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Smriti’s agent tweak awaits degree bank

New Delhi, July 3: The Centre will go ahead with a UPA bill to build a digitised database of school board and university certificates but is likely to modify the draft to deny any role to private agents.

The Union human resource development ministry wants to introduce the National Academic Depository Bill in the upcoming Parliament session. The bill seeks to create a depository of the mark sheets and academic certificates of all those graduating out of schools and universities.

The idea is to check forgery of certificates and have a watertight verification process for employers. The employers can contact the depository online and — having proved their credentials and purpose — seek authentication of certificates submitted by any employee or job seeker.

Universities too can run a similar check during the admission process. To protect the students’ and graduates’ privacy and prevent misuse of the information, the data will not be put out in the public domain.

Under the original bill, introduced in the Lok Sabha in 2011, the depository could register “academic depository agents” to help upload the students’ certificates into the database. The agents were to pay a certain fee to the depository and charge user fees from the students.

The necessity for agents was felt because many rural schools lack the facilities to upload students’ data themselves. The students were expected to pay for the service to smoothen their job prospects.

Those eligible to become private agents included the Union IT ministry’s “citizen service centres” (cyber kiosks), bank branches, educational institutions and interested private companies.

Officials said current minister Smriti Irani was opposed to the involvement of private agents for fear of “unfair practices”. They said she had suggested engaging post offices and the government kiosks that collect electricity bills as the agents.

The House committee that examined the bill too had expressed reservations about the plan to engage private agents. Instead, it had suggested the engagement of the University Grants Commission, All India Council of Technical Education and the Central Board of Secondary Education and its branch offices, all experienced in handling academic documents.

Smriti’s ministry is also likely to bring an amendment to the Central Universities Act, 2009, so that two central universities instead of one can be created in Bihar — in Gaya and Motihari.

It plans to name the Motihari institution after Mahatma Gandhi, as demanded by the state government in September 2012 on the ground that Motihari was the Mahatma’s “karambhoomi” (theatre of work).

Then Union human resource development minister Kapil Sibal had opposed the demand on the ground that no central university set up under the 2009 act had been named after any personality.

Smriti’s ministry is also likely to bring a School of Planning and Architecture Bill in Parliament to convert the architecture schools in Delhi, Bhopal and Vijayawada into full-fledged universities.

The Delhi school is now a deemed university and can award degrees but those in Bhopal and Vijayawada cannot do so because they are mere societies.

The government may also bring in a bill to set up an IIT in residuary Andhra Pradesh.