. And, of these, 12 have declared their assets to be worth more than a crore rupees.

Party-wise, Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has the most educated candidates contesting in the city. AAP is followed by Congress, Shiv Sena then Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) followed by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

An analysis of the data provided by candidates, in their affidavits, indicates that though many of the aspirants having assets worth more than a crore rupees, most of them have not even cleared the Standard 10th examination.  Of the total, 33 are graduates while 19 have completed their post-graduation. And, there are 17 candidates whose assets exceed Rs 5 crore.

With five post-graduates members, AAP leads with the maximum number of educated members, while Congress, NCP and BJP have one candidate each who has completed post-graduation.

When it comes to graduates, Congress and Shiv Sena have the maximum number graduates, with four and three candidates each, while MNS and AAP have two and three graduates. While one candidate each from the BJP and MNS has cleared HSC one from the BJP is a school drop-out.

Just like getting an election ticket, education doesn’t seem to be a qualification for a government job if you have ‘connections’ in the right place.

An RTI application filed in February 2014 revealed that most of the ministers’ staffs in Kerala have not cleared their Standard 10th examination. It was after an incident, in which a senior minster’s personal assistant was arrested on charges of murder, that the skeletons began tumbling out of closets.

Soon, Advocate D B Binu, through Right to Information Act, procured details of the staff working for various ministers in Kerala and found that many of the staff members have not even passed Standard 10th. A minister in Kerala can take up to 30 members as personal staff, starting with private secretary to peon.

It is ‘knowing the right people’ that matters when it comes to getting recruited in the pool of a minister’s personal staff and this is exactly what happens in most cases, in most States.

The government order regarding the hiring of staff members states that the staff is usually appointed by the government based on the ‘notes’ provided by ministers concerned. And, it seems that these ‘notes’ are generally in favour of either family members or friends.

According to the data procured by the RTI application, an assistant personal secretary of Kerala Tourism Minister A.P. Anil Kumar only has passed Standard 10th as an educational qualification. And, the other five didn’t even clear their Standard 10th exams!

In a similar case, Kerala Urban Development Minister M Ali has seven personal staff members who had failed Standard 10th, while three others barely made it through the exam. Similarly, Rural Development Minister K C Joseph has six staff members who failed in secondary school and nine who passed have passed just Standard 10th. Joseph and another Congress Minister Thiruvanchoor Radhakrishnan each have an additional personal assistant who has not cleared the Standard 10th.

The Election Commission of India, in its campaign, had urged voters to pick honest and educated members. But, with the candidates that the political parties have presented in different zones of Mumbai, it doesn’t seem like Mumbaikars have much of an option.

For instance, in Mumbai North, of the total 19 candidates, 10 have either only passed SSC or are school drop-outs. But, of these 10, four have assets worth over one crore rupees. Only six candidates in this constituency are graduates or have completed their post-graduation. In the North-West zone, nine of the 14 candidates are graduates and one is illiterate but has assets worth crores of rupees.

In North-Central zone, of the total 21 candidates, 12 have only cleared Standard 10 or lesser and six of these are either graduates or post-graduates. But, of the nine candidates whose assets run into crores of rupees, two are either educated up to Standard 10 standard or lesser and five have a net worth of over Rs 5 crore. In Mumbai North-East, of the total 19 candidates, seven have studied till SSC or dropped out earlier while eight have done graduation or higher studies. The constituency has three illiterate candidates, the highest in the city. Of the seven candidates with assets worth crores of rupees, one is not educated beyond SSC.

In Mumbai South, 11 of the 20 candidates have either studied till Standard 10 or lower. But, there are nine graduates and post-graduates. Of the seven candidates whose assets run into crores of rupees, three are worth more than Rs 5 crore and three aren’t even educated beyond SSC.

In Mumbai South-Central, 11 aspirants are either graduates or post-graduates and five have not studied beyond Standard 10. The constituency also has two illiterate candidates. Assets of the candidates and their educational qualification of the candidates seem inversely proportional in a majority of the cases.

In another case, highlighting the fact that education is not the only criteria based on which one get government jobs, is the Pune Tree Authority members of citizen committee. An RTI application filed in beginning of April this year revealed that around 11 of the 13 members of the citizen committee are not that qualified. But, the one thing they have in common is that they all have ‘political connections.’

Based on a High Court order of October 2013, Tree Authority members need to have a certain education qualifications which include: the members must be a member of an apolitical non-governmental organisation (NGO), which is a minimum five years old and must submit proof of work done by the member through CDs, PPTs, certificates and photographs. The NGO must also be registered with the Social Forestry department.

The High Court order said that “the nominated members should belong to independent NGOs and PMC has stated that not more than one person shall be appointed from the same NGO.

As regards the nominated members, wider representation needs to be given to diverse cross sections of NGOs with a special knowledge or expertise in plantation and preservation of trees with a minimum experience of at least five years.

Care shall be taken to obviate a situation which had occurred in the past whereby all the nominated members belonged to the same NGO. While nominating the non-official members, preference shall be given to qualified persons with a degree or diploma in agriculture/ forestry/ horticulture with an expertise of five years in plantation/ preservation/ transplantation of trees and/ or in environment protection. PMC has stated that preference would be given to those NGOs who have a national presence.”

But, in March 2014, the Pune Municipal Corporation announced the appointment of new members of Tree Authority when their appointment was in clear violation of HC’s order. The members announced by the PMC are the members from the same NGO with a political affiliation. And, in 2009, affiliation of the Tree Authority with the same NGO had led to the filing of a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) in the High Court.

Information availed from RTI application revealed that 11 of the 13 nominated members to Tree Authority don’t even have the basic education qualification required, as directed by the High Court. The names of the finalised members of Tree Authority put up by corporators include Kamal Vyavahare, Anil Tingre, Anil Rane, Hemant Rasne and Prithivaraj Sutar. The HC has directed that even corporators who have Science education background should be nominated in this Tree Authority but that too wasn’t followed.

The information procured through RTI application revealed that the three-member screening committee was not happy with the members shortlisted for the Tree Authority and they had even shown their dissent over the finalised members in their remarks.

None of the applicants had submitted CDs, PPTs, certificates and photographs and the candidate’s affidavit was the only document that the Screening Committee had for consideration. Reportedly, many of the members were unqualified, while the NGOs of a few weren’t over five years old and none of the NGOs were registered with the Social Forestry Authority which would disqualify them from being a member of Tree Authority.

Last year too, an RTI application had revealed that most ministers favour their sons, daughters or other family members when it came to appointing their
personal assistants.

A response to an RTI application revealed that not less than 146 Members of Parliaments (MPs), 104 from the Lok Sabha and 42 from the Rajya Sabha, had appointed at least 191 relatives in their personal staff.

Time and again, it has been proved that Ministers misuse their powers and dole out benefits to family and friends showing complete disregard for the educated, deserving candidates.

And, if an uneducated/undereducated MPs were to come to power in this election, it can be safely assumed that s/he will have no regards for those educated as well.

With inputs from Prerna Pandey

‘Choose Your Leader Wisely’

Under-Educated Staff

All in the Family

Assets worth over crore

Readers keen on seeking help on drafting RTI applications may write in to or call Gajanan Khergamker on 022-22841593022-22841593 for any assistance on RTI or to have their findings / issue featured on this page

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