Why was an unheard-of, Mukesh Ambani-backed institute named on a list of “Institutions of Eminence” by the Indian government on Monday, alongside renowned institutes like Indian Institute of Technology-Delhi and the Birla Institute of Technology in Pilani?
Jio Institute, which was named in the list of six public and private universities to get the Institution of Eminence tag, which gives it autonomy, doesn’t actually exist yet. It is as yet only a proposal from the Ambani family backed Reliance Foundation, but on Monday, it was put on par with five other organisations all of which have much more distinguished histories: IIT- Delhi, IIT- Bombay, Indian Institute of Science, Manipal Academy of Higher Education and the Birla Institute of Technology in Pilani.
Later in the day, the Ministry of Human Resource Development attempted to explain the picking of Jio Institute alongside those renowned names, pointing out that it managed to be picked under the greenfield tag – meaning institutes that are still being set up. Yet the choice of the institute, and in particular its business backing, prompted plenty of questions online, not least because of the government’s perceived proximity to major business families.
A simple Google search doesn’t even lead to a dedicated website or a page about Jio Institute. Yet, the institution already boasts of proposing 10 schools covering different streams like arts, humanities, medical sciences and more. The Reliance Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Reliance Industries led by Nita Ambani, in its proposal is said to have promised to hire top faculty from global universities and build research centres among other things.
On social media, many questioned this move and Twitter users characteristically managed to find humour in the situation.
There are already at least four to five parody accounts of Jio Institute that are using sarcasm to bring out the perception of cronyism that came with the pick. These accounts describe themselves on Twitter as: “Top institute of India. Thank you Narendra Bhai”, “Data is free not education” and “Vikas Graduated from here and First year free.”
Here’s a parody account taking a dig at Sharda University’s tagline and Reliance Jio’s mobile network operator to weigh into the buzz surrounding the yet-to-be-established Jio Institute.
Others took the opportunity to make fun of the lack of transparency on the educational qualification of some politicians in the current government. References to ‘entire political science’, one of the subjects on Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Masters degree, turned up.