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Forging academic certificates may attract stiff penalties
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Private eye: India Inc turns big brother
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The New Urban Junkie
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Background screening cos get a fillip post 26/11
 
News
Forging academic certificates may attract stiff penalties
Mint, 14 June, 2010

Currently, people who run rackets offering counterfeit certificates, institute officials who help them, and students who procure them face just a few months’ imprisonment and a few thousand rupees as a fine.Though no statistics are available, officials of the human resource development (HRD) ministry, which oversees education in India, say the incidence of forging academic certificates has increased with improving technology.
According to First Advantage Pvt. Ltd, a background screening firm, at least 15% of resumes they checked last year had false information, creating the need for such a database, as reported by Mint on 25 March.The Bill to create a National Academic Depository, likely to be tabled in Parliament in a couple of months, will include provisions to mete out stringent punishment to those who forge certificates, two ministry officials said, requesting anonymity. “Any forgery of certificates will cost an institute management or a group of people jail term up to 10 years. The management can also get a penalty of up to Rs10 crore, or both, for doing this illegal activity,” one official said.
More than 22,000 recognized colleges, 470 universities, thousands of technical institutes, and school boards across the country will be able to submit copies of the certificates they have issued to build the academic e-depository. They will be charged for the service.
The move will allow institutions and offices to check the academic history of those who apply for admissions or jobs for a fee.Students, too, will no longer have to worry about losing or misplacing their certificates, the official said. For a nominal charge, they will have lifelong access to the online certificates from anywhere in the world.
Around 2.54 million students earn a graduate or postgraduate degree every year, in addition to 9.5 million students who clear their secondary school examinations. “We have now invited suggestions (regarding the draft law) from various stakeholders, including central government departments, and after getting their input, we will go ahead with the provisions,” the second official said.The national depository will be maintained by one of the two depository managers that are registered with markets regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India, National Securities Depository Ltd and Central Depository Services (India) Ltd.
The depository managers will be responsible for ensuring the sanctitiy of the certificates, and any interpolation can attract a fine of up to Rs50 lakh, HRD officials said.

 
Private eye: India Inc turns big brother
The Economic Times, 14 May 2010

Be afraid. Be very afraid as India Inc. turns big brother. While snooping on employees is as old as the hills, new-age deterrence and detection methods strategically placed in the work environment make even innocent banter seem like evidence. As corporates get increasingly suspicious of their workforce, they are shopping for surveillance gizmos and even hiring private detective agencies to tail their employees.
The recent mobile phone theft at Patni Knowledge Centre at Noida is a case in point wherein samples were sent to the IT company by an international client to develop a prototype for a handphone. Mysteriously, one of the samples went missing. The company naturally panicked. Reputation was at stake. Instead of the cops, it hailed the services of Globe Detective Agency, which in turn did an IMEI (International Mobile Equipment Identity) tracking-fortunately, the company retained the IMEI number-and the thief was nabbed. He was none other than one of the security guards of the company. "The case in question was not that of an IP theft but an indiscreet act by one of the security guards. The client asset was promptly recovered and we have taken necessary legal action against the concerned person in line with the company policy," says a Patni spokesperson, adding how the company has beefed up security with an extensive network of surveillance cameras, access control measures with shrill alarms to prevent unauthorized entry, maintenance of daily inventory of high-value items and awareness programmes with teams on IP and security-related issues. "Anti-management activities like pilferage, theft and unionization are rampant these days, for which companies have an eye on all levels," claims Sachit Kumar, a director at the Delhi-based Globe Detective Agency.

If the Patni case turned in a blue-collar worker, in its neighbourhood, a financial services company which goes by the name of an alpine fruit turned up five middle managers who were found meddling with the name and contacts of a client of the company last year. They contacted the company's client and ran a parallel business from the basement, like in last year's Bollywood release Rocket Singh. This case too went to a detective agency that used CCTV footage to make them confess. Incidentally, new-age surveillance cameras have gotten much smarter. The 360-degree cameras are all the rage, often equipped with audio, and quite unlike the static or swivel cameras of the past.

Going by the KPMG Fraud Survey 2010, the heightened sense of security among companies is justified. Among 1,000 respondents from Indian companies, 45% say fraud has increased in their organisations and as much as 81% say financial statement fraud is a growing syndrome. The survey also gives a roadmap for key risk areas in the future - computer-related fraud, intellectual property theft, bribery and corruption.

"The level of skepticism has gone up post-Satyam and there is leakage in the whole supply chain side. Corporates want to make the system more efficient," says Deepankar Sanwalka, Executive Director-Forensic Services, KPMG and the architect of the survey.
The security business is booming, particularly after the downturn. "People now want to ensure that their money is well-spent and so they go in for due diligence at the top and senior levels," says Ajay Trehan, CEO of screening and due diligence experts Authbridge Research Services. Most cases that land up at Authbridge these days pertain to either employees who are responsible for high-value investments or high value/volume procurement. "The promoter wants to be doubly sure before trusting his employee."

Perhaps that explains why Pramoud Rau, the 52-year-old MD of the Rs 450-crore Zicom Electronic Security Systems, is laughing all the way to the bank. Over the years, particularly in the last few months, he has seen his business grow in the security and surveillance space. Rau clearly draws a line between the two. "If it is a BPO, then more of surveillance is required over security as a lot of incidents of indiscipline take place in the night shifts and also the top management wants to keep a tab over the quality of calls employees make or receive ... .however, banks prefer enhanced security over surveillance with heightened demand for gadgets like CCTVs and access control systems," he says.

Some companies deploy a complete one-size-fits-all solution with CCTVs and access controls linked to payroll. It not only prevents unauthorised entry but also logs in the time of entry and exit and calculates the number of hours the employee has put in on the workstation all in full glare of the camera. Again, information leaks in highly confidential meetings are commonplace. This is when mobile jammers come into play. In top secret board meetings, mobile phones of the participants are jammed to maintain confidentiality. Even the sales force and service teams are tracked. "Typically, small GPS boxes are thrown into their bags to ensure verity," says Rau.

But the demand for enhanced surveillance can be offset by, say, an acquisition as Zicom found out. It was providing CCTVs to an IT client for almost 12 years when the company got acquired by an American MNC. As the writ of the multinational started running, it ordered all CCTVs be removed from workstations and put in the common area since the global policy of the company did not allow employee scrutiny at workstations. When the top managers of the Indian arm raised objection, they were told that the MNC was running such partial surveillance successfully in 100 countries and India was no exception.

While such respect for individual privacy is rare, other companies are wiring up with Building Management Systems, a network with smart equipment that talk to one another. "Access control devices, CCTVs, intrusion detection systems are all linked to each other in the control centre and video analytics is woven into modern-day cameras that can identify the minutest of details in the image and sends out alarms," says Gaurav Taneja, Director, Crisis and Security Consulting at Control Risks. Besides, data can never be erased. "When forensic analysis of hard disks is done, a mirror image of the PC is taken, which provides a complete image of the data in that PC ... .a procedure is followed wherein it stands in a court of law, and of course, there is software to retrieve that data," he adds.
Computer forensics is SK Sharma's favourite subject of conversation. Sharma, a director at Premier Shield Security Solutions, deployed computer analytic for his clients six months back and claims that accounts for 10-12% of his company's revenue share. "We have tracked cases where employees have copied office material on pen drives and opened the same elsewhere ... .remote tracking is also a possibility with computer forensics," says Sharma. He feels that the most interesting zones in offices are the common areas. "Water coolers, canteens, smoking alleys, common zones in wash rooms are the hotbed of rebellion," he chuckles.

At Genpact, India's largest BPO company, voice-based and transactions-based jobs are monitored separately. "In phone jobs, we have dialers or distribution centres that throw calls to all agents on the floor and monitor the number of calls whereas in transactions, we measure the transactions but not the time spent on them since a good worker will be able to churn out a certain amount of transactions per day," explains Piyush Mehta, Sr. VP-HR, Genpact. With 41,000 people on its rolls worldwide, the Gurgaon-based Genpact cannot afford slippages. While it has hired Brian Connor, who served in the British Army's Intelligence Corps for 23 years, as its global security officer, there are certain inbuilt security processes-paperless and printer-less financial services floors and access controls. In fact, mobile phones too are barred on these "sensitive" floors and there is only intranet for company online.

Even at enterprise communication service provider Tulip Telecom, monitoring is a habit. "In sales, we've customised salesforce.com to our advantage and the software can monitor every move of our 220 sales agents across the country from targets to something as granular as calls they make daily," says Deepinder Bedi, Executive Director, Tulip Telecom. Besides, the IT team at Tulip screens every laptop before it leaves the premises so that company-specific information stays within the four walls. Interestingly, the company started using a service last month that remotely wipes off details from mobile phones. "If you use Microsoft Exchange and BlackBerry and have company-specific emails and directories stored on your mobile phone, all that information can be wiped off remotely accessing Microsoft Exchange and BlackBerry enterprise servers," says Bedi.

For JK Karan, VP-Consultancy and Investigation, Security and Intelligence Services (SIS), tapping employee conversations is no rocket science. "It all has to do with the corporate connection, wherein the company claims that the connection is its very own as the employee is being reimbursed for the service. So if the company has suspicion on any particular worker, it zeroes in on the staff with the service provider and a cop to tap into the talk," he says. Nearly a year back, his company was called in after tenders went missing at an NCR-based IT firm. The SIS team analysed CCTV footage for three days. "One frame of the footage threw up a black point (that particular point of the room that the camera doesn't pick) and clearly the miscreant was aware of this lapse ... but we spotted a shady figure in the very next frame and nabbed the person ... the very next day, the tenders were back," says Karan
True, legislation on telephone tapping is still pending before Parliament as only some judicial pronouncements on the subject have been made. Even the Data Protection Bill is hanging fire as a Standing Committee is currently debating on it. But clearly, laws regarding data protection, privacy and confidentiality now form part of employment contracts. "Although that empowers an employer to gather information on an employee and his family, the latter should not be victimised by the employer on the basis of such information. That is unfair treatment," says Dharmesh Shrivastava, Partner-Employment & Labour Laws, Fox Mandal Little. Top firms tend to adhere to global practices when it comes to privacy. For instance, according to Ronesh Puri, MD of search firm Executive Access, right at the onset, some banks mention in their employment letters that emails of employees will be monitored. Ostensibly, Deutsche Bank is among those that do it.

While such transparency is laudable, most corporates take advantage of opaque privacy laws in India to spy on workers. However since in 90% of the cases the reputation of the company is at stake, filing an FIR is the last resort. As much of the cases go unreported, companies largely depend on hired hands like private eyes or security agencies or even 'freelancers' who ply the trade as former IB or Army personnel. And though surveillance levels vary depending on occupations within the workplace, even a well-meaning employee unwittingly comes under the scanner.

The New Urban Junkie
India Today

I am not into drugs," she repeats five times in course of a single chat. And she changes the storyline of her first brush with drugs in Delhi so often-in one she is offered a joint by a call centre colleague in the office car, in another a stranger cajoles her to snort in a toilet at Hotel Samrat-that you start doubting her claims.
Whichever version you believe, there's no dithering when she describes the "cocktail" that quietly changes hands every midnight shift at her call centre: "Cough syrup and rum, pepsi or coke, with crushed spasmo proxyvon tablets and a bit of iodex." But the 21-year-old insists that she has never tasted it. She doesn't need such "pharm kicks" to survive the daily grind of sleeplessness, abusive customers, fake accents and tight targets. But ask her if she minds working with them and she balks: "Oh no. They are really cool people."
Enter the world of new urban junkies, where drugs are cool. From young men working the corporate ladder, nubile women next to you in a lounge bar, call centre employees taking 10 calls to the hour, students in high-pressure professional courses, pimply-gangly teens drooling over the Net to the sweet kid next door-they are all around you. Not decrepit creatures of the night, inhabiting hidden depths of cities and indistinguishable from criminals. Nor Page 3 snorteratti who abuse drugs to be "in" the scene. But regular people who just want to smoothen life's little issues-do a job better, appear more cheerful, stay awake longer, feel more relaxed. As new drugs find their way into urban India, they seek a dash of chemical comfort-easy to procure, cheap to buy-that allows them to navigate under the radar of social and legal scrutiny. From metros to Tier II towns, the conventional understanding of who does which drug, where, how and why is being turned on its head as substance abuse becomes a part of everyday social activity.
It's a trend that's been captured by the new World Drug Report (WDR) 2010 of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The report indicates a shift towards new drugs and new markets, increased drug use in developing countries and the growing abuse of amphetamine-type stimulants (ATS) along with prescription drugs. "It points to a different culture of drug abuse," says Cristina Albertin, the UNODC representative for South Asia. The report has set off a buzz on the sixth floor of Shastri Bhavan in the Capital. "We are working on the first ever national policy on prevention of substance abuse in India," says Mukul Wasnik, Union Minister for Social Justice and Empowerment (MSJE). "Awareness is the need of the hour." Joint Secretary Purnima Singh fleshes it out: there will be more awareness via curricula from medical colleges to schools, strict vigilance on social networking sites, periodic national surveys on drug abuse, careful monitoring of chemists, drug demand reduction as a public health policy, shift in treatment from detox and rehab to substitution therapy, humane treatment of patients in de-addiction centres. And all that in convergence with concerned ministries. "Already the National Sample Survey Organization is working on a large-scale survey across the country at our behest to capture the changing profile of drug abuse in the country," she adds.
's a profile aided by technology. Anil is 15 and spends more hours on the Internet than at school. His philosophy of life is shaped by cyberspace: take what you like and leave what you don't. And right now he wants to "take" all the information that he can on an insignificant flower called Morning Glory. But it's not the flower; he wants the seeds. He is already a part of half-a-dozen herb web groups and has located one that can courier him the seeds. After that, he will move on to websites that can deliver petroleum ether. He will then comb through Erowid.org-the drug database online that chronicles trip reports and dosages-to pick and choose an easy recipe. His aim is simple: he wants to be a "drug geek" and kick off a clandestine career by creating the magic potion for homegrown LSD.
The 15-year-old doesn't know that he is a sitting duck for drug traffickers, who target social networking sites to recruit youngsters to work as peddlers. His worried parents do not know that according to WDR 2010 India has become a hub of drugs sold through illegal Internet pharmacies. But they have got in touch with Taralika Lahiri, who heads the National Detectives and Corporate Consultants in Delhi, and asked her to "keep an eye" on him and his friends. It's a new trend that's emerging, feels Lahiri.
Behind the changing profile of the "new junkie" is the frightening reality of new drugs of use. Synthetic drugs (psychoactive substances produced in a lab) are the flavour of the season. And they cover a wide range-from mindaltering amphetamines, ecstasy, LSD and other expensive, hard-to-get designer drugs to the easily available and pocket-friendly prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) medicines.
Check out the National Drug Dependence Treatment Centre (NDDTC) at All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), where over 32,000 drug abusers turn up every year and 21,000 more get community care. Their data shows that opiate users (natural and semi-synthetic poppy pod extracts-opium to heroin) upped from 22 per cent to 42 per cent between 2000 and 2009, but synthetic drug users zoomed quietly in less time to account for 15 per cent of footfalls. "That's the major factor behind the changing profile of drug abuse in India," says Dr Rajat Ray, who heads NDDTC. "Globally the main 'problem drugs'-cocaine and heroin-are on a decline, while pharma abuse is on a steady high."
"The misuse of pharma drugs, such as pain-killers, sedatives, anxiolytics, hypnotics and synthetic opioids like buprenorphine, as well as polydrug use is steadily rising," says Suresh Kumar, deputy director of the National Centre for Drug Use Prevention under MSJE. A 2008 UNODC Rapid Situation and Response Assessment (RSRA) among 9,465 people between age 21 and 30 in five South Asian countries captures the change. Of the 5,800 respondents from India, 43 per cent were found to use "drug cocktails"-with over 64 per cent injecting painkiller propoxyphene and 76 per cent buprenorphine.
Of the 359 women sampled, 16 per cent were found to resort to sleeping pills and 18 per cent to painkillers. Add amphetamines and you get as noxious a cocktail as you can: India is the largest consumer of heroin in South Asia, reports WDR 2010. But it's slowly emerging as one of the world's biggest manufacturing hubs of ephedrine and pseudoephedrine- the precursor chemicals used in amphetamines. If half the world's ATS users live in Asia (WDR2008), India's contribution to it would be around 29 per cent (WDR 2009)
On a hot summer afternoon, a bunch of young men lie around in the Spartan dorm of the de-addiction center in Vasant Kunj, Delhi. All thin as rakes, all united in despair, all clutching on to whatever little dignity they've got. But they are not alone. Franklin Lazarus, 46, is talking to them about his own drug-dotted journey of 26 years- from the first sniff to his ultimate "rebirth" as a man free of addiction. He came to the Society for Promotion of Youth and Masses (SPYM) seeking help. Today, he works as a counsellor here to help others like him. To Rajesh Kumar, the man who founded SPYM, it was easier to reach out to Franklin's generation.
"Young people were more receptive then," he says. That's the verdict of other specialists in drug intervention, too. "Today's abuser is younger, well-off and inclined to try a range of drugs, even while the category of economically backward drug addict continues to exist," says Mukta Puntambekar, deputy director of Muktangan Rehabilitation Center in Pune. Agrees Dr Anita Rao, who heads the TTRC Research Centre in Chennai: "Earlier, wives used to accompany patients. Today, mothers bring them in." To Father Joe Pereira, chief of Kripa Foundation, Mumbai, "It's the social acceptance of and easy access to drugs that explain the dynamics of change in the drug abuse pattern today."
In an insidious manner, white-collar addiction is coming out of the woodworks of India Inc. Consider Aarthi Rangarajan, 27, of Chennai. You don't become the star performer in a topnotch software company unless you are smart. Even a year back, Rangarajan had that easy confidence of someone who knows where they are headed. The girl from an orthodox Thanjavur family brought her parents over, bought a flat and gave them a taste of the good life they've never had. But the heady way to the top proved slippery, as her jet-set party lifestyle led to an implosion of drugs and casual sex. Today, she is in a de-addiciton centre, with a high level of HIV in her blood. She doesn't meet anyone, not even her parents. "Dangerous experimentation with drugs is rampant in the cities," says Dr Pratima Murthy, who heads the De-addiction Centre at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS) in Bangalore. "We see a lot of young professionals, who are driven to drugs by peer pressure, boredom, stress and disposable income." The RSRA sample survey found 62 per cent of drug abusers to be employed.
A sign of the time is a new type of corporate service: background screening and substance abuse testing. Way back in 1997, the Federation of Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) along with UNODC and the International Labor Organisation (ILO) had taken up a project to integrate drug prevention strategies into the management practice of enterprises. ILO studies had revealed that employees who use drugs miss work more often, are less healthy, and more prone to harming themselves and others in the workplace. India Inc was hardly interested.
With rising affluence, stress at workplace and greater social acceptability of drug abuse, however, IT, ITes and multinationals are coming forward to implement drug testing at the workplace. "The awareness that substance abuse may affect the workplace has seen an upward trend in the last two years," says Anil Dhar, one of the top bosses of the Gurgaon-based AuthBridge Research Service. "We see mostly opiates and marijuana abuse by the 20-40 age band, including women," he adds. "It is an ongoing process and urine samples are usually taken without prior notice to the employees."
Are addicts made or born? Ask psychiatrists and they will tell you it's as a student that an addict is "born". If in 2001, the age of initiation stood at 20, today it averages at 17, says the UNODC. Is the trend dipping further? Payel was just 14 when she started using whiteners, the correction fluid ink. Much as curiosity killed the cat, the Kolkata girl ventured into the noxious world of inhalant addiction when she found her classmates at it.
From 8-10 bottles a day she moved to anti-anxiety drugs, alcohol and ganja. A drug regime made possible by her father's premature death, her mother's workload as the sole bread-winner and the lack of supervision at home. The 20-year-old today is free of drugs, but what happened to her is a quintessential sign of the times. "Whiteners contain toluene, an addictive solvent used in paints, chemicals, pharma and rubber industries," says Dr Anju Dhawan, assistant professor, NDDTC-AIIMS.
"They have inherent properties that lead to repeat use and euphoria. But prolonged 'sniffing' or 'huffing' of Toluene can cause permanent brain damage and death." The Vidyasagar Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-Sciences (VIMHANS) in Delhi gets about 10-14 cases a week. "These bottles, available at around Rs 26 at any stationery shop are within easy access of children," says psychiatrist Dr Jitendra Nagpal. "They should be banned." Onetime star vocalist, Rabiul Islam, a UNODC resource in Assam, reports rampant use of glue, like Dendrite, among pre-teens in a recent survey.
School children seem to be experimenting with a whole range of drugs. A 2010 study on 2,000 Shimla school students by the NGO Youth Enlightening the Society along with Indira Gandhi Medical College, points in that direction: over 55 per cent boys and 24 per cent girls are regular drug users, with 29 per cent hooked to cannabis, cough syrups and opium. Abhishek Verma, 21, who started "sniffing" at the age of 15, certainly understands why: "It was cool, rebellious and heady. I could do it in class and the teacher wouldn't know. Soon I became the most popular person in school," says the son of a doctor couple who still hasn't managed to come to terms with his addiction.
Age 15 emerges as the most vulnerable age of initiation in yet another study at five professional colleges of Berhampur in Orissa in 2008, where peer pressure pushed 59 per cent students toward drug abuse. In a 2004 study at two premier medical colleges in Kolkata, "friends" emerged as the primary influencers with 47 per cent students who are into problematic drug use. Chandan Saikia, 36, of Guwahati, Assam, lost the love of his life, cricket, and his budding vocation as a cricketer to stress and peer pressure. The former student of Cotton College started to experiment with pharma drugs while representing the state at various places. "We used to try drugs at team parties just for fun," he says.
Psychedelic lights, smoke, dry ice fog and hundreds of young people dancing to the sledgehammer thumping of techno music. Yet another all-night dance party? Not just. Check the supplies in the "cool down" area. If you find a strange assortment of vicks vaporubs, eye drops, surgical masks, lollipops, lots of water, juice, soft drinks-and no alcohol-it's a rave. The parapharnelia is there to camouflage the drug, enhance or control its effects. But every city has its poison of choice: Delhi gets high on ecstasy, Mumbai swears by ice, ketamine is Chennai's poison, Lucknow raves on yaba and Calcutta dotes on meth.
The bottom-line is: they are all amphetamine-type stimulants-the second most commonly used drug globally, ahead of cocaine and opiates, says WDR 2010. Way back in 2004, when the MSJE published the only national survey on drug abuse, The Extent, Pattern and Trends of Drug Abuse in India, about 0.2 per cent were ATS abusers out of 81,802 of treatment-seekers. "Synthetic drugs are particularly attractive to young people," says Dr Arindam Mondal, consultant psychiatrist and a de-addiction specialist with Apollo Gleneagles Hospitals, Kolkata, "They bring down social inhibitions, produce a sense of high energy, cleverness and competence."
New drugs demand new supply chains. One dewy February morning this year saw Yogesh Deshmukh, the deputy director general of Narcotics Control Bureau, and his team checking every compartment of a train at the New Delhi railway station. He had received a tip-off about a Nigerian man in possession of heroin. His team located the man in one of the compartments. The search, however, revealed just a few door-stoppers. He insisted that he worked for a company that manufactured those. But when Deshmukh broke them down, each was found to carry heroin. "Concealment is the trend as illicit drugs become a part of everyday life," he says.
"We have busted several clandestine labs manufacturing synthetic drugs, quite a few Internet pharmacies and courier companies, which are the major modus operandi now." Without strict laws to enforce selling of drugs by prescription, it's hard to crack down on the chemical high surging across the country, he explains.
"There are about 70 million drug users in the country," goes the official line. But that figure comes from the first and last national survey on drug abuse in India, carried out in 2000-01 and published in 2004. The most common drugs of abuse then were ganja, hashish, opium and heroin. ATS and prescription drugs were not large enough to deserve scrutiny. Women and children were kept out too. And a "drug addict" meant the man on the street-homeless, dispossessed, of the criminal fringe. A profile distant enough for middle and affluent India not to be overtly worried about. Ten years have gone by.
In absence of national studies, "70 million" is still being touted as the magic number. Meantime, opium and heroin are on a slide. Synthetic drugs are muscling in. What's more, they are being manufactured surreptitiously across the country. The "new urban junkie" has got a whole new profile: young, educated, working, upper and middle classes. The new affordable, discrete drugs appeal to them both recreationally and occupationally. It's a new landscape that's staring India in the face. Unfortunately, it might just take a long time for a nation busy thumbing the pages of the past to make sense of a new reality calling for urgent attention.

Background screening cos get a fillip post 26/11
Business Line, Mumbai, Nov. 28
Last year's terrorist attacks in Mumbai seems to have given a fillip to background screening companies in India that have stepped up hiring in order to cater to the increase in demand for their services.
Moreover, verification agencies are also seeing interest from small enterprises, hospitals and educational intuitions, which have traditionally seen background screening and checking of employees as additional cost and not as an investment in ensuring safety.
First Advantage, the largest background verification agency in the country, has added over 300 new customers in the last one year alone, according to Mr Ashish Dehade, Managing Director, West Asia. To service the new customers, First Advantage expects to almost double its headcount in India to 1,200 by this year-end as against 600 exactly a year ago.
“Corporates have realised that no building, institution or hotel is safe from terrorist attacks. And they have realised that background checks could be a first line of defence against potential attacks,” he said.
Employee screening, considered critical in emerging markets due to lack of criminal databases, involves hiring an external agency to conduct personal and background checks.
It may be recalled that in the aftermath of the attacks at the Taj Mahal Hotel, media reports indicated involvement of two employees in the Housekeeping Department of the hotel. Though the company later denied the report, the entire chain of events seems to have been taken up seriously by the Indian industry.
Says Ms Nipa Modi, CEO of CRP HR Services, “Last year around the same time we did not have a single customer (for background screening) in the hospitality sector. Now, we have four hospitality chains who have signed up with us.”
Stepping up hiring
In the last three months alone, CRP HR Services has increased its employee base by 10-15 per cent. It now has about 550 employees on its rolls. Earlier, companies would only conduct checks on new hires. Now, they are conducting random checks, not only on their employees but also on the temporary staff who would be on the payroll of third party companies.
Outling the importance of background screening, Mr TV Mohandas Pai, Member of the board of Infosys Technologies, said: “There have been disturbing reports of people grouping up and sympathising with the perpetrators of violence and hence background screening of staff becomes very crucial.”

Employment Screening is a must for all organizations because of statistical facts on Fake & Fraudulent Job seekers. There are also regulatory requirements in vogue and expected in future which warrants Employee Screening.
Few Facts Pertaining to Prospective Employees:
  • In India 15 – 24 % of resumes are faked.
  • 1 in 3 CV’s misrepresent facts
  • 15 – 17 % in ITE’s / IT industry have discrepancies in the records.
Regulatory Reasons why you need to do Employee Screening:
  • Regulatory Authorities across the world are now looking at making Employee Verification a mandatory requirement.
  • Sarbenes Oxley act has mandated Indian Companies catering to USA, re-look their Fraud Risk assessment of which Employee Screening is an in-separable component.
  • Hong Kong Monetary Authority has mandated banks to do Employment Screening for all Managers.
  • SEBI in India has attempted to raise Risk Management in Indian Companies through Clause 49.
  • Banks as part of Basel II framework will need to put in place a robust perational Risk framework, of which people risk is the most critical component.
The statistics on the consequences of even one bad hire are chilling. The financial costs to businesses from theft, misappropriation and false credentials can be enormous. There are other costs that are hard to measure such as harm to employee morale and the firm’s reputation.
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