Fake Degree Market!

India churns out brilliant graduates by the thousands each year. However, as the market for higher education grows and Massive Open Online Courses revolutionise distance learning, there has been a sharp increase in fake universities and fake degrees. There is an influential mafia network that facilitates fake degree infrastructure in India. A recent massive fake degree scam involving the sale of five lakh degrees by two private universities in Himachal has put the state government in the dock for not taking prompt action against the erring institutions. The University Grants Commission (UGC) had written to the authorities concerned in the state in August 2019 to conduct a thorough inquiry into the allegations of sale of fake degrees by the APG University in Shimla and Manav Bharti University in Solan but no action has been taken in the past six months.
A special investigating team (SIT) probing a fake degree case has found that Manav Bharti University in Solan, run by the Manav Bharti Charitable Trust, had sold 36,000 fake degrees across 17 states in over 11 years. In fact, of the total 41,000 degrees issued by the university, only 5,000 have been found to be genuine so far. Shockingly, the founder of the MBU made good money by selling degrees of Open University for Complementary Medicine, Sri Lanka, by printing these degrees without the knowledge of the owner of the university. The APG University, the letter said, did not sell degrees this year but had sold more than 15,000 fake degrees in the past. Most of these scamsters do their dealings online. In 2017, the Central Crime Branch police raided an in Bengaluru education consulting firm and arrested a post-graduate who had managed to sell 2000 fake marks cards! 36,900 emails were recovered. Police have also busted a pan-India fake degree racket operating under the name "Delhi Education Society." This set up included regional offices and over 40 agents across the country and had allegedly sold over 50,000 forged marksheets and university certificates.
The trouble for students is that many of them are unable to differentiate between what is legal and genuine and what is fake. A genuine University will have the approval of the University Grants Commission. However, with universities mushrooming everywhere, providing distance education, students are confused. There are many benefits to distance education in India, but only through the proper channels and universities. However, the Enforcement Directorate (ED), on Friday, had provisionally attached the land, houses and commercial buildings of the trust chairman and his family in Himachal Pradesh and Rajasthan under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA). But restoring the private sector’s credibility in higher education would be a long-drawn process.

- -Prabhakar Purandare

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