Published: 08th July 2021
Is Dharmendra Pradhan the most educated Education Minister appointed by Narendra Modi since 2014?
Pradhan, a native of Talcher in Odisha, holds a post-graduate degree in Anthropology from Utkal University in Bhubaneswar — and no one has disputed his degree yet
Education ministers under the Modi government's two terms have not been spared of their share of controversies. When it comes to their educational qualifications, it's hard to tell who wins the race — Smriti Irani and Ramesh Pokhriyal have both had their degrees called into question at different points of time whilst they inhabited the MHRD. Newly appointed Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan, with an MA degree in Anthropology, appears to be the most educated of the lot — without any dispute around his educational qualification.
Pradhan, a native of Talcher in Odisha, holds a post-graduate degree in Anthropology from Utkal University in Bhubaneswar. He is an alumnus of the Talcher College, where he started his political journey as the President of the students' union.
Going a little further back in time, Prakash Javadekar was in charge of the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD), which has now been renamed the Ministry of Education, from 2016 to 2019. He was the only minister in charge of the MHRD who was not embroiled in a controversy about his degrees, prior to Pradhan. He is a BCom graduate from the University of Pune. His successor Smriti Irani though had a long-drawn controversy about his qualification.
Irani held office from 2014 to 2016 and was the first MHRD minister of the Modi era. Her educational controversies went from her claiming to be a graduate to the former TV star accepting that she never completed college — at different points in time. In the affidavit that she had submitted to the Election Commission of India (ECI) in 2004, she claimed to be a BA graduate from the University of Delhi in 1996. In 2014, she said that her highest qualification was BCom Part 1 from the School of Open Learning (Correspondence), University of Delhi. This subtly points out that she never completed the entire course but passed only the Part 1 exams. The 2019 affidavit makes it clear and mentions that she did not complete the course. But in that case, she cannot mention this under her qualification — her highest qualification is that she graduated high school, or how we say it in India, 12th pass.
Ramesh Pokhriyal probably has the sketchiest educational record an education minister has had during the Modi regime. To start off, right after he was sworn in as Dr Ramesh Pokhriyal 'Nishank' a petition to President Ram Nath Kovind claimed that he did not hold a proper doctorate. Well, he wasn't entirely wrong. Pokhriyal has been awarded two DLitts — Doctorate (Honoris Causa) from Graphic Era University (Deemed to be University) and from Uttarakhand Sanskrit Vishwavidyalaya — but he has never finished a PhD thesis in his life. He has an MA degree from HNB Garhwal University, Srinagar in 1986 but has never mentioned his high school or his Bachelors degree anywhere. Also, he seems to have completed his MA in no particular subject — no subject has been mentioned in any of his affidavits or correspondence from his office to the media.
We can only hope that Pradhan does not get embroiled in any such controversy and works hand-in-hand with the Minister of State, Dr Subhas Sarkar, a gynaecologist by profession and a politician from West Bengal who became a part of the cabinet for the first time during the reshuffle.