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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 33 New Delhi August 4, 2018

JIO: The Case of Pre-Born Eminence

Tuesday 7 August 2018

by Navneet Sharma and Showkat Ahmad Mir

For the child (male!) to be pre-eminent there should beGarbhadhan samskara. For this is the time of Kali and everyone is sudra. For an ‘abhijatya’ garbhadhana is unavoidable.
— Srimad Bhagvatam-4:31:10 purport

(IoE tag) This will facilitate them to grow more rapidly and at the same time they will get more opportunity to scale up their operations with more skills and quality improvement so that they become world class Institutes.
— Prakash Javdekar, Minister, HRD, GoI

The vedic Government of India, which was perturbed with the anti-national character of higher education heralded by the likes of the JNUs and AMUs, has done garbhadhan to embark upon a new journey to envision a nationalist higher education for the Jio-institute/university/foundation (!). The mighty government has gifted one thousand crore rupees as ‘shagun’ in the garbhadhansamskara. This was done in the garb of selecting an institute of eminence amongst the higher education institutions. This pre-born samskara for the Jio institute could be expected from only that government which hails and shouts the loudest about the nation’s welfare (RashitrahitSarvopari). As the adage goes, patriotism is the virtue of the vicious. In this commentary, we will not attempt to comprehend the un-comprehensible that how a government thumping a fifty-six inch chest on nationalism and Hindu nationalism could so brazenly succumb to such a level of moral corruption and pressures of poll funding for 2019. In this commentary we will only highlight the apathy of the government, which promised to create two crore jobs (annually) and workers through Skill India, has taken what Amartya Sen says, ‘a quantum jump in the wrong direction’. In this country there are Central universities which are unable to get land for the last ten years since their inception and here is a university/institute on paper which not only gets the tag of eminence but one thousand crores in the next five years.

Jio Institute: Yet to be Born

Is the idea of comparing an existing institution with a record of achievements to a non-existent institute rational? What is the idea of existence for the government? Are non-existing institutions more important than existing institutions? Is education in India used for promoting hegemony and hierarchy? These are some chicken-egg questions which open up different perspectives to understand the current decision of the Indian Government about granting the status of eminence to a non-existent Jio institution. The Government of India granted the “Institution of Eminence” status to three public and three private educational institutions. The plan for selecting Institutions of Eminence was first announced by the Finance Minister, Arun Jaitley, in his Budget speech in 2016. Then, the plan was to ‘pick’ twenty public and private institutions and make them administratively autonomous. The government institutions
with the tag of eminence would get special funding of One Thousand Crore over the next five years, and the private organisations will simultaneously get academic and administrative autonomy.

Among the six institutions, the Jio Institute has been selected under the “Greenfield Category” of new institutions and beats ten other competitors. How did the Ministry/experts arrive at this categorisation? Was a category created to benefit a peculiar institution? There is a ‘Brownfield’ category also. Only the committee knows what it means. We are not commenting on the constituent members and their academic profiles. They are like what Gajendra Chauhan is to the FTII or Rajat Sharma is to cricket in regard to the selection of institutions. The HRD Ministry said that theexpert committee had adopted four parameters for judging them: 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 Ministry said the committee found that only the Jio Institute had fulfilled all the parameters out of the eleven applicants. It is left to us to wonder whether Nita Ambani as the Chancellor of this proposed institution can be bracketed as one with very high qualification and with wide experience in academic administration.

In this regard former Chief Election Commissioner N. Gopalaswami, who was the chairperson of the expert committee to select institutions, argued that we were asked to select ten public and ten private institutes to bag the tag of the ‘institutions of eminence’ but we could not find twenty. Javedekar further went on to the next level by stating: “The selection of Institutions of Eminence will not only improve the quality of education but will also propel competition in the entire education sector.” Granting the status of eminence can/might be considered fruitful in promoting quality; yet the eminence tag to the Jio Institute is quite surprising because the Jio Institute gets unparalleled freedom from the government’s higher education regulations from its very birth.

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 facilities comparable with that of globally reputed institutions”. But how would you expect such things from the institution which has not yet born? The Jio Institute has none of these features as 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 Bombay, the Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, the Birla Institute of Technology at Pilani, Rajasthan, which was set up in 1964, and the Manipal Academy of Higher Education, which began with the Kasturba Medical College in 1953.

Gopalaswami also argued: “We considered the eligibility criteria carefully and we could not find 20 institutes that we felt would be able to find a place among top 500 global rankings in ten years.” So how you could suppose that a rank in top class world institutions will be fetched by a non-existing institute? You cannot claim that you could not pick 20 institutions because they had an unimpressive track record and then pick one that does not has any. The inclusion of Reliance makes the whole thing look crooked. It is standing out like a sore thumb. There are other Greenfield universities in the nation with their ‘existence’. The government either wishes to play to the tunes of their behind-the-curtain bosses or wants to strengthen the haves of the society.

Higher Education in India: The Sorry Affair

Before commenting on the nexus between capitalism and religious nationalism let us appreciate the status and spate of higher education in India. The GoI, which claims to be running a welfare state of India, has shown how neglected education and higher education in particular are in contemporary times.

|Universities|Total number|

Central Universities 47
State Universities 384
Private Universities 296
Deemed to be Universities 123
Total 850


India has the second largest education system in the world which includes 47 Central universities, 384 State universities, 296 private universities and 123 deemed to be universities. With one non-existent institution, in totality India has 851 universities and 40,000 higher education institutions which together cater to 3.3 crore students, over 70 per cent of whom are studying either in private universities or opting for unaided courses offered by the State universities largely due to the skewed number of seats in public institutions. So, instead of promoting a non-existent institute, the Government of India needs to invest more in State-funded institutions to make higher education affordable and accessible to the middle and lower class population.


India, besides having such large educational structure, lacks strategies to promote education for the down-trodden and to compete on global level. The amount of money India spent on education is not sufficient. The truth lies bare in history. The Kothari Commission had recommended 6 per cent of GDP for education in1966, yet it still seems a dream. Spending on education as share from the Central Government in the total Budget has been falling for the past three years compared to 2013-14. In the last year of the UPA-II Government, education got 4.57 per cent of the GDP for expenditure. The above bar diagram clearly reflects that in comparison to 2013-2014, there has been steady decline in expenditure in 2016-2017 to 3.65 per cent. So, India has decreased its spending on education from 4.4 per cent of the GDP in 1999 and 4.57 per cent in 2013-2014 to around 3.71 per cent as per last year’s Budget estimate, undermining the work done in getting more children into school and its prospects for improving its poor quality of education.

According to one report, 35 per cent of faculty posts are vacant in IITs and 53 per cent in Central universities. The government needs to show the same enthusiasm in filling these positions as it showed for granting thousand crores to the Jio Institute. The report also highlighted that most of the Centrally funded institutions including the IITs, NITs and Central universities, are conducting classes with over one-third vacant faculty positions, the vacancy status for old IITs has been recorded at 39 per cent, new ones are only marginally better at 36 per cent. The NITs are worst affected with 47 per cent vacancies. In fact 14-20 old NITs have 40 per cent and more vacancies, while four of eight old IITs have the same vacancy levels. Even IIMs have 26.01 per cent vacancies in faculty recruitment. Among them IIM Indore has 51 per cent vacant positions, followed by Kolkata with 41 per cent.

Among the Central universities, the Central University of Haryana according to HRD records is reeling under 75.11 per cent vacancies as in April 2017, while in the same period Delhi University, notorious for adhoc faculty appointments, recorded a total of 54 per cent vacancies against permanent positions. The University of Hyderabad too has over 64 per cent vacancies to be filled. The report also claims in totality around 5997 faculty positions are vacant in Central universities across the country. The proportion of vacant seats has been increasing as some of the existing faculty members are superannuating. In 40 Central universities across the country, 4807 (46 per cent) associate professor positions and 2421 (55 per cent) professor positions are vacant. Further some Central universities have land disputes, infrastructure problems etc. creating havoc for the teachers, scholars and students. But the Government of India without paying any heed to fill the void of educational infrastructure tilts towards a non-existent institute.

Hinduisation via Privatisation of Education

Mukesh Ambani iss not a newly discovered pedagogue and expert on education. The NDA Government in its earlier avtar has sought guidance from this eminent education expert. The PM’s Council on Trade and Industry, led by the then PM A.B. Vajpayee, constituted ‘a special group on policy framework for private investment in education....’ Mukesh Ambani as convener and Kumarmangalam Birla as member constituted this special subject group. The report as expected suggests ‘operational freedom’ from government regulations in higher education. The Jio institute in offing has been provided that through the ‘Institute of Eminence’ tag. Obviously these institutions will produce what is hailed as ‘weightless goods with high knowledge content rather than material content like entertainment’. (Ambani-Birla Report, 2000) The problem lies with the so-called nationalist government and the cultural organisation at Nagpur lamenting on ‘Macaulay-isation’ of education; how could they allow and digest ‘Sunny Leonne-isation’ of education, where knowledge remains exterior to the knower and is produced, consumed and exchanged as commodity; what will happen to the brave Hindu men?!

The catch lies in another aspect which Justice Punnaya committee and Swaminathan panel have affirmed that privatisation of education will lead to what is inevitable—the fee hike. The fees for access to higher education will be so high that only a select few will be able to cross that barrier for empowerment. Obviously Muslims, Dalits and women will get further marginalised and they are the only bottle-neck in the making of Akhand Hindu Rashtra.

We in this commentary have stopped a little before commenting on the nexus of capitalism, regionalism and fundamentalism. Religion and majoritarianism with it is a suitable dote of capitalism. The government has a dogmatic idea of what ‘knowledge’ is, follows the indoctrinating pedagogy and wants an outcome for colonial measurement of success and research and world ranking. But whatever may be the confusion, it is for sure that a ‘product’ of Jio (private) Institute will not be either a ‘Aryaputraramzada’ or ‘sanatanirashtrabhakta’ but something with ‘survival anxiety’ that will be confused as to whether not to buy a Diwali Chinese lamp or not to take up a job in Bank of China.


Pathak, V. (2018), Six Universities including Jio institute to be institutions of Eminence. Retrieved from:

Ravi, S. (2015), ‘Impact of Privatisation of Education in Indian Society’, Journal of Culture, Society and Development, an international peer-reviewed journal.

Sanyal, A. (2018), ‘Government defends top billing for jio institute, yet to be born’,

Scroll. In, (2018), Reliance University gets status of eminence but yet to be set up. Retrieved from:

The Right to Education Initiative (RTE), (2018), Privatisation of Education and Right to Education. Retrieved from:—education

UGC-Expenditure on Higher Education, Retrieved from: https://Www.Ugc.Ac.In/Stats.Aspx

Varma, S. (2017), Share of spend in government expenditure GDP on education. Retrieved from: expendituregdponeducationfallingfor3years/articleshow/56991039.cms?

Navneet Sharma, PhD, is an Assistant Professor, Dept of Teacher Education, School of Education, Central University of Himchal Pradesh, Dharamshala and Showkat Ahmad Mir is a research scholar at the Dept of Teacher Education, School of Education, Central University of Himchal Pradesh, Dharamshala

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