PhD thesis for sale! Available at a corner store near IIT-D and JNU

by Qazi Zaid & Prerna Lidhoo

There are boards that announce “Projects and Assignments.” Students from different colleges go around shop after shop to look for a better bargain, some places charge per word, some per page. The entire place looks like a specialised market. The place is Ber Sarai market which is situated on the boundary between Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi and Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU).

“Do you want a project made? Come with me,” says a man, pretending to be using his phone. The place is filled with touts and gives you an impression that the entire place is operated by a mafia that knows what it is doing. They seem to sense that it might be awkward for a student to start a conversation about getting a thesis project made and look to break the ice by turning conversations into ‘deals’.

 PhD thesis for sale! Available at a corner store near IIT-D and JNU

Representational image. Image courtesy:Qazi Zaid & Prerna Lidhoo

“What is your topic, just tell me what you want and how many words,” says the man in front of a computer, already working with another student. (For sake of convenience he will be referred to as X) He is changing the names and certificate in the beginning of the project that give the credit to the person who has produced this work.

In the computers on the desk are folders named after each stream, within which are topics for thesis and final projects. There is a variety of topics to choose from. Something based on which a university might award you a degree, or a PhD, are lined up according to the alphabetical order.

The first few pages reveal that these are thesis and projects which are submitted to universities and colleges by students. The names are still there, all you need to do is change the initial credits and the name of the university. “This will cost you Rs. 300, if you want to get it printed that will cost you separately. There is difference between the prices for hard bound and spiral bound,” says X.

There are institutions which ask for digital copies of dissertations and thesis from the students, in order to detect academic dishonesty and duplicate content. The plagiarism detecting softwares check the databases of universities and the internet to search for duplicate content. The mafia has a hack for that too. “If you want original content written for your topic, it will cost you more. I can take you to the person who makes it,” says X.

In a bookshop a stone’s throw away, the man, who is addressed as ‘sir’ by X, asks you which university you are studying at, which field do you need the dissertation for, and other questions that help him decide the cost he is going to quote.

After taking a look at your clothes and phone he looks around to figure out whether you came by a private car or public transport. “It will cost you two rupees per word for the original content. For a 10,000 word thesis you will have to pay 20,000 rupees. It won’t be detected in any plagiarism software, that is our guarantee,” says the owner of the bookshop (will be referred to as Y).

On asking who will write the dissertation, Y assures that there is ‘faculty’ dedicated for the job.

“It will take time, you will have to wait for two weeks before it is completed,” says Y. “Don’t worry about plagiarism detecting softwares, we will put it through the software your university uses and give you a final report, fool-proof.”

In an environment where even degrees are faked the reality of education in Delhi stands exposed in such markets, raising questions over its future. There has been controversy over qualifications of government ministers, including the controversy of HRD minster’s own degree and more recently the Delhi Law minister’s degree being 'reportedly' fake.

When Krishna Sankar Kusuma, assistant professor for media research at Jamia Millia Islamia, was approached by someone to write a PhD thesis for someone else, he was astonished. He says that he thought the man to be crazy.

“How is it possible to live someone else’s thought process and write something on their behalf? Ghost writing is not just the written word, it means the thoughts and ideas behind the topic. Softwares like TurnitIn, Blackboard or Google only check similarity, but as a teacher you can check whether it’s the students work or not,” Kusuma says.

Many research scholars feel that the core issue with the education system is that students are not taught the implications of plagiarism in the academic and professional fields and they are straight away expected to submit a thesis.

“University should have a policy for teaching about forms of plagiarism and making students aware about issues related to infringement of copyright laws. We, as academicians, should think what kind of enrollment we are providing for academic freedom. Some kind of democratic situation should be there in between the teacher and the student so that such cases of dishonesty can be done away with,” Kusuma adds.

With universities having to bear the brunt of academic dishonesty, open markets -- where such practices are rampant -- complicate the issue. The quality of education of the students, who graduate with degrees after using such thesis, can hardly be imagined.

Ber Sarai is not the only such market, outside other reputed universities in Delhi the situation is no different. Delhi University North campus has Patel Chest Market, Amity University has Noida Sector-18 market and Jamia Millia Islamia and other South Delhi colleges have Nehru place where similar practices are just as open as Ber Sarai.

Qazi Zaid and Prerna Lidhoo are freelance journalists. Both of them are currently pursuing their masters in Convergent Journalism from MCRC, Jamia Millia Islamia.

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Updated Date: May 05, 2015 12:33:36 IST