Published: 21st September 2018
Should embryonic crowning be criticised? The Jio Institute controversy provides scope for debate
On June 10, the Minister of Human Resource Development, Prakash Javadekar, announced the names of six institutions of higher education that have been granted the status of ‘Institution of Eminence
We really need to get over this love with foetuses and start worrying about children — Joycelyn Elders, first African-American Surgeon General of USA.
For the uninitiated, a foetus is a prenatal human between the embryonic stage and birth. Robert Krulwich (b 1947), an American radio and TV journalist, said, “A seed, after all, is an embryo, a potential plant waiting for its moment to grow. It has what it needs to begin. But it can also put itself on pause. It can wait.” But not all are willing to wait and there are people or institutions helping them in their hurry. But we must start with the facts, as reported in the media.
On June 10, 2018, the Minister of Human Resource Development, Prakash Javadekar, announced the names of six institutions of higher education that have been granted the status of ‘Institution of Eminence’. One of them was Jio Institute, an institution proposed to be set up by Reliance Foundation, led by Nita Ambani. With this, the Jio Institute gets unprecedented freedom from the government’s higher education regulations right from its birth. And there is a hefty government subsidy. In the government’s view, an Institution of Eminence should offer interdisciplinary courses and conduct research in ‘areas of emerging technology’. It must have a mix of foreign and Indian students and faculty, with ‘student amenities comparable with that of globally reputed institutions’.
The Jio Institute has none of these. It does not even exist. Yet, it has been declared an ‘Institution of Eminence’, at par with the Indian Institutes of Technology at Delhi and Mumbai, the Indian Institute of Science in Bengaluru, the Birla Institute of Technology at Pilani, which was set up in 1964, and the Manipal Academy of Higher Education, which began with Kasturba Medical College in 1953.
This announcement provoked a chorus of opposition and adverse comments. The Ministry of Human Resource Development responded to the criticism with a six-page document to the media, containing some general ideas about the proposed Jio Institute — it intends to be the ‘youngest global top 100 universities’ and will ‘empower students to learn and excel in their chosen disciplines and empower faculty’. The official also pointed out that the government’s policy allowed greenfield institutions –—essentially new projects — to apply.
The controversy erupted in the Parliament on July 26, 2018, where Prakash Javadekar clarified that ‘only a Letter of Intent’ has been issued to Jio Institute, which is among three private sector institutions selected by the government for the ‘Institution of Eminence’ category of educational establishments. “A Letter of Intent has been issued to only one institution, namely Jio Institute, under the ‘greenfield category’ for setting up an ‘Institution of Eminence Deemed-to-be-University’ in the next three years,” the Minister said during the Question Hour. To a query on whether the HRD Ministry would reconsider the decision with regard to Jio Institute, Javadekar said it has “nothing to do with the government.”
For lack of space, the widespread criticism of this embryonic crowning has been skipped. There could be a miscarriage or abortion along the way. The cards are on the table for the discerning readers.