A number of prominent academicians today alleged that overriding of guidelines for selection of ‘Institutions of Eminence’ by the Prime Minister’s Office was an “unethical” and “shameful” step, saying it appeared like “crony capitalism” to benefit certain private players. Citing replies to its RTI queries, ‘The Indian Express’ newspaper has reported there was a strong difference of opinion within the government over autonomy, finances, student-teacher ratio, flexibility of course structure, accountability and regulatory powers for such institutions.
While the HRD Ministry and Finance Ministry wanted stringent norms on accountability, penalties, financial commitment, land availability and expertise, the PMO (Prime Minister’s Office) wanted lenient norms and intervened accordingly, as per the report.
The RTI responses reportedly also showed that the Finance Ministry had told the HRD Ministry that the eminence tag to non-existent institute defied logic, hurts education ecosystem.
“It is a move towards complete privatisation and end of academic action. To tag Jio as Institute of Eminence is crony capitalism. It is completely unethical and they are geared towards profit,” JNU professor Nivedita Menon said. “They (government) are selling every single bit of the country including education which is very shameful,” she added.
In July, the HRD Ministry announced granting of ‘Institution of Eminence’ tag to six institutions including Reliance Foundation’s Jio Institute which is yet to be established. The decision to grant the status to Jio drew sharp criticism from various quarters. Facing criticism over selection of Jio Institute as an “Institution of Eminence”, the HRD Ministry had earlier said the tag was conditional and it was given only a letter of intent for now.
Rajib Ray, President of Delhi University Teachers’ Association (DUTA) said, “This is not surprising for us as in the country everything is being run by the PMO. There is centralisation of power and the institutions that are supposed to be running the education system of the country have surrendered their autonomy. They only exist on paper”.
Rajya Sabha MP and DU Professor Manoj Jha said, “Overruling the concerns raised by HRD, PMO acted otherwise and that tells all of us regarding the new paradigm shift in policy making.”
“It only vindicates what all of us ahd been flagging that this is one government which shall always prefer pampering crony capitalists and their yet-to-be born instituions at the cost of eminent public institutions of repute,” Jha added.
Several other academicians and experts, as also opposition leaders, had earlier criticised the government move and are now speaking against the reported ‘overriding’ of the guidelines by the PMO.
Besides Jio Institute, the IoE status has been granted to IISc (Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru), IIT-Delhi, IIT-Bombay, BITS-Pilani and Manipal Academy of Higher Education.