• An Educational Institute Yet to be Established Becomes an Institute of Eminence under Modi’s India

    ICF Team

    July 10, 2018

    On Monday, Prakash Javadekar, the Union Minister of Human Resource Development, announced the names of six institutions of higher education, three from public and three from the private sector, that have been granted the status of “Institution of Eminence”. The list of universities included Jio University — an educational venture undertaken by Reliance, about which there is no information in the public domain — along with IIT Bombay, IIT Delhi, IISc Bangalore, BITS Pilani and Manipal University. The last two, along with Jio University, are private institutes and the rest are public universities.

     

     

     

    While five of the universities are functioning universities, Jio University has not even been established. There is no information about it except for Nita Ambani’s remarks at an event in March 2018, describing the university in the future tense, “[This is] a university from the gates of which will emerge our future leaders, our musicians, our scientists, and our Olympians…Building such a university is our dream at Reliance Foundation”, she had said.

    MHRD’s decision is facing a lot of criticism, given the Reliance Foundation’s CEO, Mukesh Ambani’s closeness to the Prime Minister, Narendra Modi. Several people have begun questioning Prakash Javadekar on multiple social media platforms. The Congress has also accused the BJP government of favouring Nita and Mukesh Ambani and questioned the basis of granting such a status to a university that doesn’t even exist yet.

     

     

     

    Teachers from various other universities also condemned MHRD’s decision.

     

     

    On Tuesday, the Delhi University Teachers’ Association (DUTA) passed a resolution objecting to the MHRD’s decision of according Jio University the tag of “Institution of Eminence”. Nandita Narain, the former President of DUTA, also called the recent move “bizarre” in a telephonic conversation with the Indian Cultural Forum.

     

     

    MHRD had set up an Empowered Expert Committee (EEC) to select 20 Institutions of Eminence, 10 from private and 10 from the public sector, which would gain complete academic and administrative autonomy. The EEC, however, chose only six institutions, out of which, one is non-existent. When faced with the question of how the EEC chose Jio University as an Institute of Excellence, the MHRD issued a statement defending its decision.

     

     

    The MHRD responded to the criticism by “clarifying” that Jio University was accorded the coveted tag under the “greenfield” category – a category for new or proposed institutions that are yet to come into existence. The statement released by the MHRD further clarified that they had received eleven applications for consideration. The expert committee had adopted four parameters for judging: the availability of land, a core team with “very high qualification and wide experience”, available funding, and a strategic vision plan with clear annual milestones and action plan. “The Committee has come to a(sic) conclusion that out of the (11) applications, only Jio Institute has satisfied all the (4) parameters stated above, and hence was recommended for issuing a Letter of intent for setting up an Institute of Eminence”, the MHRD stated.

    Amidst all the controversies, a parody Twitter account @JioInstitute is providing much needed humour.

     

     

    Jio Institute is set up by Reliance Foundation, whose CEO, Mukesh Ambani is known to be close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.  In fact, Modi was part of the promotions for Jio Network, another project by the Reliance Foundation, inspite of The Emblems and Names (Prevention of Improper Use) Act, 1950, which prohibits using the name or pictorial representation of the Prime Minister of India for professional and commercial purposes. JNU professor Ayesha Kidwai, in a conversation with PTI, called this a conflict of interest: “[Jio University] doesn’t have a campus, a website or any alumni and it has left behind prominent IITs, as well as private players like Ashoka University and OP Jindal Global University. It is yet to be established but will already be marketed as a world class institution by the government. Can’t we see the conflict of interest?”

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