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PROJECTS FOR SALE!

Welcome to the world of ‘mass cheating’. This is a shortcut that is gaining popularity with each passing year. We are talking of engineering students (B.E./ BTech), BMS, BMM, and Architecture. Projects are an integral part of these courses, and supposedly impart practical knowledge. But students – especially those in the final year of engineering – choose to plagiarise projects. Or just ‘get them done’ by paying money to somebody else.
Surya Ragunaathan
scoured the bylanes where the buy-and-sell takes place. Students and professors tell JAM why and how it happens. And why no one feels a shred of guilt about it.

When I was in my final year of engineering l got my project made at Lamington Road.” That’s a statement almost any engineer from Mumbai University could have made. But why Mumbai. Change the name of the road and it could be an engineer anywhere in India.
It’s fast, efficient and easy. Jayesh Gandhi is an electronics engineering graduate from Mumbai. This is how he outsourced his final year projects worth 100 marks. “There are many sources across the city. But most people to rely upon shops at Lamington road. Visha electronics is where our group got it made. They are famous for the job”.

“We coughed up around 6k and got the circuit diagram of our robot from the net. We paid an advance and got the printed circuit board done. Then, we asked him to solder parts. When the final thing was ready, we paid him the rest of the ‘fees.’ He also explained the details, so we knew everything during vivas”.
Then, we just collected data from the net and the paper work was done at a store in Powai (just outside IIT). The whole thing takes over 2- 3 weeks.” Sharma passed BE with a first class and has been working with a top German MNC since 2 years.

That’s one modus operandi. Deepak Mohanani*, a current BE student from Mumbai, describes another. “In our college, most people have a good rapport with the librarian. I can’t take his name. Usually, he lets people take away projects (of seniors) kept in the library. Students rush out, get photocopies and keep it back in its place within an hour”.

Once we have the project on paper, it’s easier for the guys at Lamington to make it. In fact, it then becomes easy for anyone with an Electronics background to manufacture the project. So, some students even give the papers to a relative or a friend to get it made. The librarian or peon makes an extra buck.”

LAMINGTON KA LOCHA
After speaking to a host of students we decided to hit the roads. Destination: Lamington Road. Visha Electronics was the one name which kept coming up during our reserarch. The cabbie who drove us to Lamington also hinted at ‘specialised electronics work’ and dropped us at their doorstep. We went in and met Mr Sailesh Shah who was busy with some customers.

JAM: Uncleji, ek project banana hai for BE Electronics, final year.
Visha: Nahi, hum nahi banaate. Project kit available hai. Le lo!
He handed over what is called the ‘kit-list’ to us, told us to choose a topic from the list, and purchase it. Then, he put us onto Umil, his assistant.
Umil: Aap ye file mein se topic select kijiye aur fir aapka project ban jaayega.
JAM: Par humko toh cylindrical robot banana hai.
Umil: Aisa koi project hamaare paas nahi hai. Aap circuit diagram lao net pe se, hum printed circuit banaa denge.
JAM: ‘Parts’ bhi solder karke milega?
Umil: haanji, mil jayega.
JAM: Circuit diagram nahi mila toh, net pe?
Umil: Arre, aap dhoondiye toh sahi, nahi mile toh hum banaa denge.
JAM: Accha! Kitna cost hoga total?
Umil: who toh aapke project pe depend hai. Aapko abhi nahi bataa sakte.
JAM: Phir bhi. Kuch toh andaaze se?
Umil: Nahi madam, abhi nahi bataa sakte.

After this interesting conversation with Umil, a helpful soul guided us to Noorie Electronics bang opposite Visha. Noorie was unkempt, aluminium foils strewn around, circuit boards all over the place. There was insufficient space and a generally rickety appearance.

The bearded man at the store did not divulge his name and was so engrossed at work that he hardly looked up. He told us that we could get the project done if we got him the circuit diagram. We insisted on knowing the approximate cost involved but he would just not budge. He maintained a ‘can’t give you an estimate now’ throughout the conversation. So we walked away with his picture.Incidentally, we met two students from Sardar Patel College of Engineering (one of Mumbai’s finest), right there. When asked what they were here for, they quipped, “Project banwaane ke liye.”

If this was the case with Electronics branch, can Computers be far behind? Vinita Vradhan, a computer-engineering student in Mumbai admits, “We get our coding and programming done from freelance coders or computer professionals working with some of the top IT companies in India. Once the coding is ready, the report is done easily with the help of addtional data from the Internet. Most students do it that way.”

But how come these computer professionals working with such prestigious companies agree to do this work? Have they no other job? “Money speaks,” adds Vradhan, “anyone can get a project done for around 3k-4k. For a group of 6 students, it’s not a big amount. And these guys are trained only for coding. They do the same job for the companies they work at. They are complete geeks. Who would not do it, if they can earn an extra buck?”

THE’ PRINTING’ SCAM
Our second destination was a small shop outside IIT, Powai. On the surface, this place seems to be a normal’ ‘printing’ shop. Here, students from varied courses, bring soft copies of projects, get them printed, bound and embossed. Scratch deeper, and you realize that project reports can be purchased here, with ease.
When you take your project there to get it printed, the man working there (who’s too shy too utter his name) does a ‘Ctrl S’. Once your project is saved on his PC, rest assured that your final ‘hard copy’ will be ready in a day or two.

What you don’t know is that the saved, soft copy of your project may be up for sale. Yes, many students from Mechanical and Chemical branches of Engineering, purchase ready-made projects from this store, ironically lactated outside the most esteemed engineering institute of the country – IIT Bombay.
Mechanical engineer Rishabh Ullal explains, “It’s easy. You go there, read through the projects he has stored on the computer, get it printed and bound. The cost: Rs 500-1000.”

So what actually manufacturing the project? Says Siddharth M, a Mechanical Engineer, “In our stream, the scope of the topic is very broad. You can choose any topic and your final product need not consist of manufacturing at all. For example, you can go for a topic like ‘Six sigma’ which is more on the management side. For a subject like this, there is no manufacturing involved”.

“My project, for example, was ‘Automation in Assembly line.’ This may involve manufacturing but due to lack of facilities and the prevailing culture in the college, you can get away without really slogging it out. Just study the latest trends of automation in assembly line on the net and make a 100-page project report. At least in Mumbai University, it’s very ambiguous.”

‘GUIDED’ PROJECTS
Our next destination was LogicInside Institute located at Bhandup (W) in Mumbai, headed by Prof Sunil Maurya. Maurya is a former Engineering professor and a B.E. from Mumbai University. When we visited his institute, his wife, Shashi Maurya attended to our query.
The institute claims that their primary job is to help Engineering students make projects. Definitely, there are groups that enroll themselves at LogicInside for mere guidance. The institute helps such groups complete their projects in time.
Having said this, there is no denying the existence of groups that need somebody to ‘just do it’ for them. These groups are not merely assisted or guided. They pay and collect the projects made for them.
JAM spoke to a number of students who claimed they got their projects made by LogicInside. This is a typical story:

“I called up the institute only twice. I met Sunil sir, chose a topic and enrolled myself. Later, I could not go for guidance as exams were nearing and I couldn’t find time at all before submission. I spoke to him once more over the phone and went to collect the completed project. The total cost was Rs 8000 and my project was a Micro Controller based robot”, says Rohan Mehta*, a Computer engineer from Mumbai.

The LogicInside website ( www.logicinside.net) proudly claims that in 2005-6, it provided guidance to more than 180 groups (a[pproximately 700 students). In 2006-7, that figure jumped to 305 groups (1500 students). There is a lot of demand for the service – that’s for sure.

CHEATING : ACROSS PROJECTS
Broadly speaking, there exist two types of projects. One is the External type where students have to undertake a project with a company, under a guide. The guide assigns work and also designs scope of work, etc. Some get paid (like internships), many don’t.

The second kind of project is the Internal type where students need to choose a topic by themselves and finish projects under the guidance of one of the professors in their branch. So far we have discussed how students outsource their Internal projects.

On the face of it you may think that the External type does not have much scope for fraud. But the reality is actually quite different. (See box 1)

On the face of it you may think that the External type does not have much scope for fraud. But the reality is actually quite different. (See box 1)

HAVE TO SAY?
If only the authorities knew how colossal this scam is and how meticulous the cheating process… But wait, they are fully aware.To our surprise, we found that professors are turning a blind eye and adopting a ‘chalta hai’ attitude. It’s little wonder then that the practice of submitting outsourced projects is practically institutionalised.

A professor from IIT Madras who doesn’t wish to be named, says, “Projects get created, used and recycled these days in engineering colleges. Professors know about this but the fact is they refrain from taking action. They must do some serious thinking and mete out severe punishments to students who indulge in cheating. It’s atrocious the way it happens”.

He goes on to narrate,”There are a host of companies in cities across India that make projects for students for a hefty price. They advertise openly and I feel action should be taken against these shops/ companies as well as they know what they are doing. Checks and balances should be there.”

We did a google search for companies that openly advertise and sell projects (although most euphemistically label it ‘guidance’). We were not disappointed at all with the number of results! (See box 2)

Lathika Bhatia*, a professor from a well knwon engineering college in Mumbai says, “Professors get a fixed salary, which is about Rs 30,000 month. So, they don’t take extra pains to follow-up students’ project and tell them to be honest and do it themselves.”

“Also, it’s a long process like take him to the management, consult the principal or HOD, etc. Then he will have to extend this to almost 90% of the students in each institute. So, they don’t really bother. They just assign slightly lower marks.”

The case is ditto across states. The percentage of students who cheat on their final year projects is unifomly high across the length and breadth of the nation (See box 3). There are numerous small firms, shops and freelancers who fabricate projects for students irrespective of location.

WHY THEY DO IT
Students cheat primarily because of convenience. During the final year, colleges give 2 days off (per week) for completing projects. Instead of slogging on projects junta uses this time to prepare for entrance exams like CAT, CET, GRE, etc. Or they just laze around.
Secondly, these projects do not have a long-term impact on a student’s career. You have already been placed when projects are assigned in the final year. Thus, projects don’t influence placements one bit.
Third, projects are made in groups. Hence students can afford to purchase projects even at high rates. The amount is shared amongst members of the group.
Lastly, most students don’t plan to take up jobs related to their core branch. Most are destined to become coders at software companies. The skills they need for those jobs will be provided in a short induction an training. Ultimately they will abandon even that and go for the all purpose MBA
So why bother with projects involving soldering and circuit diagrams anyway?

JAM SAYS
Cheating has always existed. What’s new is the complete absence of guilt. shortcut and there is complete absence of guilt. In simple words, people are cool and nonchalant. Getting ahead is perceived to be more important than how you get there.

The better marks you have, the better job/ insiti you get into, the better you will do in life. And if you have to cut corners to do that, you’re going to be saving yourself time and energy.
The irony of the story: These guys at Lamington Road and many of the freelance computer coders who sell projects, are mere diploma holders and school dropouts…

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