Students in a classroom in Bihar (photo: Pradeep Gaur/ Mint)
The Indian Express has unearthed a scandal in Bihar that up to 20,000 schoolteachers out of the 142,000 appointed between 2006 and 2011 may have got their jobs using fraudulent education and professional degrees.
This puts into question the mass recruitment of teachers on contract by then Chief Minister Nitish Kumar who had announced the scheme after coming to power in 2005. The teachers were hired for classes I to XII in two phases in 2006 and 2008 – this had reportedly boosted school enrolment and provided jobs for thousands of educated youths.
But now, it turns out that forged education degrees may have been used in many applications, since the only eligibility criteria for landing a job as contract teacher was a degree.
This practice was stopped in 2012 when the authorities began using a teacher eligibility test for selection.
After 52,000 complaints of bogus degrees were reported, the state administration government has so far checked 7,000 degrees that were used for securing these jobs. This has led to the firing of almost 800 teachers.
The rot goes deeper, he said, because “officials at five levels turned a blind eye, connived or accepted bribes to clear the appointments. There were even “package deals” for “group appointments”.” Officials allegedly accepted bribes up to Rs. 150,000 ($2,500) to clear appointments.
Only 12 mukhiyas, who headed the committees that appointed teachers at the panchayat level, have been removed for allegedly accepting bribes.
Following the newspaper’s expose, the current Chief Minister Jitan Ram Manjhi ordered a probe on Friday into the forged degree scandal.
But the verification exercise has also come under criticism because it is alleged that “the very men accused of making these appointments – block development officers, block education officers, district education officers, district programme officers – have been asked to verify the authenticity of these degrees.”
Forged degrees, often from universities in other states, are a common problem in job applications across India. But what sets this scandal apart is the sheer numbers involved. With 142,000 applications pouring in, the Nitish Kumar administration should have put a strict verification system in place to vet the degree certificates being provided.
At best, the state administration can be held guilty of laziness, but at worst, it may have turned a blind eye to help thousands of unemployed youth gets jobs, thereby boosting its own popularity and electoral prospects.
This may yet become a double-edged sword as the forged degrees scandal could dent the administration’s credibility in the lead up to Bihar’s assembly election due next year.