The alleged headbanger of Meham has got his head around stuff that matters, and passed the Class XII examinations in the first division. It is a remarkable feat for Om Prakash Chautala at the age of 82, even if he was aided by the peace and quiet, salubrious diet and access to schooling and education available at Delhi’s Tihar Jail, where he is lodged. Ironically, he was put behind bars for 10 years for his role in a scam in the appointment of 3,000 junior basic teachers. By the time he pays his debt to society and is set free, he may actually be qualified to apply for a job in that category.
Prisons the world over double up as educational institutions, helping inmates to catch up on the schooling they may have missed out on while their time was taken up by more exciting pursuits. For instance, Robert Mugabe earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in law from the University of London while behind bars. Some see it as a challenge, like a doctor in Sabarmati Central Jail, who acquired 31 degrees and diplomas in six years. This is a global phenomenon, and the focus is usually on the liberal arts, which only require the little grey cells by way of equipment. But in India, disciplines like commerce and tourism management, which offer opportunities after release, are popular.
The unkind will grouse that Chautala’s achievement is being celebrated only because he is a former chief minister and alleged architect of the Meham outrage of 1990. But having cleared school, he could now work towards a university degree. Perhaps in political science? It doesn’t matter, really. He won’t need a job when he gets out, and certainly not that of a junior basic teacher. He will have more exciting things to do.
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