Why I don't care whether Modi's degrees are genuine

Tabish Khair
Tabish KhairMay 12, 2016 | 09:25

Why I don't care whether Modi's degrees are genuine

Like many Indians, I am tired of the debate over the kind and validity of the degrees claimed by some ministers and even our current prime minister. Do they have a degree? Have they completed high school? I think such questions are hardly an issue when it comes to the selection of politicians in any working democracy.

A politician is not elected in a democracy because of his or her education, qualifications, and even competency. For better and for worse. A politician is elected for his or her trustworthiness.


Finally, when we vote for a politician, we put our trust in him or her, and we expect that our trust will not be broken.

That is why, while it is immaterial whether an elected politician has a degree or not, it is vital that the politician should not lie about his educational (and other) achievements. It is only in this context that scrutiny of the educational claims of a politician becomes necessary.

In fact, scrutiny becomes more than necessary. Because we trust our elected representatives to act honestly - for the nation's good. Hence, facts matter.

However, it is a tendency in democracies today for politicians to play loose and fast with facts and data. Take the two-day strike called by junior doctors of the National Health Service (NHS) in UK earlier this month.

Two-day strike by NHS' junior doctors in UK. (Reuters) 

It was an unprecedented strike and there were many reasons for it. But the main reason was an attempt by the British health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, to provide more restrictive contracts to junior doctors in order to provide full seven-day services in British hospitals. This was an electoral promise, based on a claim by Hunt and others that more patients died in hospitals when admitted during weekends.


This claim ran into trouble, when one of the researchers whose work was used expressed reservations over the way his research was being interpreted by the government. The author of a study into patient deaths cited by Jeremy Hunt said the health secretary's use of the figures was "inaccurate".

Hunt was even accused of using unverified data about patient deaths to support his arguments against junior doctors. More trouble was to follow.

The Guardian carried an article quoting a new and extensive study that proves the contrary of Hunt's claims: "Fewer people - not more - die in hospital at weekends than during the week."

An extensive study carried out by a team at Manchester University suggests that what Hunt and his supporters term the "weekend effect" is a faulty reading of facts: "Fewer people are admitted and they are the sickest patients," which gives the impression that weekend admissions lead to a higher death rate than during the week.


Anyway, these are all facts - and just as it does not matter whether our politicians in India have a degree or not, but it matters that they do not lie about having one, similarly it matters that politicians in UK (and elsewhere) get their facts right, and give the public an honest reading of facts.

(Courtesy of Mail Today.)

Last updated: May 12, 2016 | 16:36
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