Power and influence can do wonders in India. You can get everything handed over to you on a platter if you belong to the ultimate top tier of the society or have robust connections at that level. Heck, you might even get away with certain crimes if you are that powerful!
Power in India can be measured with the level of wealth one has or political clout. This is why the Indians who are generally considered “powerful” are either politicians or big businessmen. (Some influential celebrities, too, can be called ‘powerful’.)
Since power can get them anything, they believe attain a sense of entitlement to everything this nation has to offer, including education.
It is a fact that the powerful often get their wards admitted into certain schools, colleges or universities using money or clout. And this practice is not new; it has been in vogue since India attained freedom.
And you know what? Even some champions of ‘moral righteousness’ tried to use their clout to get their dear ones into some prestigious institution of this country!
It comes as no surprise therefore that a powerful Indian lady once tried to get her son admitted into the Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi (IIT-D).
What is a surprise is the fact that the lady in question was none other than Indira Gandhi, and at the time she was nothing more than the daughter of the then Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.
In her book ‘The Billionaire’s Apprentice: The Rise of The Indian-American Elite and The Fall of The Galleon Hedge Fund’ Anita Raghavan recounts the story of how both Indira and Jawaharlal Nehru were turned down by IIT-D’s first director R.N. Dogra.
Quoting Kanta Dogra, the wife of the director, Raghavan writes that Indira Gandhi wanted that her son Rajiv Gandhi study at the prestigious institution. So one day Nehru invited the Dogras to tea.
Kanta Dogra told Raghavan that Nehru was quite uncomfortable to ask her husband such a favor for his grandson. “So he left the room,” she said.
Leaving the room was expected of Nehru. Though the book does not mention the year, it is clear from the details that the incident must have happened before 1961, when Rajiv went to London.
Nehru was the prime minister at the time (he remained so till his death in 1964), and since he had carefully cultivated his image as that of a socialist who is noble and kind-hearted champion of the liberals, cronyism must have been something he felt strongly about.
But the same attribute was not there in Indira. So she made clear her intention.
What did the Dogras do? If a Prime Minister’s daughter, a member of the most powerful family of the country, makes a request, would anyone turn that down?
R.N. Dogra did. He told Indira that Rajiv’s marks would not land him a place in the institution.
“From his school records, he will not be able to get a place because it is very competitive,” he said.
Yet Dogra also told Indira that he would be able to secure for Rajiv admission to the Imperial College in London. Kanta Dogra said that her husband did that for Rajiv.
And that is how Rajiv Gandhi went to London for studies. He would later find a place at Cambridge. But in spite of getting a place in two foreign institutions, Rajiv Gandhi never completed his studies.
Today, that same Imperial College has a Rajiv Gandhi Centre, which was launched in 2007. On the other hand, the IIT-D as well as other IITs in India continue to churn out some of the finest brains of the country who landed in the institutions purely on the strength of their merit and not because of the daddy’s money or political influence.