Paper chase

| Updated on March 12, 2018

Mere legal action cannot solve the issue of fake degrees and falsified resumes. We need to address root causes

The raucous political scrum that has broken out after the arrest of former Delhi Law Minister Jitender Singh Tomar for allegedly submitting a fake law degree has served to obscure the real problem highlighted by the incident — the rampant prevalence of fake educational certifications and falsified resumes in India. Given the undue reliance placed on paper certifications of educational qualifications and work experience in the hiring process by both private sector employers and the government, as well as social pressure to appear ‘educated’, a rising number of Indians are adopting shortcuts by simply falsifying their resumes. So much so, India is rapidly acquiring the dubious distinction of being considered a nation of fakes in the global talent marketplace. According to a survey released last week by HireRight, a US-based provider of background checks, one in four resumes from India have discrepancies. About half faked educational qualifications, while a fifth involved falsified work experience. A survey by industry body Assocham found that faced with rising fraud, 51 per cent of employers now have in-house departments to fact check resumes; another 23 per cent outsource this task. While police in various States periodically crack down on fake degree rackets, the scale of the problem is beyond their ability to cope. Rajasthan Police, for instance, arrested some staff of Jodhpur National University in January this year and discovered that more than 38,000 fake degrees had been issued by racketeers in that institution alone. A 2010 affidavit filed by the CBI in the Bombay High Court stated that the apex investigative body had 51,576 cases of fake degrees on its books in Maharashtra alone!

The general perception that faking qualifications is a ‘victimless crime’ hasn’t helped. Such fraud can cause serious damage to others, not just employers. Globally, fraudsters hurt the chances of skilled and legitimately qualified Indians and damages the reputation of India’s outsourcing industry. Ordinary people are also put at risk by fraudsters, as they are when an airline pilot or a medical practitioner secures a job with a faked licence.

Simply tightening the law, or even making a few high-profile arrests, is not enough. We need to effect systemic changes in the hiring process, starting with giving a higher weightage to job skills instead of degrees. Initiatives like Nasscom’s National Skills Registry, which hosts verified information regarding qualifications and skills of technology professionals, need to be expanded to other sectors. The National Skill Certification and Monetary Reward Scheme, which has been initiated as part of the national skill development programme, can be expanded to cover products of the conventional education system as well. The various sector skills councils which have been created for this can look at developing broader, standardised skills tests for all aspirants. Above all, employer mindsets have to change. Instead of looking at pieces of paper, they need to look at the actual skills candidates bring to the table.

Published on June 15, 2015

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