Days after the Vice-Chancellor of Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi changed the constitution of the selection committee that appoints faculty members, students allege that at least five of the new appointees, and two other professors, were guilty of plagiarising the work of foreign scholars for their doctoral and MPhil dissertations.
Earlier this month, TheWire.in reported that four professors, some of whom had been assigned to important administrative posts by the VC, had plagiarised academic work. Three of these hires were made after the VC made alterations to the selection committee, raising concerns that the professors had been handpicked without due diligence.
Now HuffPost has found found that the plagiarism scourge runs deeper: Two new appointees and two other professors face similar charges. These allegations come at a time when critics have accused the VC and the Ministry of Human Resource Development of upending established procedures to install academics friendly to the Centre.
Buddha Singh, an assistant professor in the School of Computers & Systems Sciences, appears to have lifted large sections of his 2008 Mtech dissertation from two previously published papers by Chinese researchers.
Singh, the associate dean of students of the university and the warden of the Periyar hostel, joined the university few years back. Students accused Singh of orchestrating 'raids' on the women's hostels in JNU in 2017. A JNU student's union member said that though checks on hostels are routine in the university, the JNU administration authorised Singh to carry out checks in girl's hostels which weren't under his purview. One of the students filed a police complaint accusing Singh of molesting her and making sexist remarks.
In January this year, Singh alleged that some students had vandalised his car because he had condoled the death of jawans at Sukma and Kupwara, implying that the students supported Maoist guerillas and militants. The university's staff refuted the allegations.
Singh's MTech dissertation, available for download on the JNU website is titled "Power control MAC protocol for wireless sensor network" and has considerable similarities to two papers authored by Chinese researchers in 2007. A large chunk of the text of Singh's MTech dissertation match word-to-word with passages from A Transmission Power Control MAC Protocol for Wireless Sensor Networks published by Zhiwei Zhao, Xinming Zhang, and Peng Sun of the University of Science and Technology China.
Here are screenshots of passages from the paper and the corresponding matching passages in Singh's dissertation. The similarities were found using a commercially available plagiarism detection software sold by Turnitin.com.
Now, check the corresponding passages from Singh's dissertation below.
The source, who preferred to stay anonymous, pointed out that these chunks of text come without citations or quotations that is usually used to indicate that the writing is not one's own.
There are also similarities between the content of Singh's dissertation and 'An Efficient Transmission Power Control Algorithm in Wireless Sensor Networks', apaper by Jian Xiao and Fengqi Yu.
Here's Jian and Fengqui's original text.
Following is the passage in Singh's dissertation that has been found to be similar to the preceding text.
Pranav Kumar joined JNU as an assistant professor at the Centre for the Study of Discrimination and Exclusion, School of Social Sciences in 2017. His PhD dissertation titled 'India's Energy Security: Potential Of The Gulf of Guinea' was submitted in 2007. A Turnitin scan of the paper revealed un-attributed similarities to works by other scholars, and one annual report published by the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas for the years 2004-2005.
While in the paper, Kumar has attributed some statistics to the ministry, a few passages are exactly similar to the text from the government report. While it is in common practice to fall back upon government reports for statistics and information, Kumar's paper is worded exactly the same way as the government report, right down to the punctuation.
Following are extracts from the government report:
A similarly worded chunk of text was found in Kumar's dissertation, as seen below.
While the preceding passages carry citations, possibly to refer to the source of the facts, the following passages don't indicate any source.
Here's another extract from the government report:
And here's the same text in Kumar's dissertation.
Kumar joined in November 2017, after Vice-Chancellor Jagadesh Kumar changed the composition of the selection committee. He is still under probation.
Around the same time, Pravesh Kumar joined the university as an assistant professor in the department of Centre for Comparative Politics & Political Theory. He was appointed in August 2017 and is under probation as well. Students have alleged that he too has plagiarised for an academic article titled 'Gobalisation: Boon and Bane'. A Turnitin scan revealed a 57% similarity index with various sources in the four-page article. One of the sources seems to be 'International Business Environment', written by Leslie Hamilton and Phillip Webster and published by the Oxford University Press first in 2012.
Following are screenshots from a passage in the book, which seems to have been replicated in Kumar's paper published in 2013.
Here's the corresponding section in Kumar's academic essay. The bibliography at the end of the essay cites 25 publications but Hamilton and Webster's book doesn't feature in it.
In a letter addressed to the Vice-Chancellor on 12 October, 2017 professor Nivedita Menon, who was formerly the chairperson of the Centre for Comparative Politics and Political Theory and also a member of a committee that selected faculty members, questioned the abrupt decision to remove her three months before her tenure was due to end.
In the letter, Menon narrates how a particular candidate performed very poorly in the interview, yet came out on the top of the list following 'calculations' privy only to the Vice-Chancellor, Observer Professor Umesh Kadam and a administrative assistant. She wrote:
"When after an hour or so you returned to the meeting room, you brought a list from which you read out the names of 8 candidates with "average marks" above 50. The candidate with the highest "average mark" was one who had performed very poorly in the interview, his presentation being largely about some NGO work he had done. He was unable to answer simple questions from two of the Experts, on Political Theory which he had said was the field he wanted to be questioned on. He did answer one question on the relevance of BR Ambedkar's thought, but again, when questioned on the BSP, his research topic, he fumbled for an answer. Nor did he have any publications worthy of note.
As a result, when this candidate was announced as having secured the highest marks, two of the Experts said his domain knowledge was very poor. The third Expert too said he was not satisfied with the answer on BSP, though his answer to the question on the relevance of BR Ambedkar's thought was adequate. The Dean and I endorsed this view, and it seemed that the candidate had not figured on the list of top candidates of at least two of the Experts nor those of the Dean and Chairperson."
Professor Menon confirmed to HuffPost India that the comments in the letter were made in the context of Pravesh Kumar's appointment. She alleges in the letter that there was even an attempt to intimidate her when she protested.
In the letter she adds that after she objected to the decision of hiring Kumar, it was alleged that she is 'anti-reservation'. She writes:
I explained that it was far from my intention to leave the post unfilled, and that there were several far better candidates, and also that our Centre takes Ambedkar's thought very seriously, and it is part of the syllabus.
At this I was shouted down by both Prof Kadam and yourself for "interrupting" Prof Kadam.
Speaking to HuffPost, Kumar denied the allegations of plagiarism. He said, "At that time I was doing my MPhil. If I had written something, I had given reference."
Another professor, Manish Dabhade, who has been teaching in the university since 2008 is facing similar allegations regarding his MPhil dissertation. The assistant professor in the Centre for International Politics, Organization and Disarmament, School of International Studies, however, vehemently denied the allegations saying everything that belongs to a secondary source has been attributed via either a footnote or has been mentioned in the bibliography. Dabhade's paper, titled 'India and China: Reconciling Cultural Differences in Security Negotiations' has some passages that are worded the same way parts of Jing‐Dong Yuan's 'Culture matters: Chinese approaches to arms control and disarmament' is.
Following is an extract from Yuan's paper, published in 1998.
And here's a passage from Dabhade's paper, submitted to JNU for his MPhil in 2000.
We sent the same screenshots to Dabhade for clarification and asked why these passages don't carry footnotes or aren't within quotes like some other passages in the same paper. "Have cited and referred to authors I have used either in footnotes and/or bibliography at the end. And MPhil dissertations are largely secondary source driven writing unlike PhD," he said. He mentioned that Yuan has been mentioned in another place as a footnote. He also said that he had rigorously followed the citation practices taught in JNU in 1998 and in year 2000 'no tools available or taught to detect n remove inadvertant/accidental minor errors'.
Dabhade added that the allegations against JNU's teachers was 'selective targeting done to tarnish the image' of the university.
We reached out to Buddha Singh and Pranav Kumar as well for their comments. They are yet to respond.