New Delhi: Months after Prakash Javadekar, the Union human resource development minister, had claimed during the release of the All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) 2017-18, that about 80,000 ‘ghost’ teachers had been detected through Aadhaar, RTI activists say the government appears to have lost interest in either identifying them or proceeding against them.
The MHRD, however, has said that it is ‘incorrect’ to say that no action has been taken.
Some bogus teachers were ‘very active’
Addressing the media while releasing the AISHE findings on January 5, Javadekar had said that a campaign was on to detect the bogus teachers. He added that while some teachers were found using proxies to be enrolled in two colleges, some were “very active and seen in 3-4 colleges”.
From the next year, he said the Centre would “do random verification” of the data so that no one is able to furnish false information.
The minister had also sought to link the issue with the welfare of the masses. “This is taxpayers’ money and money of the poor which has gone into higher education. We have to help them so that the children of the poor also gain,” he had said triumphantly.
However, but for his loud proclamations nothing has happened in the probe and it appears to have run cold.
‘No information on inquiry, disciplinary action’
Two RTI applications filed by Satark Nagrik Sangathan members Anjali Bhardwaj and Amrita Johri have revealed the HRD ministry’s lack of interest in the matter. They had both filed their applications on January 10, 2018.
In her application, Johri had stated that as Javadekar had spoken about 80,000 bogus teachers having been detected, she be provided “details of any inquiry set up in the matter” and “details of disciplinary action taken against officials who were involved in this fraud”.
In response to her query, all that the assistant director and CPIO in the Ministry of Human Resource Development had to state was that “the information sought as per your RTI application is not available”. So, despite the minister holding the detection of 80,000 bogus teachers to be an important milestone in his ministry’s performance, clearly either there was no data to support his claim or the ministry did not deem it necessary to follow-up on the matter with a detailed enquiry that would have brought the guilty ‘bogus teachers’ to book.
Ministry collected data on individual teachers for first time
In her query, Bhardwaj had sought state-wise number of bogus teachers detected; state-wise details of each bogus teacher detected, including name of such teacher, number of colleges/universities where the teacher was employed and name of colleges/universities where the teacher was employed.
In response to her application, the CPIO responded on February 12 stating that as per “part information available and pertaining to higher education”, the ministry has “for the first time collected details of individual teachers of institutions of higher education through the recently concluded All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE) 2016-17 for the Gurujan Portal”.
85,707 Aadhaar numbers duplicate or invalid
He added that “as per gurujan (gurugan.gov.in) portal, 85,708 Aadhaar numbers are found to be either duplicate or invalid. These cases would be further verified with UIDAI and the institution concerned before finalising the action to be taken in each case”.
But, here again, with regard to her seeking state-wise information on the bogus teachers, he said, “this division has no information to furnish in this regard”. Also, the question remains that when the ministry is confident that 85,708 Aadhaar numbers were ‘duplicate or invalid’ and that the teachers were bogus, why has further probe not been done in the matter.
UPDATE: MHRD says wrong to say no action taken
The Ministry of HRD has clarified that it would be “incorrect” to say that no action has been taken on the 80,000 bogus teachers who had been identified after Aadhaar number verification was introduced on the Gurujan portal of AISHE.
A statement issued by the Press Information Bureau said:
“The HRD Ministry has clarified that the fact mentioned in the report that no action has been taken is incorrect and it is not reflecting the actual position in the matter. All the 80,000 names have been shared with both AICTE (All India Council of Technical Education) and UGC (University Grants Commission) – the regulators, for taking up with the respective institutions and verify the reasons for incorrect entries.”
“both the regulators are still on the job since the number of cases is very high. It is also to be clarified that in this case an opportunity is being given to the institutions to rectify mistakes if any in showing entries in Aadhaar numbers. This facility has been opened in the AISHE portal for making the corrections.”
However, RTI activist Bharadwaj said the ministry’s response hardly provided any clarity on the issue.
Raising three main issues left unanswered by the ministry’s clarification, she said, “Our point was that we had asked the government that if you have discovered 80,000 bogus teachers, which is what the minister had said, then please provide us the names of these bogus people and the institutions. They did not provide us this basic information. The clarification is also silent on this. They should have said here is the list.”
The second thing, she said, was that instead of calling the teachers “bogus” anymore, the clarification said “an opportunity is being given to the institutions to rectify mistakes”.
“So how have bogus entries become mistakes?” Bharadwaj asked, adding that “there is a difference between saying that we have found bogus people and in saying that while making entries there, some errors crept into our database. In case there were mistakes, then the minister should have said that there were some errors or mistakes and not that the ministry had found bogus people and corruption.”
Finally, she said, if there indeed was a major issue of “bogus teachers”, as was claimed by the minister, then the investigation agencies should have been roped in to probe it and identify the guilty. “You just can’t leave it to the UGC and AICTE to probe the matter,” she said, adding that “this ‘clarification’ is just a reaction to do damage control.”
Note: This story was updated on May 13 at 5:30 pm with the MHRD’s response and Bhardwaj’s reaction to it.