An Open Letter To Smriti Irani

Why our HRD minister needs to realise that opening new IITs is of little use unless primary education in India is improved.


Dear Ms Irani,

Congratulations on being the Human Resource Development Minister of this nation – which has no deficit of this remarkable renewable resource. I was 11 years old when my family watched you on television portraying the trials and tribulations of Tulsi with ease and flawlessness. Now you have taken up a real role as a policymaker with equal gusto and enthusiasm. Your story is no less inspiring than that of Mr Prime Minister’s. And the fact that Mr Prime Minister has reposed his faith in you is testament to your abilities, talent and vision. Hence, it becomes imperative that you make solid decisions and introduce easily implementable policies in your tenure as a Union HRD Minister.

Focus on Primary Education

Your first step, Ms Irani, ought to be your focus on improving the primary education system. You ought to be aware of the real status of the primary education sector and not just rely on numerical data. Numbers are not everything. You need to take a strong view of this existing trouble. Numerous studies and reports point to the fact that there is hardly any increase in the learning levels of children when they’re promoted to higher classes. Many of them cannot read a simple text in Hindi or English or perform a simple mathematical task like division.

According to the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2013, which is an assessment brought out annually by the NGO Pratham, enrolment in schools remain very high, around 96%. Yet, that does not translate to quality education. ASER points out that among Class V children enrolled in government schools, the percentage of children able to read a Class III text has decreased from 50.3% in 2009 to 43.8% in 2011 to 41.1% in 2013. Moreover, only 20.8% of these children could solve a three-digit by one-digit division problem – a Class III level math problem – in 2013.

There is no focus on developing skills in students and there is no proper infrastructure in schools. Scarcity of teachers and their inadequate training to impart quality education are the other critical aspects which need immediate attention.

According to the same report, 15% of government schools still lack a provision for drinking water, 7% of schools do not have a usable toilet, 23% schools do not have libraries. Also, according to a MHRD presentation before Parliament’s Consultative Committee in 2011, there are vacancies for 12.59 lakh teachers in primary and upper primary schools in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar alone.

In other words, public education is in shambles and nobody is willing to fix it.

Primary education is that significant foundation on which the future of a country is built. If the foundation of a structure is weak, there is always a perpetual fear that it might fall. If we won’t take decisions soon enough to improve and further our children’s primary education, I’m afraid to say there is a strong possibility that the nation might fall due to its own foundational deficiencies.

Higher Education

The scenario in the halls of higher education, Ms Irani, is equally disturbing. Unmindful proliferation of institutions coupled with faculty crunch, insufficient infrastructure, rampant plagiarism and infrequent regulation and checks has severely dented the quality of higher education. Moreover, your determination to establish new IITs has given me some sleepless nights. Is this decision based on sound reason and analysis? Or is it just to make your party’s foothold stronger? Whatever it is, it not justified to have more IITs in the country. As an IIT alumnus, I’ve experienced the facilities and the shortcomings of the prestigious IITs first-hand. And it is from this experience that I tell you not to go any further with your commitment.

What is more, I would like you to notice the concerns and recommendations of the Kakodkar Committee which was set up by the previous government in 2010 and submitted its report (Taking IITs to Excellence and Greater Relevance) to the MHRD in April 2011.  The committee outlined some extremely pertinent issues which I quote here verbatim:

“the sudden increase in the intake and the effort of mentoring the new IITs has strained the established IITs. All the IITs are suffering from infrastructure deficit and inadequate administrative systems and staff.”

“the current state of infrastructure at the established IITs is not in tune with what is expected of a world-class institute.”

“as it is, IITs are currently facing an acute shortage of faculty when it comes to coping with the increased admissions and needs of the new IITs”

The report also highlights the need for the IITs to enhance research and to lead and strive to bring quality among other technical institutes. It also raises deep concerns about the absence, or thin presence, of the alumni among the new IITs and their track record in bringing funds from the industry. It also makes a note of the rigid and inflexible curriculum at IITs and about the issues of scaling up the number of faculty as well as PhD graduates.

To quantify the concerns, the IITs would need to produce 10,000 PhD graduates in 2020-25, up from the 1000 PhD graduates they produce now. The scaling up of faculty will be an equally effortful task. IITs would need a total of 16,000 faculty members in about 10 years, up from the 4000 faculty members that they have now.

Moreover, according to the reply by the then Minister of State, Human Resource Development, Shashi Tharoor to a question in the Rajya Sabha in April 2013, approximately 42% of the faculty positions are vacant in the IITs. Almost half are vacant in the NITs.

All this paints a very grim picture.

With the existing IITs short of faculty and resources, the new ones will be nothing but a name on paper. The ones started by the UPA government are still struggling to grow and make their mark. The President has repeatedly expressed his disappointment at the inability of any of our institutions to figure within the top 100 ranks in the global rankings. Why don’t you nurture the existing ones? Make them stronger and better? Why don’t you focus on improving their research output, faculty appointments and trainings, international collaborations etc? Why don’t you make them grow to a stature which allows them to effectively mentor other educational institutions? The best idea would be to ask the students about what they find wrong with the existing practices. After all, they are the ones who will shape the future. And, I believe, it’s possible to strengthen the existing institutions given your forté for action and vision.

For many people in this nation, the only road to a good future for their children begins with a good education. You hold the key to that future, Ms Irani. Put in the right key and unlock the potential of this nation willing to make its mark on globe.

With my good wishes,

Manas Gupta


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Contribute Your Views
  • Vishwanath

    It is futile to write such letters. Narendra Modi has insulted all his competent educated skilled supporters by having such a misfit as HRD Minister. many more flashpoints ( like the recent FYUP issue ) to follow.

    • Rahul Gandhi

      You sir, have triggered the internet’s ‘Bullshit Meter’ today ! Congratulations on your achievement and if it may please you- How do you manage to generate such crap ?

      • No more hope for India

        Elections are over. Are you still getting paid by party?

      • Vishwanath

        I speak the bitter truth and it attracts paid trolls and mindless zombies automatically ; and these ( trolls and zombies )appear as shit to some like you.

      • Amber

        i wonder if UPA’s or rahul;s supports are as dumb as him !!!
        HAHAHHAHAH !!!!
        judging by the kind of image he has, nobody should be remotely using his name for trashing any agrument as his credibility is BELOW ZERO (if thats possible).
        You, respected sir, have proved yourself in the league of Mr. Gandhi …… hahahah !!!

    • Singh

      So for you have educated minister in HRD dept. what their achievement are?
      On whose watch this degradation happen?
      Just because you can type comment, make you intelligent & educated?
      At present time how many parents are educated one who spent their earning to educate their ward?
      Intelligence is not slave to education. e.g Bill gate, Warren Buffet etc.
      Intelligent person can hire thousand of educated mind at its disposal. Use them then throw them.
      If you are educated & intelligent then why you sitting in one dark corner writing such stupid comment? Why don’t you go out & let other people follow you?
      You can’t because you are educated only, Not intelligent. Your education is not worth a paper which it is written on.

      • Vishwanath

        But i have not filed false affidavit’s. Nor lied about my qualifications.
        my education helps me discriminate between right and wrong, between honest people and liars, between competent people and sycophantic hanger ons.
        i am free not a paid troll nor a blind follower

        • cvguy

          Jai Baba Vishwanath!

        • Htanawhsiv

          Lying and filing false affidavits are what you should accuse her of, and rightly so. Otherwise, how much and what kind of education do you think one needs to possess in order to acquire the qualities you mentioned? Who would you call more educated — someone with a Bachelors in Economics, or one with a Masters in Sociology, or one who holds a PhD in Chemistry/Anthropology? Or you think anyone with a Bachelors degree from any part of India is better than any 12th class pass out from any part of India?

          • Vishwanath

            She does not even have administrative experience. Neither has she had a formal education in sociology, political science, philosophy or related subjects which can increase her awareness or improve her grasp over issues around education, skills development, human potential, grooming , culture, values .
            Come on do not try to defend the indefensible.
            Kamaraj did not have much formal education , but could understand issues and relate to his populace. He was a mass leader. This lady is arrogant, clueless . she went to himachal to poke her nose into relief work which is under the ambit of state and home ministry. Whereas she did not even have time / courtesy to meet/listen Delhi VC. Such faux pas are a result of ineptitude and lack of even basic insight

          • irregularexpression

            We saw what an Oxford educated Ph.D. did when he was given charge of India for a decade — the mess is so bad, simply cleaning it up will take one whole term for the new government! You are jumping to conclusions even before you have given somebody a chance to perform. Oh well, it won’t be the first time that naysayers like you might be proven utterly wrong!

          • Vishwanath

            So one can have even a liar as a minister ?? One who files false affidavits ??? One can also have untested , inexperienced, insightless person as a union cabinet minister for hrd ??
            not sure whether modi /bjp is fortunate to have such blind followers as you’ll !!!!!
            offcourse , she will be celebrated as deemed success even if she fails miserably. After all one can always say that she is learning, she put hard work, and so on.
            in terms of performance and delivery capability are there no other person in bjp for the role of hrd minister ??? There are ministers like nitin gadkari, harshvardhan that have got into the job from day 1.
            with a benevolent narendra modi , and with time she would learn – but the point is does anyone enjoy that much leeway ??? Would not someone with experience and knowledge ( of this function ) be better than this person ???

          • irregularexpression

            First decide what exactly is your contention — her lack of formal education or her erroneous affidavit? I don’t think lack of formal education is a big deal. And I suppose ad hominem is the most legitimate form of argument you are capable of! Unlike you, I don’t live under an illusion that everything should be perfect from day one — I do think she could have been given MoS instead of a cabinet rank. I consider Modi a rational person, so I will wait a while before I decide to launch into criticism or praise for the new government’s decisions, including the appointment of Smriti Irani (We have seen what “knowledgable and experienced” ministers like Arjun Singh did when they were at the helm).

          • Vishwanath

            Hahaha.itvis her lies, her false affidavits, her lack of experience in administration, her lack of knowledge/awareness on issues realting to education and human resource development, her bunglings , her being given independent charge as union minister ( even without prior experience ), favouritism by narendra modi . All of them. She is misfit in many sense. And demeaning to merit and competence.

          • No more hope for India

            There is a difference between lack of education and disregard for education. Erroneous affidavit? ha! ha! ha! very funny! Do you even understand the meaning and implication of affidavit?. Lying on affidavit tells something about person’s character! On Sorry, India and character don’t go together. Lying and corruption is totally acceptable.

          • irregularexpression

            Yawn! Welcome to India! If you are done with your ridiculous tirade, you may continue downloading pirated movies and software.

          • surendra

            One things that seems to b going to smiriti Irani s way and that too is with future so far she has only embrassed herself and degraded modi s image as well but who else to blame modi called for it showing his true colors. I remember my 12 standard days my stream commerce but my sister had arts and her books of sociology policticLs affairs and others I read quite a few later in my college I started connecting with wht I read in these books u know a sense developed… reading socrates excuse me for wrong spellings I mean the Socrates , karlmarx … and many more was something u know like u r being answerd or welcomed

  • No more hope for India

    Even expecting to get her attention is an stupid act. Perfect definition of Andher Nagri. Make the someone HRD head who has no regard for education. Who left education not because of any compulsion but because she valued more to filthy TV.

    • RajeevS

      May Allah protect you 😉 in Pakistan.

    • irregularexpression

      That is the problem with people like you (by that I mean educated illiterates) — You reduce Education to a disposable paper certificate. Smriti Irani is much more educated than you’ll ever hope to be!

      • Hingarh Aahan

        My only question is if she had been in congress and made the HRD minister, would you have given the same argument that you are giving now. I agree academic education is not the sole criterion for judging the person. The problem with people like you is you have become subjective rather than objective. I know many people including subramanyam swamy questioned the academic qualification of sonia gandhi. At that time people like you were not giving the same argument. Its really very unfortunate for our country that Modi government is taking the same decision which people like you critised because it was taken by UPA govt. Its this mentality of yours that makes our belief stronger that you are a PAID TROLL of BJP.

        • irregularexpression

          Other than Swamy and his followers (PTs as he calls them), nobody made a big deal out of Sonia Gandhi’s qualifications and false affidavits — including the courts and the election commission. The crimes of Sonia are much greater than these non-issues!

          Just because you keep saying ‘people like you’ to try and assign random points-of-view to me doesn’t make your point any less retarded — and honestly, I don’t give a rat’s ass what you believe about me — so you can repeat it like a mantra if it floats your boat!

          We have two prime examples of absolute morons with great formal education — Manmohan Singh and Kejriwal (And something tells me you support at least one of them)!

    • Vadrevu Soma Raju

      No individual, with the exception of saints and Mahatmas, can be perfect. No person, and more so a politician can claim to be faultless. Smt Irani may have erred in declaring her educational status. Let no one be unduly harsh or hateful towards her or for that matter, any other politician. From the way she was talking fluently and impressively – most of the post graduates or eminent leaders are unable to speak extempore without a written document – she seems to be of more than average caliber. She pleaded very humbly for giving her an opportunity to prove herself. We have to be patient and watch how she would perform as HRD minister. The country has people of high academic qualification in various institutions. Even the PM may be nothing before them, if only academic qualifications are considered as most essential. But, in reality administrative skill does not require the highest academic achievemnt. Shri Kamaraj, former CM of Tamilnadu was never branded as of low academic status. His robust common sense and innate competence made him a great statesman and administrator. In villages we find illiterate people having abundant worldly wisdom. They can outwit an educated person by their sound and pragmatic reasoning.
      Last but not the least, let us use this forum for constructive and positive discussion and refrain from hateful statements or quarrel using un-parliamentary expressions. We should do well to show mutual regard and tolerance towards views of others. Otherwise we will be branded as educated people lacking samskaram.

  • No more hope for India

    Noticed that some brainless people compare her to Bill Gates and like. Bill gates is what he is today because of his education. His being a Harvard students speaks volume about his education achievements. He left Harvard to pursue his passion. He or Warren never comment on Energy, or area which is not their domain.

    • cvguy

      Hope you’re not one of the no more hope – hope so…

  • No more hope for India

    Why do people support a particular party and act as their vote bank and taken for granted? Why can’t they be just voter and think without bias to a party and matter more to politician.

    • Bharath

      now whom do you believe MODI OR SONIA?..obviously MODI..there ends the matter…and even if he(MODI) did a mistake we support him..coz for us NATION COMES FIRST..and revolutionists like AAP are ready to eat a democratic country india…obviously we are trying to protect INDIA from AAP and put it in the safe hands of MODI..

  • ravibolana

    Education is bliss. Now the jeans which saves from Rape

    • Vishwanath

      Thanks for sharing the link. But the more sensible option would be to market the kit as a pluggable tool to any garment. With changeable batteries – so that it can be used for a longer duration than 3 months and all ladies can use it ( and not just those that wear jeans).

      sharing my comment with you so that you can pass on to the one who published the article as i am not on twitter nor facebook.

  • SkyWalker

    Biggest root cause of problems with IITs/NITs is ‘rat race’ …
    I disagree with the suggestion that more student intake(current level) after OBC reservation resulted in degraded educational standards in IITs/NITs. Perhaps the most significant impact was the need of more hostels but in well structured curriculum undertaken by experienced faculty, well oiled knowledge transfer from seniors to juniors apart from self study culture, slightly higher student-teacher ratio isn’t significant.

    Out of the >10k graduates from IITs/NITs not even 100 prefer academics as their career choice. Almost half of those going higher studies do MBA rather they do engineering only to improve CV for MBA now that’s loss of almost 50% ‘engineers’ going for higher studies apart from doing number crunching in investment banks or brokerages. Not to mention that students want to earn a lot more than their profs 😛

    While talent isn’t an issue rat race forces people(families) to blow with the wind whether its for law, CA, engineering, IT, MBA or any thing else while consistently neglecting fundamental sciences where Indians performed quite well previously. Just a glance on the names of eminent Indian scientists from JC Bose, CV Raman to Dr. Bhabha, Sarabhai or S Chandrasekhar etc. proves that despite lack of resources(compared to now) Indians performed better in fundamental sciences but since professional education provided greener pastures so people preferred them as career choice. Until or unless we don’t make fundamental sciences, academics, R&D etc. as attractive(not lucrative) career options we can’t expect talented lot to go for it. While IITs will let posts vacant instead of hiring non-IITian faculty & have to poach experienced faculty from NITs while NITs will keep hiring adhocs to fill in every semester while the overall education standard will get lowered.

    • MED

      That nails it.

    • Rex

      Just a glance on the names of eminent Indian scientists from JC Bose, CV
      Raman to Dr. Bhabha, Sarabhai or S Chandrasekhar etc. proves that
      despite lack of resources(compared to now) Indians performed better in
      fundamental sciences but since professional education provided greener
      pastures so people preferred them as career choice

      Arguably, formal education was more respected and had higher standards under British India – when going to college was confined to a small part of the population, who were taught by teachers educated at Oxford/Cambridge etc (until our own British set up universities made a name for themselves). Not having caste based reservations also helped. All these people you mentioned either did their higher studies abroad and definitely contributed all their research while working at foreign universities. So yeah – we haven’t had any noteworthy scientific research in our own universities since Independence.

    • Rex

      Just a glance on the names of eminent Indian scientists from JC Bose, CV
      Raman to Dr. Bhabha, Sarabhai or S Chandrasekhar etc. proves that
      despite lack of resources(compared to now) Indians performed better in
      fundamental sciences but since professional education provided greener
      pastures so people preferred them as career choice

      Arguably, formal education was more respected and had higher standards under British India – when going to college was confined to a small part of the population, who were taught by teachers educated at Oxford/Cambridge etc (until our own British set up universities made a name for themselves). Not having caste based reservations also helped. All these people you mentioned either did their higher studies abroad and definitely contributed all their research while working at foreign universities. So yeah – we haven’t had any noteworthy scientific research in our own universities since Independence.

  • Prem Rou

    Focus on primary education : OK , Then what ?. If some one with excellent primary education succeeds and surge ahead of others, many losers will be out there shouting his lack of “paper certificates” as means to hide their jealousy.
    The letter is addressed to one Union H R D Minister , who has minimal role in primary education. The major responsibility of primary education remains with state government . A classic case , misdirecting noble ideas , with ill-intention or due to ill-information, then painting the person concerned as black , because in spite of good intention the person will fail to deliver.

    It mentions “rat race “without analyzing why the rat race . The number of seat available for higher studies is very less compared to student wanting to get in . With more than 2.5 lakh students from CBSE scoring more than 90% every year . don’t you think having at least 4 lakh seats will ease the rat race. Or keeping further avenue blocked and using superficial actions like grade and no marks will make “rat race ” vanish and everything will be fine is the right strategy??. Instead of waiting endlessly for few privileged ones to use all resources and bring world class quality to India we must spread resources to accommodate more and more should be the first priority. These “below world class quality ” will remain in India and contribute to all around improvement including education sector than the privileged ones who fly abroad to work in “below par “capacity . It hurts to see “Engineers ” from prestigious institutes of India working as “night cleaners” , “data entry operators “and even as “cab driver”.
    Yes both primary education and higher education are important and both needs investment . Both needs capacity expansion and expansion in reach. Poor quality should not be bandied as excuse to debar or prevent access of “marginalized ones ” to that coveted “paper certificate “. Let us make availability of these “paper certificates ” to seekers as first priority and making all “educated ” as next logical step.

    • Ritesh

      I think from ur point of view all 10 lakhs students appearing for JEE should get admission to IITs.There should be no bias, total equality.

  • B Positive

    So, it is perfectly ok for a fake M. Phil from Cambridge and an Italian waitress with an English certificate to run the country. I have ever heard Smriti Irani speak, and she comes across as being more educated than most Congress leaders. I think this reaction is premature to say the least. If she had been in the office for some time and ruined the system, then we can all criticize.

  • Vadrevu Soma Raju

    The most essential need of our primary education is lack of moral educatiion. Most evils of our society such as corruption, dishonesty, intolerance of opinions and faiths of others, violence etc. can be prevented by good moral education. The kids, with their wax like minds can be moulded into ideal citizens by inculcating all positive and good qualities through moral education.

    A huge mistake perpetrated on the kids by our existing system of education is to tax them with too much study while their age and mental state require their enjoyment and fun through various things they love. Our youngsters get burnt up mentally by the time complete higher secondary stage. They are deprived of creativeness.

    During the higher education we are neglecting basic sciences like Physics, Chemistry, and Biology giving undue importance to Engineering and Technology. Without advances in the basic sciences, there cannot be development in the applied courses of study. In higher education we have a tendency to have more theoretical study and less of practical projects or research. The topics of research seem to be far from the real life and relevant to problems faced by industries. Our publications in international Scientific journals should be enhanced from the present about 3% to atleast 15%.

  • Mafia Raj

    She thought that Certificate of Participation is a degree? Dumb or Dumb fraudster?