The right age of HRD minister
On the face of it, the 15th Prime Minister of the country Narendra Modi managed to reduce the average age of his ministry by inducting some bright young faces. Many of them are relatively known to the public at large — from Rajnath Singh to Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj to Smriti Irani -have been seen and heard on television in several debates.
However, as far as female representation is concerned, it’s quite heartening to note not only their numbers but the confidence reposed in their administrative acumen. Sushma gets external affairs and Smriti HRD — not the usual women and child welfare departments.
A veteran Sushma can judiciously handle foreign relations that reached a critical juncture in the last few years because of coalition compulsions of UPA-II combined with the inaction of the former Prime Minister. I am no expert on foreign affairs but watching the heads of SAARC countries at Modi’s swearing-in ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhawan I only wondered how US was analysing the rapid developments that followed India’s first initiative with neighbouring countriers. Who knows it could eventually emerge as a foundation for future solidarity.
As the sun set, turning the glittering forecourt of the Rashtrapati Bhawan breathtakingingly beautiful, one could only hope it will bring down curtains on terrorism in the two countries. Nonethess, it will be premature to read too much in their handshakes and no hugs.
By choosing young Smriti for HRD ministry the Prime Minister has, in one stroke, bridged the generational gap that had so far existed between the minister and the youth it catered to. Smriti can feel and understand the need of the restless student community at various levels better than her predecessors like Kapil Sibal or late Arjun Singh.
Finally, there will be connect between the minister and the youth of the country who have pinned their hopes on Narendra Modi. However, while underlying the need for having a re-look at the text books, the minister would do better by not getting trapped in the regressive outlook of some of the outfits of the Sangh Parivar. Right now the need is to meet the global standards at all levels and not merely in IITs. May be taking some advice from former president APJ Abdul Kalam would do them good.
Before I conclude I would like to mention the courtesies extended by Amit Shah to Mulayam Singh Yadav and Nitin Gadkari to Sharad Pawar at the swearing in ceremony. The return of some warmth after months of acrimony is indeed a good sign for democracy.
I would like to quote Pranab Mukherjee to emphasize the need for inclusive growth in the education sector, ” Education is the true alchemy that can bring India its next golden age. Our motto is unambiguous: All for knowledge and knowledge for all.”
I hope Modi will remember his oft-repeated public statement, “I want to see Muslims with Quran in one hand and laptop in the other,” and not play into the hands of clerics that are responsible for high illiteracy in their community.