India is all a-Twitter, literally, over the claim by Education Minister Smriti Irani that she has a degree from Yale.
Diksha Madhok of Quartz India, reports that the former star of family TV dramas has been a thorn in the side of the public ever since she received the post in the Human Resource Development (HRD) ministry in May. Irani's critics say that she should not be in such a position since her education credentials are mysterious, at best.
At 38, Irani is the youngest member of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's cabinet, and has said that she left her full-time college education to pursue modeling and acting. A former Miss India contestant, Irani has also used contradictory information in her registration with the Election Commission.
In 2004, as a candidate she said that she had a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree from Delhi University from the School of Correspondence. However, in the 2014 elections she changed her story and said that she had a Bachelor of Commerce degree from Delhi University.
On Saturday, at a conference organised by India Today magazine, she turned defensive when pressed about the discrepancies in her claims. "Please go and file a PIL [Public Interest Law] against me in court, I shall give you your answer in court to settle this once and for all," she said.
To an earlier question, Irani said: "I do have a degree from Yale as well, which I can bring out and show how Yale celebrated my leadership capacity."
On Monday a clarification was made. Irani had, in fact, received a certificate for her participation in a six-day leadership conference at Yale.
According to India Today, Madhu Kishwar, editor of women's magazine Manushi and a fierce critic of Irani, said on Twitter that novices attended leadership training courses, not leaders.
"What d'you do with HRD Minister who doesn't know difference between univ degree & certificate issued to student for titsy-bitsy 6 day course. If u are seen as serious leader u r invited to US universities to lecture. But if u are seen as novice, they invite u to leadership training!" she tweeted.
Even after two months in office, Irani has not straightened out the confusion about her educational history. She has said, however, that the clamoring about her academic life was created to keep her from working in her new cabinet position. "Judge me by my work," she said to local television channels.
Quartz India adds that this is not the first time that Indian politicians have exaggerated their academic achievements. Some previous offenders were:
Sonia Gandhi – president of the ousted Congress Party professed to have attended Cambridge University and to have received a diploma in English. When confronted, she explained that there had been a typographical error and that she had acquired a diploma in English from another institute in Cambridge.
Varun Gandhi – The great-grandson of India's first prime minister, Jawaharlal Nehru, claimed he had a degree from the London School of Economics (LSE) and a master's degree from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS). Both universities state that Gandhi was never registered at their schools.
Mamta Banerjee – Chief minister of West Bengal flaunted a PhD from East Georgia University, USA in the 1980s. Later it was discovered that this university never existed.
Quartz India says that Indian job seekers, according to AuthBridge, a screening firm, almost one in five candidates alter their resumes with fake background information.