Number of graduates is highest ever in Lok Sabha
The numbers run contrary to popular perception but mirror the larger trend across the country; the literacy rate has increased from 18.33% in 1951 to 74% in the last census in 2011.Updated: Sep 18, 2019 00:02 IST
India’s lower house of representatives, the Lok Sabha, has seen the number of graduates increase from the first Lok Sabha (in 1952) to the seventeenth, elected this summer, although the number of lawyers in the house has steeply fallen.
The numbers run contrary to popular perception but mirror the larger trend across the country; the literacy rate has increased from 18.33% in 1951 to 74% in the last census in 2011.
The current Lok Sabha has the highest number of people with at least a graduate degree, 394. This is almost three times the number of graduates in the first Lok Sabha.
Former Lok Sabha secretary general, TK Vishwanathan, emphasised that education could not be a major parameter in Parliamentary politics. “Our grandfathers or grandmothers might not have been highly educated through the formal education system but they were certainly wiser than us. K Kamaraj was not very highly educated formally but he understood the pulse of the people and he became such a great leader. I also think that leaders are judged by their performance in Parliament and their political sense is more important than the discipline of education,” he said.
In the second and third Lok Sabhas, the number of graduates stood at 160 and 157. In the last three Lok Sabhas, the number of graduates, according to Lok Sabha and PRS data, stood at 260 (15th Lok Sabha), 222 (16th Lok Sabha) and 394 (17th Lok Sabha).
Interestingly, agriculture has remained one of the favourite professions of lawmakers in the Lok Sabha since 1952, underlining the continuing significance of landowners in the Lower House. There used to be a high number of lawyers in the earlier Lok Sabhas but their numbers are now small. In recent years, the number of political or social workers in the Lok Sabha has increased.
In 1952, the first Lok Sabha election saw 96 or 22.5% agriculturists in the house as against 153 (35%) lawyers. In the second Lok Sabha (1957-1962), the corresponding figures stood at 29% and 30% respectively. Interestingly, the data also shows that in the first two Lok Sabhas, there was not a single political and social worker in the house. Perhaps representatives started describing themselves thus later. Or perhaps politics became a vocation in itself.
Whatever the reason, in the last two Lok Sabha elections — 2019 and 2014 — the number of political workers has witnessed a sharp rise, according to PRS Legislative Research. There were 24% political and social workers in the 16th Lok Sabha and there are 39% in the current one.
“As I see it, political parties are becoming more concerned and sensitive about rural India and its developments. And those who are in rural areas are mostly engaged in agricultural activities. I myself have a steady earning from agriculture. Also, in comparison to earlier years, elite people are increasingly less present in Parliament and active political and social workers are being encouraged to join parliamentary politics,” said Biju Janata Dal lawmaker, Bhartruhari Mahtab.
To be sure, many MPs pick multiple professions to describe themselves.
In the 16th Lok Sabha, 27% of the members described themselves as agriculturists; this became 38% in the 17th. However, the proportion of lawyers in these two Lok Sabhas was only 7% and 4%, according to PRS data. “If you see from 1952 onwards, the Lok Sabha data shows the number of lawyer MPs slowly but steadily decreasing in the Lower House while they continue to have a better presence in the Upper House. In the first Lok Sabha, 35% of MPs were lawyers. It reduced to 12% in the 14th Lok Sabha,” said a Lok Sabha official, who asked not to be named.
Ace legal brain and a prominent Rajya Sabha MP, Abhishek Singhvi, maintained that data might have revealed what one calls as “definitional distortion” and “inter-generational mismatch”. “One must remember that while there might be many people with a law degree, it doesn’t mean they are practising lawyers. I also think that the Indian trend might be broadly in sync with most Commonwealth nations.”
India’s parliament, the highest legislative body of the country, has always been a melting pot of people from all walks of lives. It is the richness of the varied background of lawmakers that reflects the pluralism and diversity of India. Political parties, too, have, over the years, given tickets to people from different professions to contest polls. The wide spectrum of professions has also helped in getting opinions and suggestions from different perspectives on bills or issues whenever they have been discussed in the House. The Lok Sabha has seen scientists, former rulers, artists, religious missionaries, sportspersons, even veterinarians.
The number of lawmakers with a post graduate degree has more than doubled since the first few Lok Sabhas. In the first, second, and third Lok Sabhas, the number of MPs who were post graduates was 85, 92 and 98 respectively. In the last three Lok Sabhas, the number was 142, 161 and 135.