The new Union HRD Minister, Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, is back in the news for his doctorate degrees (honorary), which he obtained from far away Sri Lanka. The base of the whole issue hovers around the legality of the Colombo based Open International University.

Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank was felicitated with a doctorate degree of Open International University twice- once in the late 90s and the second time in late 2000s. The exact date of the first honorary degree remains unknown, but the second one was near the time when he assumed the CM office in the hill state in 2009.

Nishank used to fondly mention about the honorary degrees of the Open International University for Complementary Medicines in his books, website and also bio-data. On the bases of the document, he used the suffix ‘Dr.’ in front of his name. Even in his election affidavits, Nishank mentions receiving honorary degrees.

An RTI reply, received from the High Commission of India (Colombo) states, “The matter has been examined. On the first issue of appeal, the applicant’s appeal is upheld and it is hereby clarified that as far as the High Commission is aware, Open International University for Complementary Medicines in Colombo (Sri Lanka) is not recognized by the University Grants Commission–Sri Lanka.”

The High Commission provided this information to an RTI query from this reporter, filed on 24 July 2017.  The information was provided by Arindam Bagchi, Deputy High Commissioner & Appellate Authority of High Commission of India (Colombo) on 1 November 2017. The document clearly states that Open International University is unregistered or define in any other words meaning ‘fake, bogus or dubious’ education institute operating from Colombo.

A copy of the 1998 letter of Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR letter No. 17/66/27/94-PPS  dated 18.11.1998) circulated to the heads of its national laboratory discloses, “I am directed to forward herewith a copy of letter No.OE/D/98/1381 dated 27.8.98 from Dr. S.K. Jain, Director, Institute of Ethnobiology, C/o NBRI, Lucknow along with a copy of letter dated 12.8.98 from UGC regarding non-validity of D.Sc. Degree awarded by Open International University for Complementary Medicines, Colombo and informing that no recognition should be given to the Degree/Diploma or any other academic distinction conferred by this University, for your information and record.”

Even in his affidavit, filed for contesting the 2019 Lok Sabha elections, the former Uttarakhand Chief Minister  has disclosed about completing his masters from H.N.B Garhwal University but decided to mention his Doctor of Philosophy and Doctor of Literature degrees (both honorary), but not the university from where he obtained the ‘coveted’ academic qualifications.

After becoming Uttarakhand Chief Minister, Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank was conferred honorary degrees by the Graphic Era University and Uttarakhand Sanskrit University. Both these universities are recognized, but the earlier two, obtained from the nearby country, are not genuine. The fake degree row of HRD ministers of Modi government has inspired people to cut joke on social media. Most are saying, “Essential qualification to head HRD ministry. You should possess fake degrees.”