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ACADEMIC HERITAGE

Things begin to look madly wrong when someone trying to buy a place for his son in a medical college complains to the police of being cheated of his money. This outraged parent had advanced Mr Sudip Ghosh five lakh rupees for securing his son’s seat at a medical college in Nepal. He would have paid another five lakh after the boy actually got admitted. But Mr Ghosh did not manage to do this, and the father felt entitled to some sort of consumer redressal for having been cheated like this. Paying a criminal agent for his son’s admission becomes a perfectly normal transaction, the dishonouring of which ought to be tackled by the police. The unthinking sense of entitlement with which this parent lodged a complaint with the police — without any misgivings about his own role in the matter — shows the extent to which the poison has spread in the system. Parents are willing to pay criminal agents huge sums of money to get their children admitted to the city’s schools, colleges and to some engineering, medical and management institutes. Mr Ghosh is part of a network of agents and in-house collaborators involved in an ingeniously orchestrated admissions racket. That Mr Ghosh’s agency is called Academic Heritage is perhaps the least bizarre aspect of these sordid revelations.

The reach of this Academic Heritage takes in several Indian states. The likes of Mr Ghosh are probably inspired by the “Doctor Don” of Bihar. Mr Ranjit Kumar Singh’s “engine and bogeys” system of cheating had managed to break into almost every competitive examination in his state (and outside), sustaining a racket worth almost a hundred crore. Aspiring doctors, engineers, dentists, managers and bankers were sold places and degrees at exorbitant rates. Everybody involved in Mr Singh’s network, including some of the state’s top students and teachers, could be won over by two interchangeable rewards — a bribe or “free” admission for their wards. And what looks like quintessential Bihar has caught on almost everywhere in the country, including West Bengal. Between the straitjacket of governmental intervention and the corruption of such free and private “markets”, higher education, professional degrees and the public services remain caught in the grips of something, the actual scale and dimensions of which are only now beginning to be revealed. The common admission test leak and Academic Heritage are only the tip of the higher-education iceberg. Mr Ghosh and Mr Singh are among modern India’s most successful new educationists and entrepreneurs.

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