Recently, I had to submit an application for approval as a “research guide” to a university. I discovered that the application process had not changed after all these years! I read all the small print and started following the instructions one by one till, at one point, I got stumped! I was supposed to enclose a copy of my doctoral certificate, attested by a Gazetted officer.
Who makes the rank?
For this, my Director (Vice-Chancellor equivalent rank) would not do, nor would the nearby bank manager. The nearest government offices being some distance away, my search finally ended with the husband of the young lady officer in a bank. He is a lecturer in the government-run engineering college and is a Gazetted officer.
Here I am, a full professor and occupying one of the highest academic ranks and yet my doctoral degree certificate has to be attested by a lecturer in the nearby college. I am quite a democratic fellow and do not set much store by rank. But the irony of the situation did not escape me and set me thinking.
I remember my older siblings and myself doing this when we were students. Attestation started at a time before photocopying was invented. So people made copies of documents (in earlier days, by hand) or got it typed. This was a long-drawn-out process involving many carbon-sheets and backing paper and typing words such as emblem and seal in brackets. Then you searched for the nearest Gazetted officer and waited till his junior was free. He would compare, in great detail, your original with the copy. He would then initial and return it.
Then the Gazetted officer would sign in green ink and give it back to you with good wishes for your application. Finally, the peon would rubber stamp the attested copy.
I can understand the purpose of attestation in those days. Documents could be tampered with by making very small changes in numbers or initials. A typist could make serious mistakes and this may not be noticed by the applicant. The government would be forced to rescind its decision when it got hold of the original. Perfectly understandable that the government should not waste time dealing with people without required eligibility.
But such errors are unlikely today when perfect copies are available by photocopying. The only valid reason, even today, for attestation is that in some smaller towns, photocopying facilities are not available or too expensive and a typist still makes the copy. Surely the government can make the distinction between photocopying and typed copies? And expect only typed copies to be attested? The real reason why this continues today is that no one in the government has done any thinking about the reason for it, or is simply not bothered to make any changes.
(The author is Professor, Goa Institute of Management, Goa. email@example.com)