By Rukma Singh
Hell seems to have broken loose for Aam Aadmi Party with the recent row over the authenticity of (now ex) Law Minister Jitender Singh Tomar’s academic qualification. While the media, masses and the masters are all united in screaming “Fraud!” directed either towards him or the current HRD minister Smriti Irani (or any other obscure and ostensibly educated member of government, for that matter) there is an issue which has gotten lost in the shuffle of heated arguments. Forgery of academic degrees.
Such cases of fake degrees are, more than political issues, classic examples of India’s pathetic education system. The notion of education to be a better human has been curtly shown the door ages ago. However, such instances of bribed qualification catch the claimants of professional quality and capability with their pants down, time and again.
In May 2015, for instance, 29 candidates applying for the post of physical education (BPEd) instructor in government-run junior high schools in Lakhimpur-Kheri were caught holding fake degrees of Lucknow University. Before this on April 23, 47 candidates were found with fake marksheets while applying for the same job in the same area.
Allahabad, once known to be a hub of quality higher education, has also thrown up concerns over the issue of fake degrees. In the current academic session itself, Allahabad University has detected at least 129 cases of fake degrees. University officials claim that, on average, 125 cases of forged documents are detected every year. The majority of the degrees relate to the period from 2002 to 2012.
The biggest case detected till now being the fake BSc degree in possession of alleged Indian Mujahideen mastermind Mohammad Atif, who was shot in a Jamia Nagar encounter in 2008. What followed was a spate of fake degrees and certificates of AU being detected across India.
The Deep Rooted Nexus
After the reports of the Tomar fake degree case caught momentum, many Congress and AAP members have sought to draw attention back to the Smriti Irani case. In 2014, when Irani filed her nomination for the Lok Sabha elections, it was found that her educational qualifications were drastically altered. A huge furor followed and she was labeled as an “undeserving” candidate to take up the Human Resource Development Ministry’s mantle. BJP has gone on to defend Irani by saying that hers was a case of “wrong information” whilst Tomar is guilty of the more serious charge, which is of a “fake degree.” The timing couldn’t be more imprudent for BJP as the court is slated to declare a verdict on her case on June 24th. Serious doubts will be raised on the issue from all quarters if Irani gets away scot-free.
However, these two by far are not the only instances of our politicians setting dismal standards of behavior for the Indian polity to emulate. Congress stalwarts like Sonia and Rahul Gandhi as well as Mamta Didi have been previously accused of providing misinformation regarding their educational qualifications in election affidavits. Now, the worrying aspect is the fact that attention is drawn to these particular cases because of the candidate’s relevance in Pan-India politics. This means that local and state level leaders are largely immune from such scrutiny by the media, the Election Commission, or even the police and can easily get away with fraud.
This merely goes on to show the deep-rooted nexus of fake degrees that exists within India and its connections with politicians who are eventually entrusted with the duty to root out such evils from our nation.
If hard earned skills related to medicine, management, legality, teaching etc can be bought by waving currency in someone’s face then the services/disasters begotten by ‘professionals’ of such skills are not logically impossible to predict.