Kapil Sibal, (60), is one of the few ministers in the Manmohan Singh cabinet, who earned two promotions in five years.
In 2004, after the surprise UPA victory, he was made MoS for Science and Technology with independent charge. Two years later, on the basis of his performance, Sibal was elevated as a cabinet minister. Now, in his second innings as minister, he has been given the charge of a key ministry, the Human Resource Development.
One of the top lawyers in the country, who declined to join the IAS in 1972, Sibal faces the tough challenge of reforming the education sector without ruffling feathers. He spoke to HT about his plans:
What would be your priority in the field of education?
The UPA government’s thrust will be on the expansion, inclusion and excellence of education. Our idea of reforms is to strive towards education for all.
What would be the first step in this direction?
If we are able to get the Right to Education Bill passed soon, which we intend to push in the budget session itself, many serious problems would be resolved. It seeks to make education a right for every child between 6-14 years, and the state would be duty bound to fulfill this.
Expansion of education is not possible without participation of private sector. Are you willing for more public-private partnerships?
Our government wants to improve the quality of education in the country and we will take all steps in this direction. Foreign investors will also be encouraged. The private sector wants to invest and we will encourage that.
How do you plan to address the controversial issue of reservation in private educational institutions?
We need to evolve a consensus on this after taking these institutions into confidence.
Don’t you feel there are too multiple regulatory bodies, particularly in higher education?
The attempt has to be to free education from bureaucratic control. All regulators should be facilitators and not obstructors. We can’t move forward in education by imposing diktat. Some steps will be taken in this direction.