“The most successful Thiruvananthapuram MP, Dr Shashi Tharoor”, reads a re-tweet on Shashi Tharoor’s Twitter handle. The tweet is linked to a picture portraying the MP mingling with children and adults. “Think Thiruvananthapuram, Vote Tharoor” says the tagline.

On 29 March 2014, Shashi Tharoor became the first MP to release a progress report to the public, which detailed the allocation and distribution of his Member of Parliament Local Area Development Scheme (MPLADS) funds. According to this report, Rs 3.35 crore was spent on the education sector. The notable works during his five-year tenure from 2009 to 2014 involved establishment of a coaching-cum-guidance centre for SC/ST students under the Ministry of Labour and allocation of Rs 105 crore for the Mallapuram campus of the Aligarh Muslim University.

This may not come as a surprise to many as one tends to associate an educated mind with an appreciation of the need to improve educational and employment outcomes. Shashi Tharoor’s credentials are well known. But does education necessarily thrive under well-educated leaders? 

The criticality of the issue

Despite being considered an important emerging economy, the conditions of employment and education continue to remain deplorable in India. As per the Labour and Employment Report 2014 released by the Institute for Human Development (IHD), the problem of youth unemployment, particularly that of educated youth, is of grave concern. About 30 per cent of the total youth unemployed in 2011-12 were graduates and above, up from 21 per cent in 2004-05.

Another survey conducted by the National Sample Survey Organization (NSSO), states that the level of education, professional and vocational skills are extremely low in the country. Less than 30 per cent of the workforce has completed secondary education or higher, and less than one-tenth have had vocational training, either formal or informal.

The state of primary education faces a similar plight. According to the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) published by the Pratham Education Foundation, while the enrolment in elementary education is almost 100 per cent, the education outcomes measured in terms of abilities in reading, writing and mathematical abilities, have deteriorated among children between the ages of six and 14.

Under such circumstances, it is critical that our politicians take necessary steps to champion the cause of education and employment in the country.

A background check on the educational qualifications of Members of Parliament (MPs) of the 15th Lok Sabha (2009-2014) reveals that out of the 530 elected representatives, 132 held Post Graduate degrees and 21, doctorate degrees. But the pertinent question is whether these educated MPs contribute significantly to the upliftment of the masses they represent.

Educated MPs

The fore-runners of the Indian Independence movement were an educated lot, and played an indispensable role in structuring the Indian political system. From drafting the nuances of the Indian Constitution to creating a legislative and structural framework for the country, these politicians, law makers and academicians who shaped India in the early days wielded impeccable educational credentials.

Intellectuals like Mahadev Govind Ranade, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Raja Ram Mohan Roy recognized the value of an informed electorate in strengthening the socio-economic-political structure of our nation and furthered the cause of education in the country. Their legacy was carried forward by several eminent and highly educated stalwarts who were elected to the Parliament during the formative years of the Indian Republic.

Over the past several decades however, the pre-eminence of the educated class in politics has witnessed a marked decline. Marred by corruption and criminalisation, politics in India today is characterised by numerous scams and scandals, with tainted politicians holding sway over the electorate. The educated and enlightened politician appears to have eluded the realm.


Shashi Tharoor, one of the most highly educated MPs in the 15th Lok Sabha. Pic: Wikimedia

Nevertheless, every Lok Sabha comprises a small yet noteworthy group of educated politicians who apparently bring a whiff of fresh air into an office that has increasingly come to be associated with corruption, lumpenism and crudity. But what do these educated members of parliament really augur for the progress of education in the country? How do voters in their respective parliamentary constituencies view their performances in respect of advancing educational and employment opportunities?

Findings of the Daksh-ADR Survey

Recently, Bangalore-based NGO Daksh and the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) conducted a massive survey among national voters to study the perception of voters regarding MPs in their respective constituencies, on 30 issues relevant to governance - ranging from accessibility of the MP, availability of electricity, irrigation programs, terrorism, safety of women, to education and employment. The MPs were rated on a 10-point scale.

To understand the perception of voters towards more educated MPs, particularly in respect of their performance in the areas of education and employment, one could take a closer look at the 21 most educated members of the 15th Lok Sabha – those with a PhD.

Daksh-ADR National Voter’s Survey ratings of the MPs with a Doctorate Degree

MPs with a Doctorate Degree

Constituency

State

Party

Employment

Education

Better employment opportunities

Training for jobs

Reservation for jobs and education

Better schools

Ram Shankar

Agra

UP

BJP

3.9

3.1

3.6

4

P.L. Punia

Barabanki

UP

INC

4.7

4.1

4.5

4.2

Monazir Hassan

Begusarai

Bihar

Janata Dal (United)

3.5

3.5

3.9

3.7

C. P. Joshi

Bhilwara

Rajasthan

INC

5

4.6

5.6

5.1

Girija Vyas

Chittorgarh

Rajasthan

INC

3.9

3.9

4.1

4.2

Nirmal Khatri

Faizabad

UP

INC

6.2

4.9

5.2

5.6

ThokchomMeinya

Inner Manipur

Manipur

INC

3.8

3.7

5.1

5.9

Mahesh Joshi

Jaipur

Rajasthan

INC

4.3

4.2

4

4.1

MunisamyThambidurai

Karur

Tamil Nadu

AIADMK

5.6

3

3.8

6.4

Charan Das Mahant

Korba

Chhattisgarh

INC

4.3

5.2

5.1

5.3

Bali Ram

Lalganj

UP

BSP

3.1

3.1

3.2

3.3

Bhola Singh

Nawada

Bihar

BJP

4.2

4.3

4.6

4.3

Ranjan Prasad Yadav

Pataliputra

Bihar

Janata Dal (United)

6.3

5.9

4.9

6.2

Nilesh Narayan Rane

Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg

Maharashtra

INC

3.4

3.6

4.4

3.8

Vinay Kumar Vinnu Pandey

Shrawasti

UP

INC

5.2

4

4.6

5.1

Arjun Roy

Sitamarhi

Bihar

INC

5.4

5.6

5.5

5.3

Dr Sanjay Singh

Sultanpur

UP

INC

2.6

3

2.9

3.1

ShashiTharoor

Thirvananthapuram

Kerala

INC

6

5.9

5.6

6.1

Virendra Kumar

Tikamgarh

MP

BJP

3.3

2.9

3.1

3

Raghuvansh Prasad Singh

Vaishali

Bihar

RJD

5.3

4.8

5.4

5.4

MurliManohar Joshi

Varanasi

UP

BJP

4.1

4.2

4.4

4.4

National Average Scores

4.5

4.2

4.2

4.6

(Data courtesy: ADR-Daksh National Voter’s Survey)
The score in green indicates the highest score on the particular parameter.
The score in red indicates the lowest score on the particular parameter.

While individual scores vary largely among these MPs, it is interesting to note that only 10 out of these 21 MPs have scored above the national average (4.6) when it comes to better schooling in their constituencies. In terms of employment opportunities, even less – that is, 9 out of the 21 have scored above the national average of 4.5.

Some of the MPs who were ranked among the highest in these respects were Ranjan Prasad Yadav from Pataliputra Constituency in Bihar, Shashi Tharoor from Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala and Munisamy Thambidurai from Karur in Tamil Nadu.

Thambidurai served as a law minister in the Vajpayee regime in 1999 and later became education minister of Tamil Nadu. He is known to have founded the St. Peters Institute of Higher Education and Research in Tiruvallur district which is run by his family members. In the recent perception survey by Daksh, voters in Karur constituency gave him a score of 6.4 as far as better schools are concerned, the highest score against the parameter among the 21 highest educated MPs we looked at.

But if one looks at the overall survey, there are 37 MPs who have scored higher against the parameter of better schools, clearly indicating that the most educated MPs are clearly not perceived to be the best among the entire fraternity when it comes to better primary education in their constituencies.

In terms of better employment opportunities, Ranjan Prasad Yadav scored the highest, 6.3, among his peers comprising MPs with doctorate degrees. However once again, the overall survey data shows that there are 26 MPs who scored better than that.

Parameters

Name of MP

Constituency

Score out of 10

Employment

Better employment opportunities

Ranjan Prasad Yadav

Pataliputra

6.3

Training  for jobs

Ranjan Prasad Yadav

Pataliputra

5.9

Shashi Tharoor

Thiruvananthapuram

5.9

Education

Reservation for jobs and education

Shashi Tharoor

Thiruvananthapuram

5.6

Better Schools

Munisamy Thambidurai

Karur

6.4

(Data courtesy: ADR-Daksh National Voters Survey)

Dr Suhas Palshikar, Director of Lokniti and Professor at the Department of Politics and Public Administration at the University of Pune, is not surprised by these findings. “Educated MPs, because of their education are unlikely to be more interested in pushing the cause of education. For employment related issues too, it is not the education of the MP but his or her perspective that would matter more. Less educated MPs and ministers have been known to show more interest in the spread of education,” he says.

Shripad Naik, a graduate and three-time BJP MP from North Goa constituency has scored a 6.2, 7.8, 6.4 and 5.8 on the parameters of employment, better schools, reservation in jobs and education and training for jobs, respectively. Naik is a member and on the Managing Committees of various educational institutions in Goa, such as the Mandovi Education Society, Old Goa Education Society and the Prabhodhan Education Society.

“I make it a point to invest in education as I believe good education leads to better employment opportunities. 40 per cent of my MPLADS funds have been allotted to the cause of education”, says Naik who is running for a fourth consecutive term in the 2014 elections.

While the likes of Tharoor, Yadav and Thambidurai have at least been rated above the national average in regard to these issues, there are still others – highly educated - whose performances were far from satisfactory and scores abysmal.

Dr Sanjay Singh from Sultanpur constituency of Faizabad in Uttar Pradesh and Virendra Kumar from Tikamgarh constituency of Tikamgarh district in Madhya Pradesh fared the worst among our PhD MPs when it came to issues of employment and education with scores of 3 or less on a scale of 10.

Parameters

Name of MP

Constituency

Score out of 10

Employment

Better employment opportunities

Dr Sanjay Singh

Sultanpur

2.6

Training  for jobs

Virendra Kumar

Tikamgarh

2.9

Education

Reservation for jobs and education

Dr Sanjay Singh

Sultanpur

2.9

Better Schools

Virendra Kumar

Tikamgarh

3

(Data courtesy: ADR-Daksh National Voters Survey)

The results from the ADR-Daksh survey, in fact, highlight that there is no correlation between the level of education of MPs and their perceived contribution towards education and employment. In the survey, seven MPs have scored above a six point rating on all four parameters of education, employment, reservations in jobs and education and job training. Two of these MPs hold post graduate degrees, one is a graduate, three have cleared their matriculation exams and one is an under matriculate. The table below highlights the details:

MP

Constituency

State

Education Level

Party

Better employment opportunities

Better schools

Reservation for jobs and education

Training for jobs

K. C. Venugopal

Alappuzha

Kerala

Post Graduate

INC

6.8

7.9

7.2

7.9

Rangaswamy Dhruvanarayana

Chamrajnagar

Karnataka

Post Graduate

INC

6.9

7.5

6.4

7.1

Nalin Kumar Kateel

Dakshin Kannada

Karnataka

Matriculate

BJP

6.6

7.4

6.8

6.3

Kuruppassery Varkey Thomas

Ernakulam

Kerala

Matriculate

INC

7.4

7

6.5

6.3

Gajanan Dharmshi Babar

Maval

Maharashtra

Under Matriculate

Shiv Sena

8.9

8.9

8.9

8.9

Suresh Kodikunnil

Mavelikkara

Kerala

Graduate

INC

8.3

7.1

7.7

8.1

Anant Gangaram Geete

Raigad

Maharashtra

Matriculate

Shiv Sena

6.7

6.8

6.7

6.7

(Data courtesy: ADR-Daksh National Voters Survey)

Parliamentary participation

Education and employment are among the key issues which are often discussed and debated in Parliament. There is a general expectation that a well-educated MP would advance the cause of good education in the country followed by sound employment schemes and remedies by raising these issues in the House.

“Not necessarily”, says ex-IAS officer and freelance governance and anti-corruption consultant, T.R Raghunandan. “MPs are responsive to the demands of people. If people care about education, MPs care about it. Otherwise, MPs, and indeed all politicians, are more interested in the managerial aspects of the issue, such as infrastructure for schools, teacher recruitment, postings and transfers etc, rather than in improving education outcomes.”

This seems to be borne out when one looks at the participation of the 21 MPs holding doctorate degrees in the Parliamentary debates and during Question Hours. Among them, P.L. Punia participated in the most number of debates on employment and education issues. He also asked the highest number of questions pertaining to education, touching upon issues such as regulation for teachers, setting up of vocational education programmes and need for reforms in medical education.

Punia was however, ranked below the national average by voters on the parameters of better schools and job training in his constituency.

Participation of the MPs with PHDs in the Parliamentary debates and Question Hours

MPs with a Doctorate Degree

Constituency

Debates in the Parliament

Questions asked in the Parliament

Total number of debates participated in

Debates on the issue of Employment

Debates on the issue of Education

Total Questions Asked

Questions Asked on the issue of Employment

Question Asked on the issue of Education

Ram Shankar

Agra

62

2

7

235

9

10

P.L. Punia

Barabanki

289

11

26

656

25

39

Monazir Hassan

Begusarai

10

0

0

23

2

1

C. P. Joshi

Bhilwara

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

Girija Vyas

Chittorgarh

22

0

2

16

1

2

Nirmal Khatri

Faizabad

37

3

3

24

1

1

ThokchomMeinya

Inner Manipur

55

0

4

204

4

8

Mahesh Joshi

Jaipur

10

0

0

351

9

20

MunisamyThambidurai

Karur

102

5

0

370

9

22

Charan Das Mahant

Korba

15

2

0

132

2

1

Bali Ram

Lalganj

51

2

5

351

20

9

Bhola Singh

Nawada

104

1

9

398

12

18

Ranjan Prasad Yadav

Pataliputra

13

0

0

484

14

18

Nilesh Narayan Rane

Ratnagiri-Sindhudurg

19

0

0

606

15

35

Vinay Kumar Pandey

Shrawasti

59

3

1

197

5

6

Arjun Roy

Sitamarhi

28

1

0

349

3

6

Dr Sanjay Singh

Sultanpur

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

NA

ShashiTharoor

Thirvananthapuram

12

0

1

88

7

8

Virendra Kumar

Tikamgarh

200

5

15

280

5

24

Raghuvansh Prasad Singh

Vaishali

179

1

11

508

8

29

MurliManohar Joshi

Varanasi

29

0

3

577

6

9

(Data Courtesy: http://www.prsindia.org/)

The ADR-Daksh National Voter’s Survey points to the fact that well educated politicians like Shashi Tharoor have made their mark with the electorate through well-defined programmes and projects in their respective constituencies. Yet, there are others like Sanjay Singh and Virendra Kumar who, in spite of their educational credentials, have failed to redefine the role of the MP as a harbinger of change, and have been rated poorly for their lack of creditable performance.

So what is it that makes a leader receptive and sensitive towards these issues such as employment and education? “Sensitivity can stem from the leaders' or representatives' own perspective on what constitutes development; on their ability to grasp issues of urgent importance and most of all, the popular push regarding education and employment as entitlements. Political leaders would always prioritise those issues that have greater salience with voters,” cites Dr Palshikar. According to him, if they feel that working on issues such as education, gender sensitivity and the like would not translate into political mileage with voters, these would not find a place of priority on their agenda.

Raghunandan believes that the younger MPs are more sensitive towards these issues. Echoing Dr Palshikar on the issue of popular pressure, he says “Indeed all politicians are sensitive to those issues where they perceive that people's voting behaviour can be influenced. When school infrastructure was lacking, building of additional classrooms was all that was required to convey the favourable impression that the government was doing something. Today, parents are asking for quality outcomes in education,” he says.

Raghunandan, however, believes that MPs in general have become more receptive towards issues pertaining to education and employment. He attributes this to an increasing awareness due to initiatives such as the Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan (SSA), media coverage of findings from reports such as the ASER and an increasing number of young voters, for whom issues of employment and education are of grave concern. The bigger challenge according to him is the lack of quality education and the deteriorating conditions of higher education in the country.

Increasing unemployment levels and dwindling quality of education are just two of the many issues our nation continues to grapple with. There is no doubt that the nation needs clean, transparent and honest politicians with a fresh, novel and creative approach to address these issues. In the end, it is not just the educational qualifications and the degrees of our netas that matter, what matters is the belief and the commitment to bringing prosperity to millions of Indians.

REFERENCES

1. Daksh-ADR National Voter Survey
2. www.adrindia.org
3. http://www.prsindia.org/
4. www.myneta.info
5. http://shashitharoor.in/
6. http://aises.nic.in/home (All India School Education Survey)
7. Labour and Employment Report 2014
8. National sample Survey Organization
9. Annual Status of Education Report (ASER)-Pratham Education Foundation