About the title, there was a popular Hollywood film with the title – Great Train Robbery, Perhaps based on a well-known detective novel. So, I was inspired by that title, in choosing the title for this note, “Robbery” is obviously inappropriate for the title. Having looked up the dictionary for the meaning of the words “Plagiarism” and “Piracy” I chose the word ‘piracy’ in preference to the word “Plagiarism” widely used in academic literature and by the publisher’s disclaimers. Here is the meaning of the word “piracy” : the unauthorized use or appropriation of patented or copyrighted material or ideas etc. (The new Collins Concise English Dictionary, Rupa and co 1982 Indian edition).
During March 2010 I made a brief visit (10th to 12) to Delhi-Dept. of Social Work, Delhi University (D.S.W.D.U). One of my former students who is on the faculty of D.S.W.D.U. met me at the University Guest House and conversationally mentioned that S/he had got the Ph.D. recently from another Central University, one of the two at New Delhi. I expressed a desire to look at the Ph.D. dissertation which was given to me on the next day. I had no time to read it but read the Introduction and then turned to the Bibliography-my habit when reading a new book. It was a long list containing titles, names of the authors of the books from the disciplines of Sociology, economics, education and some well-known economic authors including Michael Todaro. I have read some of his writings and was very impressed. Then an entry-Social Development under the publication title-Social Work Encyclopaedia 3rd Edition, caught my attention which puzzled me. I asked for the name of the author and the name of a distinguished T.I.S.S. alumnus was mentioned, who had passed away. I had thought I was the only author on Social Development in the 2nd Encyclopaedia of Social Work in India (1987) and was unaware of the 3rdEdition of Encyclopaedia of Social Work and the author who had passed away more than two decades ago had written it! (There was no article on Social Development in the 1st Edition of Encyclopaedia). I did make a few enquiries seeking details of that entry. But did not say anything more.
After my return to Bangalore Ramesha. M.H. the young editor of the bilingual monthly Social Work Foot Prints, happen to mention proudly that he had a copy of all the four Encyclopaedias. I requested him to lend me his copy of the 3rd Encyclopaedia of Social Work. He did so and I read carefully the preliminary pages including the contents. I turned the pages, reading a few passages and was greatly shocked to find my own, G.R. Banerjee’s and Hans Nagpaul’s published writings-without names and credit (Publication details). I mention only a few.
1. Banerjees ‘Social Worker looks at V.D.’ written during the early 1950’s and published in the I.J.S.W. and later included in the book Papers on Social Work-An Indian Perspective, 1972,TISS., publication. I had written a Review Essay which was published in I.J.S.W. during the mid 70’s.
The correct entry in ‘PRETENCY’ vol-Page No-344 is; Social Development: A profile: I have been cited in the references. No name of the author.
2. My own several writings I could recognize, but, I mention only one. My article based on the Keynote Address at the ASSWI seminar at Bhubaneshwar, 1986 which was later published with the title Social Work and Social Development-Some Unresolved Issues in R.K. Nayak and H.Y. Siddiqui, Eds-Social Work and Development, Gitanjali Publications New Delhi, 1989. While lifting this article the academic Pirates over looked the footnote on the very first page No.354 and failed to delete that entry. Thus left a vital clue (evidence) of their Piracy.
Some major crimes are accidentally discovered-e.g. the great scam of cricket-match fixing by Hans Cronje of South Africa including two well known Indian cricketers, one of whom is now on M.P. (LokSabha) of the ruling party ! Another a very recent I.P.L. Rajasthan Royals three team members which is still under further investigation. The police were monitoring phone calls for a major crime-terrorist attacks and chanced upon the match fixing conversations.
3. Hans Nagpauls article-Perhaps from the I.J.S.W. (or from his book).No names mentioned, Such as authors, publishers etc.
An Encyclopaedia is a major academic project, planned carefully, selecting topics and suitable authors, and takes several years before publication for a variety of reasons. The 2nd Encyclopaedia, to which I am a contributor, was planned in 1978-79, but published only in 1987. Also, topics are added or titles changed keeping in mind the changes over a period of years. If the Pretender Encyclopaedia hereafter (PRETENCY) was to publish on the S.T.D. (Sexually Transmitted Diseases) there would have been two entries, one on Social Work in the field of S.T.D. and the other HIV-Aids. To publish 1950’s article in 2001-Social Worker look at V.D. apart from the crime of piracy, demonstrates the academic (in) competence including ignorance of the areas which the chosen topics are to cover.
I wrote about my “detective” findings to a well known social work academic, formerly at T.I.S.S, now retired sometime during September 2011 and I quote from this academic’s reply :
The situation of professional ethics outside T.I.S.S. seems to be worse. Some years back the T.I.S.S. Librarian did send me three volumes of a book on social work in India for approval. I did not approve it as it had no references at all, which means all of the content was plagiarised. I don’t Know if you are talking about the same work in India. On the other hand, in 2000, Prof. Surendra Singh, then the President of ASSWI asked me to be a member of an Advisory and Editional Board which had been formed for the Third Edition of the Encyclopaedia of Social Work in India . I sent him my suggestions for an update set of contents. He asked for names of experts for the new topics which also I sent him. Many T.I.S.S. faculty members were invited who sent their articles but then there has been no news from him till now. Just last week I heard from a colleague who had met Prof. Singh recently that Prof. Singh told him that a faculty member of an institution in Mumbai wrote to the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment who was funding it and complained that it is the Ministry who should publish this Encyclopaedia and not ASSWI! The Ministry withdrew the funding.
When I mentioned to Ramesha about my discovery of the crime-The Great Social Work. Academic Piracy, he queried why don’t you file a case in the court ? I told him the futility of that exercise, the legal tangle, visits to the court for the hearings, engaging a lawyer on payment of fees, and the enormous delay in concluding the judicial process-more than five years with more than three crores of cases pending in various courts in the country and my age (80+ years).
The Social Work academic pirates, perhaps, assumed that most of the authors would have passed away, If alive would not come to know because of old age or living abroad (H. Nagpaul), But, I happen to be alive (83 yrs) blessed with a good memory and my mental faculties are in good condition. As I said before, the discovery of the crime was accidental-my brief visit to Delhi and the Ph.D. dissertation being mentioned by the faculty member and my interest in looking at it.
More than the enormity of the crime what shocks me is that it has not been detected before by other Social Work academics. And it pains me to see that it is being mentioned by the Social Work academics as part of their Scholarly publications. Even after Ramesha made a brief reference to it in his (Kannada) editorial in one of the issues of Social Work Foot Prints – a well known, retired Social Work academic who would have read the editorial, listed it as part of his lecture Bibliography, published later in the same journal !
My further investigation of the contents of the “Pretency” Vol.3, surprised me even more. There are three chapters of my book Social Welfare-An Evolutionary and Developmental Perspective. Macmillan India, New Delhi, 1981, with the same chapter titles ! I could also guess identify published writings of Robert Pinker, H.Y. Siddiqui and Vidya Rao in the same volume. Note also that the contents are not in an alphabetical order-the practice followed by the encyclopaedias.
To conclude, why this academic piracy was not detected for nearly ten years after the publication in 2001 ? why Ph.D. scholars and academic writers (scholars?) continue to mention it as part of the bibliography of their academic products ? Very disturbing answers to the questions posed above. “Why, oh Why” (a line from the poem “Boatmen’s Song” by Sarojini Naidu)
No 213, 16th Cross M.C Layout, Date 12th August 2013
Suggested additional reading
“Social Work Educators as Scholars-Some Animadversions.” Indian Journal of Social Work, April, 2000.
I have spent much time, about 50 hours and mental energy in writing this Note, inspite of my age and related disability, computer illiteracy etc with the help of others who kindly agreed to get this note computer printed. I shall feel rewarded if the Social Work academic community-individual and institutional act concertedly to curb if not eliminate the epidemic of academic piracy from spreading and the pirates benefiting financially and in other ways (academic reputation unearned, spurious) and hurting the genuine writers, depriving them of what they deserve.
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