Ashoka University campus in Sonipat | AshokaUniversity/Facebook
Ashoka University campus in Sonipat | Photo: AshokaUniversity/Facebook
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IB brands 9 private universities, including Ashoka, Krea, Azim Premji, OP Jindal, as being critical of PM Narendra Modi and his government.

New Delhi: The Modi government has been hesitating to give institute of eminence (IoE) status to several top private universities — including Ashoka University, KREA and Azim Premji University — after the Intelligence Bureau (IB) said that those associated with the institutions have been critical of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the ruling BJP.

The IB sent its inputs in a note to the Human Resource Development Ministry, headed by Prakash Javadekar, last month.

The note, accessed by ThePrint, describes the vice-chancellor of Ashoka University, Pratap Bhanu Mehta, as an unrelenting critic of the government. The university’s chairman, board of trustees, and founder Ashish Dhawan, it adds, “also fund anti-government propaganda sites like the Wire.in”.

Private equity investor and philanthropist Dhawan is on the board of the Independent Public Spirited Media Foundation (IPSMF), which promotes excellence in independent, public spirited and socially impactful journalism. The Wire is among publications funded by IPSMF.

IPSMF has also provided financial support to ThePrint for the purpose of reporting and publishing stories of public interest.


Also read: Ashoka University slammed for teaching ‘anti-Hindu, anti-Brahmin’ book


The board at KREA University, which is yet to begin operations, includes former RBI governor Raghuram Rajan, who has been “critical of the government”, says the IB note.

The document also notes that one of the members of the university’s governing council, Anu Aga, had once said in a speech that “Modi did little to stop the rioters in Gujarat”.

As for Azim Premji University, the IB note says that Azim Premji Philanthropic Initiatives Limited, tech giant Wipro’s philanthropic arm, has been funding The Wire through a public charitable trust. The note also mentions that the university, in a study, had highlighted the growing fund crunch in the MGNREGA scheme for rural employment.

“At the Wipro earthian awards 2016, Premji said: ‘Smart city projects today is more talk than action. It has got a lot of traction from the Prime Minister, but its implementation has been very shallow’,” the note adds.


Also read: No, Azim Premji jobs report does not use erroneous data to study employment in India


Reached for comment, higher education secretary in the HRD ministry, R. Subrahmanyam, told ThePrint: “The report of the EEC (Empowered Expert Committee) would be considered in the UGC meeting on 29 January.”

Subrahmanyam did not comment on the Intelligence Bureau report. However, after ThePrint report was published, he denied the existence of such a report through a tweet.

The University Grants Commission is yet to respond to a request for comment from ThePrint. This report will be updated when it does.

A new class of universities

The three universities are among nine private institutions about which the IB has made adverse remarks in the note. The nine are among 12 private and seven public institutes that have made it to the second list of institutions picked for the IoE tag.

They were shortlisted last month following the recommendations of the EEC headed by former chief election commissioner N. Gopalaswami.

The first set of institutions were given the IoE tag last July.

The IoE tag will get public institutions Rs 1,000 crore in funding from the government over a period of five years, while private ones will get complete autonomy from regulators.

The UGC will have to approve the recommendations at a meeting attended by senior HRD ministry officials.


Also read: No IITs, JNU in Institute of Eminence 2nd list, Raghuram Rajan-backed university makes cut


Government sources told ThePrint that the delay in approval for the above-mentioned universities and institutions is due to the IB note, which has been shared with “higher quarters”.

The government’s efforts at creating a new class of universities with the IoE tag had created a controversy in July when the status was awarded to Reliance Foundation’s Jio Institute, which is yet to be built.

Jio Institute was awarded the eminence status along with IIT-Bombay, IIT-Delhi, IISc Bangalore, and private players BITS Pilani and Manipal University. A total of 30 institutions are expected to get this tag in phases.

The ghosts of Gujarat

Another institute that finds mention in the IB note is the Indian Institute for Human Settlements, Bengaluru. The document says that Cyrus Guzder, one of the founders, and chairman C.B. Bhave have been known to fund The Wire.

According to the note, Guzder was among the petitioners who moved the Supreme Court seeking direction that the disputed site of the Babri Masjid-Ram Mandir in Ayodhya be reserved for non-religious public use.

The note also points to an article by him on the Gujarat riots titled ‘Is secularism good for business?’ where he “likened the attacks on Muslim homes to a ‘genocide’”.

The following are the IB’s observations about the other private institutes:

Jamia Hamdard

Chancellor Habil Khorakiwala, according to the note, expressed apprehension about the government’s track record of implementing schemes, citing the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana, a health insurance policy for the poor.

The note states that he pointed towards the shortage of medicines, lack of infrastructure, etc, as a major challenge in rolling out the government’s ambitious Ayushman Bharat scheme. Launched in 2018, Ayushman Bharat subsumed the Rashtriya Swasthya Bima Yojana and a health insurance scheme for senior citizens.

“We are number 10 in medical colleges and number two in pharmacy. These issues should be looked into,” a Jamia Hamdard spokesperson said when reached for comment about the IB note.

Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology, Bhubaneswar

The note states that the institute’s founder, Achyuta Samanta, was elected to the Rajya Sabha from Odisha as a representative of the ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) in April 2018, months after the state initiated legal action against the institute (November 2017), for allegedly violating environmental law. The institute has been accused of encroaching on forest land.

Indian Institute of Public Health, Gandhinagar

The IB note says that the director of the institute, Dileep Mavlankar, was quoted as saying in a December 2017 article that “health indices show ‘Gujarat model’ is in a poor shape”.
“If you lose a war, will you blame the soldiers or general? If services are not receiving [sic], the government has to take responsibility,” he was quoted as saying.

It points out another article, written by Mavlankar in May 2015, headlined “Modi’s health agenda fit to walk not run”.

OP Jindal Global University, Sonipat

Naveen Jindal, the founding chancellor, has “often been in negative news”, the IB note points out. The note says that in the 2013 coal mine allocation scam, the CBI filed a case against Jindal and former coal minister Dasari Narayan Rao for allegedly wrongly allotting mining rights.

Vellore Institute of Technology, Vellore

According to the note, chancellor G. Viswanathan said in July 2018, “Wondering why only three institutions were selected in the private sector — including the yet-to-be-born Jio institute.”

VIT registrar Dr K. Sathiyanarayanan, however, sought to explain Viswanathan’s comment. “It’s not like that. He (chancellor) actually defended the fact that Jio institute has been given the tag under the greenfield category,” he told ThePrint.

The IB note also says that in December 2018, the university was accused of gender discrimination by students.


Also read: Institutes of Eminence tag starts fight between Modi govt panel and HRD ministry


This report has been updated to include HRD ministry’s higher education secretary, R. Subrahmanyam’s denial on Twitter.

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22 Comments Share Your Views

22 COMMENTS

  1. This Institute of Eminence thing is seen as a bit of a joke, when you consider that – 
    “The .. IoE tag .. status was awarded to Reliance Foundation’s Jio Institute, which is yet to be built.” 

    If the relevant government department/ministry merely notified all universities, public and private, as well as the public at large of the criteria for gaining this status, there would be no problems. But then .. how to explain granting the status to an entity that does not exist? 

    On the other hand, judging by the examples given in the article, the criteria for withholding such recognition is perfectly clear & simple – don’t criticise Modi, BJP, and RSS. 

    This is without doubt very wrong, from any point of view!

    But, it does raise the question, Where is the need for an educational institution to criticise a person or a party on political grounds? Political, economic, and social actions of any government may, and should, be taken up for objective discussion by the students! Which will usually show that there is much to be said on both sides! There will never be unanimous agreement for either view. But such an objective understanding of national issues is in fact precisely what higher education is all about. 

    Being pro or anti a person or a party is not any part of the ‘job description’ of the fuculty or of an institution of higher learning! There are other fora for that. 

  2. Foolish article written by so called self proclaimed intellectual. The critic does not mean to always criticise without rhyme or reason without any source information.

  3. What is mentioned as IB report, then submitting such biased report to ministry is not correct. As a democratic country every citizen, organisation have right to criticise the govt, political leaders, ministries and its way of functioning… Governments and it’s handpicked officers should never think of changing the meaning of democracy. Else in future these British brand services may find better managed services entering in their place.

  4. The so called Modi haters were not born in a day. Every intelligent and educated person has seen how this government has misused constitutional institutions in an undemocratic way to build a Nazi-like situation in the country. The intelligent want to stop this and the fooling are mislead to feel proud with hightened nationalist feelings by creating this paranoia of propaganda by some ‘foreign power’.

    The country is going to the dogs as the intelligent are suppressed. Every critic is labeled as propaganda. I know that because I am not funded by anyone but feel the same. Why can’t media organisations feel the same?

    So, what are you? India-intelligent or Modi-foolish?

  5. Where is the proof? ThePrint must share the document they are referring to, else it’s all propaganda and fake news. And if they’ve accessed some confidential document of IB, then they should be tried under law.

  6. Propaganda and buses views expressed here.Source information etc is one way to get away from legal actions.It is quite known that wire or print and so many others who are openly known for Modi haters are in guild for spreading lies Why they hate Modi is not clearly known that is it due to funding they get make them do??
    Funding is mentioned in this article.

  7. Lol sure, ‘Berkeley riots’. I assure you, I was a first year there at the time (and continued to be an honours graduate in a PhD programme at a Chicago), the worlds best ranking public institution is not ‘going to the dogs’ at any rate.

    • Sir, you cannot be right in ‘new India’ of trolls, as they and their ‘master’ know everything that has to be known anytime in human life. We are ruled by someone who claims to have a degree in ‘entire political science’. What else can we expect from the trolls. In many cases, these are paid trolls and will right what someone tells them to write and that someone may be semi-literate or simply another paid ‘feku’. We wish you the best for your studies. I have had teachers who have studied at Berkley and will go with what your experience suggests. We have no choice to live with the trolls, as long as Modi-like people rule the country. Hopefully, it will get better at some stage.

  8. Being critical is absolutely crucial to an open democratic society.
    Going after critics, making lists of them, potentially punishing them, is what fascists and weak, anxious “leaders” do.
    Good luck India, you’ll need it

  9. This entire article is based on a ‘note’ accessed by ThePrint. Where is that note? You should have attached image of that note, otherwise all this is just gossip. Also, usually media houses do not take each other’s name, in any kind of news. But you’re openly taking names like TheWire. Need sympathy votes or wanting more readers for that platform, which is basically a part of your ecosystem.

  10. A republic can’t function without an opposition. The very point of existence of these is to be part of the progress and produce products with plural views, observing and being critique along with support in those situations where better could be done. That’s characteristics of institutions of education.
    The government should be ashamed of their actions, otherwise it will be described as authoritarian and such actions will tag India of croney capitalism.
    Co-incidentally our country men are totally rallying to be “yes man” in fact already putting off their rights so the opposition or enemy does not get a hold in power. It will be too dark before dawn and we ain’t even hit the midnight I am afraid.

    • Exactly! What is the proof & authenticity of this news? Where is that NOTE on which this entire article is based? Because this is big thing. If true, might account to misuse of IB. But if false, then this website must be treated by law at top levels.

  11. We know what public interest The print, wire.in etc serves. For what agenda u people are propagating all of us r aware. Thats a right decision otherwise another JNU will emerge.

    • You “know”… for “what agenda” – and yet you failed to spell it out. Why not take a few extra minutes to educate us?

  12. Universities Grants Commission was supposed to be an independent body. University administration should also be done by an independent body. Slowly but steadily every one of the Universities have either voluntarily or forcibly made to tow their line.

  13. Universities across the world are going to the dogs. Berkely riots was a clear case, jnu also shows some stupid mentality.

    Huge difference between critical thinking and rioting.

  14. All over the world, universities are nurseries of critical thinking. The young, especially, are meant to be a little seditious. There are a hundred objective criteria by which these institutions can be judged for excellence. Supporting / being critical of the government of the day is not one of them.

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