Jharkhand HRD Min Jagarnath Mahto, 55, Responds to Criticism of His Education By Going Back to School

Social Commentary

Jharkhand HRD Min Jagarnath Mahto, 55, Responds to Criticism of His Education By Going Back to School

Illustration: Reynold Mascarenhas

There’s no limit to the age at which one can seek education, and Jharkhand’s Human Resource Development (HRD) Minister Jagarnath Mahto is living proof. The 55-year-old Mahto, who was elected from Dumri assembly constituency in Jharkhand’s Giridih district, has applied for admission as a Class XI student after completing his Class X 25 years ago, in 1995. The move comes on the back of criticism he received for his limited educational qualifications even as he was holding the HRD portfolio.

“Constant criticism inspired me to restart my pending education. Ever since I was made education minister of Jharkhand, a section of people has been aggressive about my educational qualification. Then, I decided to begin my studies again,” Mahto was quoted as saying by reporters. Mahto has applied for admission to Devi Mahto Inter College, a government-affiliated institution, in Bokaro district.

Speaking to reporters, Mahto has stated his intention is to pursue the Arts stream, and that he wishes to study Political Science, due to his career as a politician. Mahto is not the only cabinet minister in Jharkhand whose educational qualifications are below graduate level.

Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR), a non-governmental organisation that works in the area of political reforms, reports that eight out of 11 ministers in the Jharkhand government, including Chief Minister Hemant Soren, have declared educational qualifications between Class VIII and Class XII. Mahto’s decision to go back to his studies and improve his qualifications is a welcome change, one worthy of his position as HRD minister.

The common stereotype of netas having poor educational qualifications or fake degrees persists, but ministers like Mahto could help change that perception. While it remains to be seen how he will juggle his governmental responsibilities with his academic duties, Mahto wishes to take things one step at a time, telling reporters, “Let me get the admission, first. I have just applied for admission today. If my application falls under rules, I will get admission. Thereafter, I will think about striking a balance.”

While a 55-year-old education minister returning to college as a student sounds like the plot of a bizarre sitcom, for Jagarnath Mahto, reality is stranger than fiction.