In Bangladesh, a Bachelor or Master’s degree certificate is usually the result of 16 to 18 years of education.
Then again, as the old saying goes, in Dhaka city you can get tiger’s milk if you have the money. Certificates that are as good as the original may not even cost as much, as this correspondent has found.
For as little as Tk2,000, one can skip the hard work of attending schools, thanks to a number of fake certificate manufacturers across Dhaka.
In most cases the counterfeit will be practically indistinguishable from the original, as it is printed on the same paper.
It is difficult to say how many people bearing such false certificates are in the job market right now, but their numbers could be significant considering that very few employers go to the trouble of verifying certificates submitted by potential employees, and business is booming in the certificate bazars.
A young man from Comilla who is working as a senior marketing officer at a private organisation admitted to this correspondent that he had submitted a fake certificate bought from Nilkhet market in the city.
Nilkhet market, formally Baku Shah Hawkers Cooperative Market located adjacent to New Market police station and the Dhaka University gate, is the largest fake certificate manufacturing market in the city.
On Wednesday, this correspondent went to Nilkhet market and talked to the owner of a printing and photocopy shop. The man agreed to make a certificate from Dhaka University for Tk5,000.
After three hours, he handed over a certificate made of the same paper as that used in the originals. “I have the seal and signature of the authorities, but I had to buy the paper from university insiders,” he said.
The fake certificate maker said he had been running this business for over 10 years, and it has been growing “day by day”.
“In the beginning, we used to make the certificates at our shops in the market at night, but now we have set up printing machines at home to avoid law enforcement agencies,” he said.
Nilkhet shop owners association President Abdul Awal said “some errant businesses” were involved in the fake certificate business, despite the association’s orders against such criminal activity.
“We are strict against these frauds and report them to law enforcement agencies if noticed,” he added.
Students of Dhaka University (DU) expressed frustration and anger at the situation.
Asad Azam, a third-year student of journalism, told the Dhaka Tribune: “We study so hard and pass so many examinations to get a certificate. But a group of errant businessmen in the Nilkhet market are selling fake certificates of our university, which is very embarrassing for us.”
He said he felt that the university administration and the police must have full knowledge of the fake certificate business.
“They have failed to control this criminal practice,” Asad said.
Talking to the Dhaka Tribune, DU Proctor Dr AM Amjad Ali expressed his concern about the fake certificate business, calling it “deplorable”.
He said the university authorities had conducted several drives in the Nilkhet market with the help of police, but the practice has not stopped.
“If anyone from inside (the university) is involved, if any official is found selling the security paper, stern action will be taken immediately,” Amjad Ali said.
DU Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Administration) Prof Dr Md Akhtaruzzaman said the fake certificates could be used to get jobs in both private and public sectors in the absence of strong monitoring by private companies and the government.
“The authorities concerned should verify the certificates before appointing anyone,” he added.
Besides Nilkhet market there are several spots in the city where counterfeit certificates are made. This correspondent found that fake certificates are also made at Mohammadpur Town Hall Market, Banani Super Market and Gausul Azam Super Market next to Nilkhet. Printing and photocopy shops are the key culprits in this business.
Which certificates are in demand
The prices of the counterfeit certificates appear to be fixed on the basis of the reputation and value of educational institutions and the subjects ‘taken’.
To buy a medical certificate, one has to pay Tk10,000 on an average, while a certificate from Dhaka University’s Institute of Business Administration (IBA) or from Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet) would cost Tk8,000.
For other departments of DU, one has to pay Tk5,000 - the same for Brac University and North South University.
The cost for the other public universities’ and renowned private universities’ certificates can be around Tk4,000, while a National University certificate is sold at Tk3,000.
Fake certificates from less renowned private universities can cost Tk2,000.
What the law enforcement agencies are doing
Mizanur Rahman, additional commissioner for crime and operation wing of Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP), told the Dhaka Tribune that the Detective Branch of police had conducted several operations and arrested many fake certificate manufacturers from different parts of the city.
“Their gang is very strong (and) we have found their involvement in question-paper forgery as well,” he said. “But we cannot stop them entirely as they get out on bail and start doing the same thing again.”
He said while police continue their operations against fake certificates regularly, sometimes they face trouble identifying real or fake certificates as students often make photocopies of original certificates in the same shops.
“That is why we are urging people to be aware against the fake certificate makers and inform us about them. We will surely take them into custody,” added Mizanur.
Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) Legal and Media Wing chief Mufti Mahmud Khan told the Dhaka Tribune that the elite force had conducted many drives against such businesses over the years even though it was outside their designated tasks.
According to Section 470 of Bangladesh Penal Code, 1860, if anyone forges any legal document by using fake signature or seal, that person will face imprisonment of up to two years, a fine, or both.