New Delhi: India’s Parliament may have many young and fresh faces to flaunt in pictures but in truth, the Lok Sabha is actually getting older. And wiser, if education is any indication of wisdom. According to data on the age and educational qualifications provided by PRS Legislative Research, a Delhi-based independent research organization, the percentage of young members of Parliament (MPs, in the age group of 25-40) has gone down sharply from 25.8% in the first Lok Sabha to 6.3% in the 14th Lok Sabha (the outgoing one).
Age profile and Education levels of Lok Sabha MPs (PDF
The second Lok Sabha was the youngest with close to 32% of the MPs falling in this age group. Indeed, there was a fall even in MPs between the ages of 41 and 55 between the first and the 14th Lok Sabhas: from 54.1% to 33.5%. While a mere 0.2% of the MPs in the first Lok Sabha were old (between the ages of 71 and 100), the 14th had 11.7% in this group. And while the first had 19.8% in the 56-70 age group, the 14th had 41.7%.
Bidyut Chakrabarty, professor at the department of political science, Delhi University, attributes this trend to the declining level of interest in politics among the youth. "My immediate reaction to these statistics would be that the youth do not have any interest in politics today. They prefer to take up other professions. This in turn is linked to the middle class’ indifference to politics. As for the percentage of older people in the Lok Sabha increasing, it is a general trend in India. There is a perception that the older the politician, the more seasoned he is. The electorate also associates age with better performance," says Chakrabarty.
In terms of educational qualifications, however, the Lok Sabha has seen significant improvement with the proportion of graduates increasing from 37.1% in the first Lok Sabha to 47% in the 14th.
The number of postgraduates has also increased significantly but the proportion of members with a doctoral degree has increased marginally. And only 3% of the MPs in the 14th Lok Sabha have not completed schooling.
Chakrabarty does not find this surprising. "Education in India has spread since independence. In 1952, when the first Lok Sabha was elected, we were still more or less carrying forward the British legacy where education was confined to a microscopic minority. But now it has expanded exponentially, covering more people. However, even then, data like 32% of MPs being postgraduates actually does not mean anything much," he says.
Graphics by Sandeep Bhatnagar / Mint