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