The Hush Post: The announcement of Mukesh Ambani’s yet to be built Jio Institute as an Institute of Eminence (IoE) has become a butt of jokes in government circles as well as on twitter. Questions are being raised as to how an educational institute which has not been built been given the status of ‘Institute of Eminence.’
The HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar had tweeted about the IoE status to universities on July 9. He came up with the FAQ document highlighting government’s provisions for providing “Eminence” status to Ambani’s Jio Institute on July 10.
A parody Twitter account started a few days back by an anonymous user in the name @Jioinstitute has officially reached 16,000 followers and ridicules the government decision to include the institute as IoE.
Were the rules and regulations framed in a manner that only Mukesh Ambani’s proposed institute could have fulfilled the conditions. Ten other private institutes had applied in the ‘greenfield’ category (the new institutes which are yet to be built are put in this category) which included Airtel for Bharti University, Anil Agarwal’s Vedanta for a university in Odisha and KREA university (which has former RBI governor Raghuram Rajan as an advisor), Indian School of Business, Hyderabad, Indus Tech University in Delhi and Acharya Institutes of Bangalore.
In a presentation to the government, a few days back, Ambani had himself led his eight-member team including his education adviser Vinay Sheel Oberoi, former Secretary in the Human Resource Development Ministry.
In 2016 when the IoE scheme, then called the World Class Institutes programme, was announced, Oberoi was secretary, higher education, at HRD ministry. The finer points of the plan were discussed through 2016 when Oberoi was at the helm of affairs.
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Oberoi, a 1979-batch IAS officer, retired in February 2017 and was helmed in by Reliance after March 2018, after his cooling-off period or break ended. A break of a year after retirement from government service before taking up any commercial job offers is mandatory for IAS officers.
The Institute of Eminence (IoE) regulations were only announced in September 2017, after Oberoi had retired in February that year. The empowered government expert committee (EEC) chaired by ex-chief election commissioner N Gopalaswami was set up in February this year and the first presentations began in April.
The EEC observed that since there are no achievements by which to assess a greenfield institution, it had to assess potential on the basis of information relating to the promoter group, its financial standing, commitment of finances and infrastructure for new projects besides leadership reputation and thus arrive at the “soundness of the proposal and the chances of it achieving the desired IoE goals.”
While talking to The Quint news website, Gopalaswami said, “The greenfield category institutions will be issued letters of intent for three years within which to commence academic operations for the notification declaring them IoE to be issued. If they fail, he said, the committee can recommend cancellation of the IoE status. This sets them apart from other institutions”.
The government granted “Institutions of Eminence” (IoEs) status to IIT-Delhi, IIT-Bombay and the Bengaluru-based Indian Institute of Science (IISc) in the public sector, and Manipal Academy of Higher Education, BITS Pilani and Jio Institute by Reliance Foundation in the private sector.
The HRD Ministry clarified that Jio was granted the Greenfield status for new institutes since it fulfilled all parameters. The Jio Institute is to be set up on an 800-acre campus in Karjat in Maharashtra and is the only to have been picked in that classification.
According to the proposal submitted to the Ministry of HRD about the institute, it pointed out that the sponsoring organisation Reliance was India’s largest private sector company and the largest corporate spender on social initiatives. It said it had a deep relationship with 50 top universities and had experience of running top educational institutes including Dhirubhai Ambani Foundation Schools and other institutes in which the foundation was involved like the Dhirubhai Ambani Institute of Information and Communication Technology, Pandit Deen Dayal Petroleum University and IIM Bangalore.
The IoEs would get eminent educators and global thoughts leaders including Nobel Laureates. It said that it would get top faculty members from top 500 global universities, autonomy in teaching and research, a fully residential university city for faculty and their families.
While the Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry will grant Rs 1,000 crore funds to the three public institutions in the next five years, the private institutes will not be eligible for government funding.
(Siddharth Mehta, the writer is a freelance contributor to The HushPost)