“I feel that politics is a means to serve the people, and should not be treated as a means for earning Easy Money”
An epitome of courtesy and ethics, Mr. Baleshwar Tyagi comes across as an extremely humble and down-to-earth individual. This highly respectable personality, known to be one of the most respected and ethical politicians, is currently involved in the field of education and social service. He was elected into the U.P. assembly from Ghaziabad three times, and has served as the Finance Minister as well as the Education Minister in the U.P. government under Ms. Mayawati and Mr. Kalyan Singh. Still involved in active politics, he is one of the very few truly ethical, grounded and inspiring people one comes across, especially so in his particular field of work. In a conversation with The Viewspaper, Mr. Tyagi comes out in the open with his childhood, ethics and his aspiration and expectations.
VP: Sir, please tell us something about your childhood and early education?
BT: I am originally from a small village named Basantpur Saintili, in district Ghaziabad, I did my elementary schooling from a small government school in my village itself, completed intermediate education from K.N. Inter College, Muradnagar and further got a degree in law from MMH college, Ghaziabad, and started practicing law in Ghaziabad 1972, around the same time, I entered active politics.
VP: What was the motivation behind your decision to enter politics?
BT: I entered politics after I had completed my degree in law and had started practicing. Before that, I used to be largely associated with the Student’s Body during my college days, and I feel that is what drove me further into politics on a national level and was responsible for my interest in this field. Apart from that, I was also elected as the president of the Ghaziabad bar association two times; I feel that all these factors collectively drove me towards entering active politics.
BT: When and how did you get the chance to stand for the assembly elections and then further going on to become the education minister of U.P.?
BT:I stood for the General assembly for the first time in 1989, but I lost. But I didn’t let this cone as a disappointment for me; rather, I tried harder and kept hoping for the best. From then on, I stood for the Assembly Elections around three more times and got elected each time form my area, in 1991, 1993 and in 1996. Then, when B.J.P. came into government in coalition with Mayawati ji, I worked as the revenue minister. Then when in 1996, Kalyan Singh was made the chief minister of U.P.; I got the chance to work in the Education ministry as the Education Minister.
VP: What, in your opinion, was your major achievement and your contributions to the society in the duration in which you were in active politics?
BT: I feel that clarity is very important when it comes to working in a field like politics and politicians should be made answerable to the common populace. So, when I was given the opportunity to stand in the assembly elections, the first thing I did was to publicly declare my property, which I think, every politician should be made to do. Because of this, all my competitors were also forced to do likewise. Also, I strived hard to steer clear of hypocrisy and didn’t support any kind of criminal behaviour by people around me or even those who were related to me through my party in any manner, because I feel that any such behaviour defeats the true purpose of politics.
Then when I became involved in Education, I spearheaded the current Education boom in Dist. Ghaziabad. Here, I am not trying to say that I was the only one working for it, the truth is that everything was centre funded, but I did the best I could to speed up the process of the issuing of licences and other formalities. Today, people who earlier used to go to different parts of the nation prefer to come here to study instead. I feel that this Education Boom has not only helped the institutions and students but also, the common public in the form of increase in economic influx because of the students.
Apart from this, to further maintain the clarity of my actions, I used to publish a magazine called the Ghaziabad Vidhayak Nidhi, which had the account of all my expenditure, including that on the developmental projects I undertook and it was distributed free of cost to around 5000-7000 people
VP: What are the Political ethics that you adhered to?
BT: I believe that politics should never be exploited for personal gains. Instead, it is a means to work for common well-being. So, when I decided to go by certain ethics, it was initially resented by some people, but I persisted. In Lucknow, even when I had been made the education Minister, I used to live in the MLA Hostel and I never even used, let alone exploited my pocket expenses. This, I can say is true because an inquiry was made about this for the various members of the Assembly and it came out to be that I was the only one at that time who had not used a single penny in a whole year, this is because I feel that any such money is not for me but to be used in developmental activities. I only take what are my basic necessities. I don’t believe in keeping bodyguards when I went out alone, I believe that only people who wrong others are at any such risk.
When Advani Ji says that B.J.P. is a “party with a difference”, I feel that it should be visible so I work this way, keeping true to my ethics.
VP: Since you have been an active part of the Education Ministry, what is your opinion about the present day education system?
BT: With the sudden “Education Explosion” in the present times, I feel that it is important to keep the education system and the syllabi up-to-date, and to facilitate that, it is necessary that it should be updated from time to time. Though I am not against the privatisation of education in totality, I feel that education should be accessible to all and not a commodity to be bought as per a person’s economic status, so along-with the presence of high profile private schools, we also need to have government schools as well, which can provide education to even those who aren’t that well off economically.
VP: But sir, given the state of Government schools today, do you think this is possible, given that a person who is economically better off does not want to send his children to a government school?
BT: Yes you are right, that is the condition today, but that is because of the condition of government schools today. The management of modern government schools does not have much control over the faculty so far as their performance is concerned, so they cannot do much when their results are not up to the mark. This is because; since all appointments are made by the government as well as the salaries are provided by the government, it leaves the management with little or even no control over the faculty. I feel it will be right to say that such a management is like a lion without claws and teeth! To solve this problem, it needs to be realised that the management system of government schools needs to be revamped and a little more power be given to the management to aid in effective governance of such schools.
VP: Do you think education should be in-depth and related to diverse fields or should be career oriented right from the start?
BT: A large number of people do not realise what they exactly want to do for many years of their life, for them education is just like a ladder they keep climbing, taking one step after the other, graduation after school, post graduation after graduation, etc. so there needs to be some system of career counselling for such students. But as far as education is concerned, the essence of education lies in making children capable of tackling complex situations in life, making them capable of earning their own bread, as well as inculcating values and ethics into children. This can be possible only if education is diverse and all-encompassing. Small but important values like punctuality, the importance of realising their responsibilities and being true to their words and commitments need to be developed in children, which I feel is the real meaning of education, apart from bookish knowledge. Now-a-days, we blindly tend to follow what is western, but that applies only to certain things. What we have so far failed to absorb from their culture is the respect they have for the smallest forms of discipline and even the most minute of all rules. I feel that inculcating that feeling of respect and compliance for even the smallest of all rules is what the aim of education should be, because it is only when we learn to comply with those small rules and discipline becomes an intrinsic part of our education that we can say that we are a truly civilised society.
VP: Sir, it is now a fact that U.P. board students score lesser than their C.B.S.E. board and I.C.S.E board counterparts. In such a situation, they find themselves incapable of getting admissions in institutions where a certain minimum percentage is mandatory. What do you feel about this and what do you feel are probable solutions to this?
BT: Yes, I feel that is happening but it is not because the students are not intelligent enough but because the board has not evolved with time. To solve this problem, I think that the board needs to be re-evaluated and updated. Instead of still sticking to age-old norms, it is the need of the hour that the marking system is revamped and syllabi reconstructed. Like the Hindi marking patterns in U.P. board were made lenient some years back by the teachers themselves, I feel that similar steps need to be taken with respect to other subjects and syllabi too.
VP: As an active politician, what are your views on the present state of politics in India?
BT: For me, as an individual and a citizen of this nation, it is intolerable to see how certain individuals have begun treating politics as a business, and as a way to earn easy money. I feel this is happening because slowly, in the mad race for money, people are losing their will to serve the nation. What was once considered a great service to the nation has today become one of the gravest causes of the loss of crores of rupees, which end up in the pockets of such corrupt officials. And this is happening from the grass-root levels to the top rungs of politics. A common example of this is what we see during each election process. People literally “buy” votes. In such a situation, what can be said about the people who get elected? It is not as if there are no good people, it is jut that the good people don’t get noticed because of their minority and because of the fact that “marketing” is very important in politics today, as is in any other field, and people who just keep doing things without waiting for or wanting public acclaim, really end up not being acknowledged at all. Today, we tend to realise even the most simple things when we are consciously made to realise them, in such a state of ignorance, I feel that even the goodness of those few people needs to be publicised, to create common goodwill. Also, I feel that the nation is in great need of more such selfless people with the will to serve the nation.
VP: Do you feel that having a mentor is a necessity to be successful in politics?
BT: A “God-father”, yes, I feel that having one is very important. Because a new-comer in politics is always up against people who are much more experienced, you really need to have some-one to protect and guide you, given that the person has an acceptability of your thoughts, and you don’t need to compromise your ideals in any way.
VP: What do you feel is India’s future as a democracy?
BT: Democracy is now in the blood of all Indians and India will remain a democracy. Now that the people have become habitual of their freedom, it is only right that it remain so. And in my opinion, every one of us should strive hard to live up to the expectations of this democracy, and strive to make it better instead of criticising it. Also, taking criticism in your stride is pivotal for making change. You are bound to face some criticism of the other if you go ahead and try to do something out of the ordinary. The best way is to learn to cope with it and strive to forge ahead. But in order to strengthen India as a democracy, policies should be made, keeping in mind, the needs of the poorest of the poor, as well as the ultra-rich.
VP: What has always inspired you and what; in your opinion have been major sources of inspiration in your life?
BT: I grew up in a very ethical family, and both my parents were very particular about our being truthful, honest and true to our commitments. I feel that has affected me greatly and has played a major role in shaping my character. I remember that when I started practicing law, my farther used to tell me that one should never demand money illegitimately from anybody on pretext of helping them out with something, even if you have to go hungry yourself, this is something I have always remembered. Apart from that, I have had the luck to have worked with some extremely honest and respectable people, Mrs. Vrinda Swaroop to name one. All these factors which contributed to my environment have been instrumental in shaping my character.
VP: Any message you would like to be conveyed to the youth through this platform?
BT: There is never a shortcut to success, and any kind of success attained taking a shortcut is never permanent. As Gandhi Ji used to say; to really be successful in life, one needs to use legitimate means as well as work very hard. In my opinion, being committed to the work you do, and being true to your ethics should hold utmost importance. If the youth feels that politics is in dire need of reform, I feel that they should take up the responsibility of spearheading a political revolution. A majority needs to be set up, which should comprise of dedicated and ethical people who are committed to the nation and such a task can only be initiated by the youth. Only then will the political scale be balanced and a goodwill be created in the country, and the country largely relies on today’s youth for this.