The Coming of Age of Smriti Irani

She worked as a waitress. She is only 12th pass. Her graduation details are sketchy to say the least. She worked in low-iq TV soap operas, or to quote Sanjay Nirupam “TV pe thumke lagati thi”. She found a CCTV camera peeping at her while she was changing, or as Outlook says “got rattled by a pinhole CCTV eye” although she “has faced the biggest of television cameras of all sizes”. Saba Naqvi or rather her unnamed sources say, she is a “fading memory”. The blog which is usually on the wrong side of facts, Scroll.in says “her fortunes are drooping”. Clearly, one would expect such an incapable person, to resign to her fate and whither away. But that is if we start believing the serial liars who write slanderous pieces, because one look at this speech by Mrs Irani, and all these op-eds are blown to smithereens.

She starts on the front foot by taking on someone much more qualified than her. Shashi Tharoor, a PhD from a US college, at the age of 22 (when Smriti Irani was probably washing utensils at a McDonalds’), found himself torn apart by a 12th pass. Tharoor had questioned the poor utilization of funds by Smriti Irani’s department, to which Irani put up some numbers which exposed the hollow rhetoric: 92.9% of the funds were utilized in the year 2013-14, while during Smriti’s reign in 2014-15, 97.69% of the funds were used. Later in her speech, she once again chided Tharoor for his wrong figures, when he claimed that the number of children out of school have increased, where as they had actually come down from 1.36 crores to 60 lacs.

Next she answered to the often repeated plea that the Government is interfering in the independence of Universities. MHRD had asked all Central Universities to go through MHRD before signing any International MoUs. Irani explained that this is line with the Constitution of India and the decisions of the Parliament, and hence must be implemented. She also asked the handful of Congress MPs as to why the IIT Act was not followed during their rule when Indian taxpayers money was allowed to be utilized for an IIT campus abroad, without the permission of the parliament.

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Next she talked about the charge that she had again interfered by rolling back Delhi University’s controversial 4 year program, which was opposed by students as well as teachers. She said “This scheme was in blatant violation of the National Education Policy and 40 programmes under this scheme were not permitted by the President of India”. She further asked why the opposition is pained if the future of 4 lac students was saved.

To the allegation that the Government was re-writing history via reconstitution of the ICHR. She replied that ICHR had Purabi Roy, a renowned scholar and historian who also happened to be the wife of a CPI MP in the Rajya Sabha. She also pointed out that ICHR had a member named Sachidananda Sahai, who was a UPA appointee, but continued in ICHR. These are proofs that she has not been partisan in her approach, she said. She also mentioned that a Congress RS MP is a member of the probe committee in the Vishva Bharati case.

She referred to a letter from May 2014, to the President asking for an enquiry into filling of vacancies illegally by the earlier Government, after the model code of conduct was announced. She said they investigated the matter, and while allowing 4 such UPA appointees, but wherever there were irregularities, they took action, because one such appointee is today in CBI’s custody. 

She firmly rejected the charge of “saffronization” of education saying that education will be imparted only within the rules of the Constitution of India. She also told the opposition that to decide what should be India’s new Education Policy, the Government had identified 33 themes for which suggestions will be invited from over 275000 Village Education Councils. This was in stark contrast to earlier approaches where a few people would decide the education policy.

She also showcased her ministry’s commitment to improving all facets of education, by framing new guidelines for Mid-day meal scheme, by implementing the program called Study Webs of Active-Learning for Young Aspiring Minds (SWAYAM), an online portal for Massive Open On-line Courses (MOOCs) and GYAN, a program which will bring International experts to teach Indian students.

She also talked about various other initiatives like mapping all regions of India to see which region needs what tools to improve education, measures to integrate students from North East into reputed Institutions all over India, measures to help skilled but poorly educated students and apps to make NCERT textbooks available online for free.

She also said the implementation of the Prime Minister’s vision that every school should have a toilet. She said that they have already taken the information about dysfunctional or non-existence of toilets in schools all over India and that she is personally following up the issue, with all MPs, along with giving budgetary allocations to all states to implement the same.

In her entire speech, Irani was armed with facts and figures to counter every claim hurled at her by the opposition leaders. She also had data ready to present all the work that she had done as the HRD minister. But she did not have “sources” to nullify the slanderous slanging match started by MSM against her. And this showed in the tone and tenor of her fiery speech, which was a potent mix of aggression and reason. Aggression because of the constant unjustified hitjobs done on her. Reason, to check-mate all the claims made against her.

She may not get “coming of age” op-eds, although she is 5 years younger than Rahul Gandhi, she may lack in educational qualifications, in experience, in support from media, but Mrs Irani has shown she has passion for her job, which is what makes her a well-informed minister.

co-founder, OpIndia.com

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