Education is a cornerstone of a civilised society. It is education that boosts up the minimum knowledge and intellect of a person. A well educated person is considered as a resource for the development of the country. Though wisdom and intelligence hold prominence over education, but without education, wisdom lacks firm grounds of certainty and evidence. Aristotle, a great Greek philosopher said about education, “The educated differ from the uneducated as much as the living differ from the dead.” But making education the sole criterion for politicians is not a beneficial resort.
India is the largest democracy in the world and its success cannot be deemed to rely on the educational qualification of its leaders or politicians. The debate on the issue whether educational qualification be made compulsory for politicians is an emotive one. In 2015, Government of Haryana enacted Haryana Panchayati Raj (Amendment) Act, 2015 setting a minimum educational criterion for contesting the local body election. At the same time, Government of Rajasthan also passed legislation for minimum qualification in local body election. The act outlined various levels of minimum educational criteria for general candidates, women and dalits.
A PIL (Public Interest Litigation) was filed in the Supreme Court, contesting the validity of such a law. Supreme Court after hearing the contestations of both sides said, “It is only education which gives a human being the power to discriminate between right and wrong, good or bad”. A bench headed by Justice J Chelameswar and Abhay Manohar Sapre of the apex court upheld the validity of such a law. The contestant opposing the move were of the view that legislators were depriving the citizens of their basic rights. On this issue, Supreme Court said that the government was well within its right to impose ‘reasonable restrictions’ on the rights of people. It was of the opinion that ‘Right to contest elections’ were neither Fundamental Right under Constitution nor a common legal right, rather it is a statutory right. Therefore, it is well within the prerogative of the legislature. “The Supreme Court also opined that the criteria may lead to disqualification of a large number of candidates, but the legislation by the government was ‘not arbitrary’ because the classification was reasonable and based on intelligible differentia”. The debate on the issue had raging opposition from all the quarters from politicians, netizen, media luminaries, and common people. Our country has a history of highly educated leaders since the time of independence, but the importance and pivotal role of education in the decision-making, leadership and as a fuel to run a country has vanished.
It is desirable that a minimum qualification be enforced so that our leaders are equipped with the ability to comprehend various issues with far-sighted vision; education is an enlightening experience. It is a highly desired qualifying point. India is suffering from various challenges including economic development, infrastructure, health and hygiene, poverty, unemployment etc. The reason behind failure in elimination of these evils is corruption that is prevalent in our country because political power is coalesced with economic power. Uneducated contestants are opined and believe that economic power provides ample opportunity to control and gain benefits, corrupt leaders are more inclined and capable of amassing social wealth instead of working for the welfare of people.
However, electing a right person to run the country may be difficult. A leader has to be elected through observation of his communication skills, literacy level, patriotism, honesty etc. The electorates should be wise enough to analyse the background of the electing contestants in case the arguable and debated criteria, i.e., education, is not at par. Earning and possessing high educational degrees may be a bonus, but making education mandatory is contradictory since a good leader must be more committed to social service than a mere holder of degrees without the ability of making a contributory change. Also, politicians are model citizens for the common people. Therefore, it is imperative that they have educational qualification which can motivate common masses to emulate them. It is evident that good and successful governance depends on the quality of leadership, which is polished through education. Hence, minimum education is must for politicians.