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Good move to curb false coaching ads

The Central Consumer Protection Authority (CCPA) has done well to ask the government to enforce conduct rules in the case of testimonial advertisements put out by coaching institutes. It has told the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) to disallow civil services candidates from earning through testimonial advertisements after their selection. This has become a rampant malpractice in the last few years, with victorious candidates, especially those who hold high ranks, endorsing coaching institutes where they claim they got their coaching. This is an unethical practice where the high rankers enter into revenue share contracts with institutes, and allow the use of their ranks and photographs for advertising. The CCPA has conducted an investigation, sent notices to 20 coaching institutes, and slapped penalties of Rs 1 lakh each on four of them. But it has not touched even the fringe of the problem, and its action cannot be considered a deterrent.

According to a CCPA estimate, the coaching industry earns over Rs 58,000 crore a year. The civil services examination is highly challenging as it leads to the country’s top jobs. About a million candidates take it up, and just 0.2% pass. Because of the hard challenge it poses, most candidates go in for coaching. This is a major revenue earner for coaching institutes which use all tactics to attract students. Testimonial ads are a major weapon. Ads often mislead aspirants by suppressing information or giving incomplete and wrong information. The students may have attended only a couple of courses or only the interview module. The CCPA found that in 2022, the UPSC had recommended 933 candidates, but the number claimed by the institutes was over 3,500. The same endorsement practice is followed for candidates successful in cracking IIT, NEET (National Eligibility-cum-Entranace Test), and other entrance exams. A permissive situation prevails in the case of these exams, and often, institutions claim as their pupils students who may never have attended their classes.

This is basically a wrong and unethical practice. It is a moral compromise for civil service entrants who accept money and lend their names for false claims. In fact, it is a poor start for their civil service careers. Candidates who spend a lot of money on coaching centres see this as a means to make up and even repay their loans. But careers in civil services should not start with unethical business deals.

(Published 12 December 2023, 22:35 IST)

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