Of the Ambanis, by the Ambanis and for the Ambanis!
Who is the vice-chancellor of your university?
Not yet finalised.
Who are the faculties?
No faculties as yet.
What will be taught in the university?
Good, now your university will be the one of the Institutes of Eminence.
In the above presentation, the interviewer was former Chief Election Commissioner N Gopalaswami while the interviewee was none other than Reliance Industries chairman Mukesh Ambani. The presentation for Reliance Foundation though was led by Vinay Sheel Oberoi, a former secretary of higher education at HRD ministry in 2016 when the IoE scheme (it was named World Class Institutes programme then) was tabled in the Union budget.
It was not the presence of Oberoi that mattered most but it was Mr Ambani who led from the front to clinch the ‘eminent’ tag, according to reports. It is a general practice for any registration process to have name and proper documentation before applying. And that’s done by every authority. It’s not clear whether these ‘most important’ points were discussed at length or at least tossed up to the richest man in the country during the presentation.
A pertinent question as to how on earth an institute gets a top billing even before its existence? Did the expert committee resign to fate following orders from the bosses? It cannot be said with certainty, but the general repercussion is that Jio Institute has been favoured beyond limits to go ahead with their so-called dream project.
Among many other eminent institutions in the country, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kharagpur and Kanpur have been dropped from list of eminent institutes for which the University Grants Commission (UGC) has already clarified that the Jio Institute was chosen under the rules of greenfield institutions which had another 11 applications for the same.
UGC apart, Human Resource Development (HRD) minister Prakash Javadekar quickly promptly came to the rescue and announced that the selection was done by an experts’ panel. The NDA alliance government at the Centre thinks they washed their hands off the controversy by saying that. Instead it only gave the opposition enough ammo to take the Modi government head on.
However, the criticisms of such a development are not uncalled for. It was to come following the way the Ambanis and Adanis have been favoured by the dispensation for the last four years. Giving someone acres of land in virtually no price to the sanction of a university that doesn’t exist will come to haunt the government in the future in more ways than one.
Apart from its flipsides, this biased favouritism too will have a bigger significance for the men in power. The 2019 general elections is not even a year away and this may be seen as government’s desperate attempt to turn the tide in its favour come what may. The major ingredient for success in polls is money and the ruling BJP made no mistake in virtually acknowledging that with this call.
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The opposition also, is not in unison while countering this move by the ruling government. Few are undecided about the repercussion as the elections are only round the corner. Antagonising the Amabanis is not everyone’s cup of tea, particularly in the election year. Congress has feebly countered it but the jibe wasn’t as hard it should have been. The smaller parties seem least bothered as they are unsure of the fallout in case their criticisms are pointed towards the most powerful man in India currently.
With no clarity on what the ‘eminent institute’ would offer to the students, this endorsement from the government’s side though proved one thing – the government is of the Ambanis, by the Ambanis and for the Ambanis. Hope it doesn’t train students how to make pakora.