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How Did Jio Get The Eminence Tag? With A Little Help From Its Friends

The rules also highlight that they were designed in a manner that clearly gave a upper hand to the Ambanis.

The timings of the government notification for the ‘Institution of Eminence’ status and incorporation of Reliance Foundation Institution Of  Education And Research raise some serious doubts. The rules also highlight that they were designed in a manner that clearly gave a upper hand to the Ambanis.

The Rules under which the ‘Institution of Eminence’ tag was to be awarded by the Union government were notified on August 29, 2017. The UGC issued a press release inviting proposals for the ‘Institution of Eminence’ status on September 12, 2017. A simple search on the Ministry of Corporate Affairs website reveals that interestingly, on the same day, the Reliance Foundation Institution Of  Education And Research (RFIER) was incorporated as a Section 8 company under the Companies Act.

According to the rules, to be eligible for the tag, the collective net worth of the ‘members of sponsoring organization’ should be over Rs 5,000 crore. It is noteworthy that these rules already state that yet-to-be established private institutes should have “an initial corpus fund of Rs 60 crore which would be increased at an annual uniform rate to Rs 150 crore in 10 years time and guaranteed pipeline of Rs 500 crore, along with a credible plan for additional Rs 1000 crore.”

If such a provision is already present for the institute, including a provision that requires net worth of the ‘members of sponsoring organization’ to be as high as Rs 5,000 crore, the legitimate question that is being asked is whether this was put in place so that only a very few rich institutions would be able to qualify.

In a Business Standard report, it is mentioned that in a clarification dated July 9, the MHRD had stated that one of the reasons for granting the said tag to Jio university was “availability of land for constructing the institution”. But, the rules only require an “in-principle commitment from the concerned persons to make available adequate land for the development of the institution of eminence deemed to be university.”

Since the plans submitted by the Jio Institute as well as other applicants have not been made public, it is not known if the Jio Institute possesses such land.

According to Economic Times, Jio Institute’s presentation before the government committee of experts was led by Mukesh Ambani, who had Vinay Sheel Oberoi in his team. The latter was a secretary at the HRD Ministry and only retired in February, 2017. The scheme under which the IoE tag is being awarded was first announced as the ‘World Class Institute programme’ in 2016, when Oberoi was still in office.

MHRD has clarified that these private universities will not be receiving any financial aid, but it is important to note that institutions granted such tag would be allowed to decide the fee structure and would not face any any regulation of fee by the government. Also, while the institute would have to admit Indian students on a transparent and merit based system, it would be allowed to admit foreign students (upto 30 per cent of the strength of domestic students) as per its internal policies alone.

The creation of the ‘greenfield institutions’ category for new institutes along with these details, make it clear that the allegations of crony capitalism against the BJP government at the centre, are not without justification.