Flamboyant fraud

EducationWorld April 16 | EducationWorld Postscript

Less than five years ago, the Delhi-based Indian Institute of Planning and Management (IIPM, estb.1973), fronted by its flamboyant pony-tailed promoter-director Arindam Chaudhuri, was one of the biggest advertisers in the mainstream press with a penchant for full-page ads in the Times of India which trumpeted IIPM as one of the Top 10 B-schools in India — globally networked, ahead of its time and daring to dream. Well, that era is over. According to online magazine Scroll.in (March 24), Chaudhuri, who had filed criminal and civil defamation cases in courts all over the country — Assam, Haryana and Uttarakhand apart from Delhi — against Maheshwer Peri, publisher of Careers360, for daring to allege that the tall claims made about the six-figure salaries and fantastic capabilities of IIPM graduates were fictional, has withdrawn all of them and shut down IIPM’s 18 branches across the country.

Nevertheless, it has to be conceded that for over four decades, the promoters of IIPM, first Dr. Malay Chaudhuri who claims to have been a professor at IIM-Bangalore and later his Saville Row-styled offspring, managed to lure thousands of gullible students mainly from small town India who paid up Rs.5-6 lakh per year for IIPM’s patchwork, home-brewed two-year MBA diploma programme, which wasn’t approved by UGC or AICTE.

However, even the hard-nosed managers of Bennett Coleman & Co Ltd (BCCL), which owns the Times of India, were fooled into signing their famous equity-for-advertising ‘partnership treaty’ with the Chaudhuris, which explains the very expensive full-page ads IIPM was able to afford in TOI. Today BCCL’s shareholding in IIPM is as worthless as the MBA diplomas awarded to thousands of the institute’s graduates done in by the Chaudhuris.

Contrary to what Abraham Lincoln famously said, you can fool all the people, even if not all the time, for long enough to make a fortune. And in the Indian socialist soft state, you may get away with it.

Neta-babu  victory

Institutionalisation of corruption is proceeding apace in the southern state of Karnataka which until recently enjoyed the reputation of being the most well-administered in the country.

Now that’s history. In recent decades, as the state transformed into a hub of industry and commerce, it has steadily acquired a notorious reputation for government and institutional corruption. To his credit, in 1984 the late Ramakrishna Hegde, then chief minister of Karnataka took the initiative to appoint the country’s first Lok Ayukta (‘people’s friend’) aka ombudsman, to independently entertain, investigate and adjudicate charges of corruption against politicians and government employees. Although the seven ombudsmen — all of them retired Supreme Court or high court judges — appointed under the state’s Lok Ayukta Act were not able to stem Karnataka’s rising tide of corruption, the Lok Ayukta’s office in Bangalore investigated an average of 2,000 complaints against government officials per year, infusing some fear into the rampantly corrupt state machinery.

In February 2013 after Justice Bhaskar Rao, a former chief justice of the Karnataka high court was appointed Lok Ayukta, the contagion of corruption infected the august office. An extortion racket run by his son, Ashwin from the ombudsman’s office was exposed by the media. Over the past few decades, discretionary power wielding politicians and bureaucrats have acquired assets disproportionate to their incomes on such a massive scale that they became vulnerable to extortion by Rao Jr. This scandal brought the office of the Lok Ayukta into grave disrepute and prompted the resignation of Justice Bhaskar Rao in December last year.

Yet instead of finding a reputable judge as his successor, the state’s Congress government has seized the opportunity (without any debate in the legislative assembly) to defang the Lok Ayukta’s office. Its police/investigative wing has been disbanded and a new Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB) reporting to the chief minister, has been appointed to investigate corruption complaints against public officials.

Another victory for the neta-babu conspiracy.

Transparency aversion

Transparent disclosure identifying the country’s best-performing schools in terms of school-leaving class X and XII exam results is undoubtedly in the public interest. It would not only generate institutional pride within the top-ranked schools, but also inform parents and influence choice of school for their children. In developed Western countries, notably the US and Britain, school performance league tables are officially published by state and Central governments and top-performing schools are feted and celebrated. This logic prompted your editor to write to the top brass of the Delhi-based Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), which has over 17,000 affiliated schools, to provide this information. When there was no response, last year a notice was sent under the Right to Information Act, 2005 to Vineet Joshi, former chairman of CBSE, to furnish the information.

A typical kiss-up and kick-down career bureaucrat of the Assam cadre, during his five-year sojourn in CBSE, Joshi unquestioningly implemented the hare-brained ideas of the unlamented Union HRD minister Kapil Sibal, including automatic promotions of all primary children, the hastily drafted inputs-focused RTE Act etc. But repeated pleas to disclose full-school performance of CBSE schools was strongly resisted.

Now his office is occupied by another unknown bureaucrat, Satbir Bedi, who is as unresponsive to all communications — including copies of EW couriered gratis to him for his enlightenment. Indications are that Bedi will be as unresponsive to calls for transparency and publishing league tables to identify and celebrate top-performing CBSE schools.

With a succession of colourless babus scared of their own shadows being appointed to head the country’s largest pan-India school-leaving examinations board, it’s unsurprising that the country’s primary-secondary school education system is going from bad to worse.

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