The academician discusses the disappointment with Narendra Modi’s government and vents ire against Smriti Irani.

Photo Credit: Sam Panthaky/AFP
Noted academician Madhu Purnima Kishwar of the Centre for Study of Developing Societies and founder of Manushi, a women’s rights journal, has been in the news a lot. First, for her chronicles on Modi, called Modinama, in which she critiqued the media and human rights activists for “falsely demonising” Modi after the Gujarat riots of 2002. Then for her criticism of Smriti Irani’s “incompetence” as human resource development minister and “fraudulent qualifications”. In a freewheeling interview with Vrinda Gopinath, Kishwar talks about the disappointment and general despondency six months into Modi’s reign.Has your enthusiasm for Modi waned vis-a-vis his appointment of Smriti Irani as human resource development minister?
The enthusiasm for Modi as prime minister came because of the good work he had done in Gujarat, which I saw firsthand. Coming to the field of education, I saw a man who recognises the importance of investing heavily in knowledge, skill development and learning, and who believes that India should occupy its rightful place in the 21st century. He repeatedly said this, that too with passion. Since I am engaged in the education sector, I feel passionately about it too. I have given my life to academics, I have taught in Delhi University. I have seen the breakdown of this great university, where classes are not held, the quality of education is abysmal, and which produces unemployable lumpens by the millions. We are wasting generation after generation to bad education.

Therefore, Modi’s appointment of Irani came as a horrible shock to me. Here is someone who is not just poorly educated and mal-educated – she is just Class 12th pass – but she even lied in her affidavit about her qualifications. Nor does she have the learning of a lived experience. Look at the trajectory of this woman – at 18, she leaves home for the glamour industry, to become a fashion model, a beauty queen, then gets into saas-bahu serials, which, even by the standards of the entertainment industry, is the lowest genre. It is brainless. She could not even qualify to head the National School of Drama.

If Modi is talking about getting India to make up for its lost centuries in education, you need a person with vision, experience of knowledge disciplines, of which she has none. She proved it when she said I have a Yale degree, from a five-day course. She actually thought it was a badge of honour, even I could not believe she was that dumb.

So, do you think the Modi government is serious about education? Where does this leave Modi?
It is a trauma I have not yet recovered from. Read mor here –