To set up a national teachers’ portal and detect “fake teachers” in the country, the Ministry of Human Resource Development has, over the last four months, profiled at least 60 per cent of more than 15 lakh university and college teachers, complete with individual details such as religion, caste, Aadhaar and phone numbers.
Teachers who are yet to furnish personal details have another month to comply. Moves are also afoot to create a similar students’ database next year.
R Subrahmanyan, Additional Secretary, HRD Ministry, told The Indian Express: “We believe there are a lot of ghost lecturers. These are teachers who show up in multiple institutes, the ones not run by the government. Individual details such as Aadhaar numbers will help us identify such duplication.”
Acknowledging that religion and caste identities of individuals will not help check duplication, Subrahmanyam said “those parameters were already part of the survey” process.
“Getting all the details directly from individuals will now reduce the workload of institutes that prepared the abstract for the Ministry in the past. It will also reduce mistakes,” he said.
Since 2010-11, the government has been conducting the annual All India Survey on Higher Education (AISHE). But this is the first time that individual profiles of the teaching staff has been sought. Until last year, every institute provided generic data on their teaching staff with numerical break-ups under the heads of designation, selection mode, gender, category (general/SC/ST/OBC), religion (Muslim/other minority) and disability.
For AISHE 2016-2017, in addition to the existing data collection format (DCF), a new Teacher Information Format (TIF) has been introduced “to collect data on teachers profile to create ‘Gurujan’ — a teachers’ portal (gurujan.gov.in).”
Asked if the University Grants Commission (UGC) was instrumental in introducing the TIF in AISHE this year, Professor Ved Prakash, whose term as the Commission chairman ended earlier this month, said: “The HRD Ministry conducts the survey and analyses the data. The UGC only helps by asking the institutes to provide data. You have to talk to the Ministry about the survey formats.”
On the question of privacy being compromised, Subrahmanyan said: “Initially, we may not make gurujan.gov.in open to public. We will not make any personal information public. The data will be absolutely safe with the National Informatics Centre (NIC). But I don’t think putting someone’s Aadhaar number in public is a problem as long as the information linked to the number remains protected.”
Many in the teaching community, however, remain unconvinced. “Whether they want to make it public or not, creating a database identifying individuals on the basis of religion and caste is a reckless idea, particularly in the prevailing atmosphere. Data is always vulnerable to selective leakage,” said a Chandigarh-based lecturer who is yet to furnish personal details in TIF.
“This is not only about privacy. Who stands to benefit from the big data? Will our Aadhaar numbers be made available so that economic profiling helps foreign interests keen to set up campuses here hire efficiently? Will we profile students next to target high-income parents who can afford education loans necessary for private institutes,” asked a Delhi-based lecturer who was unsure if he could hold out any further against “persistent TIF reminders”.
Subrahmanyan, in fact, confirmed that the government wanted to create a students’ portal in line with Gurujan next year.
“Once the teacher-specific data from the AISHE website is shifted to the Gurujan portal, we plan to make a similar student portal, may be next year, so that all three can be used together seamlessly. We are still considering all the possibilities,” he said.
Sources said the HRD Ministry took stock of the survey’s progress with state-level coordinators on Tuesday and decided to extend the April 13 deadline by “a month or so” to maximise coverage.
In June 2015, the government amended the University Grants Commission (Returns of Information by Universities) Rules, 2004, by introducing a penalty — reduction of annual grant by up to 25 per cent and other punitive action as the UGC or the Centre may deem fit — for failure to provide information on AISHE or for “any other purpose” as directed by the UGC.
“Many institutes do not receive any funds from the UGC. Anyway, we are thinking of incentivising rather than penalising to ensure compliance. For example, our ranking framework will be based on AISHE from next year,” Subrahmanyan said.