This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Pradyumna Purohit. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Jio Institute’s ‘Eminence’ Tag Doesn’t Mean A Thing. Here’s Why

I write this piece with mixed emotions. The countless memes, political press and (mis)information about a non-existent Jio Institute’s elevation to an Institute of Eminence (IoE) has made all the pundits defend or glorify their own ashrama (campus). The commentators on the issue are mostly academic, in whose campuses, every month a seed germinates and bears the fruit of salary. I don’t intend to join the league, adding to a list of credible opinions and open letters addressed to the government in power, criticising the decision. But, I do tender my supporting signature to the ones raising their voices and asking tough questions. I ought not to repeat the points brought out by the esteemed and ‘eminent’ fraternity to which I belong. And, hence, keeping this eventuality as a reference, I intend to address the adjectival presence of the word or thought ‘eminence’ or to some extent ‘excellence’ in academia.

The Eminence in Name

The tag of eminence comes as a Shakespearian cliché of what’s in a name? An institute can be designated or awarded by any name. Does a name really assure quality? I doubt it. A name is to be made by delivering what has been promised and by raising expectations from the society. A good name (a new name, in particular) is relevant for catchy headlines or for marketing an educational institute.

Does naming a Higher Education Institute (HEI) as “eminent” bring the excellence promised by it? A simple comparative study of the “vision and mission statement” of various institutions will give a nice rosy picture. It will begin with some dream or a life inspiration by a public figure on whom the institute has been christened; and, in case of a private institute, some unfulfilled desires of the industrial philanthropist who intend to do some good. This will, then, be followed by grand statements of nation-building through various skills and producing an ideal type of citizens. I may be wrong, but, I have come across only these permutations and combinations. Therefore, IoE is just another way of classifying the type of goodies these institutes will receive from the government – the important ones being foreign collaborations and freedom from regulatory bodies.

On the one hand, I see an Institute of Eminence (IoE) with no physical and digital infrastructure except for countless memes. On the other side, I see a renewed hope for another private educational institution backed by a corporate mogul which promises academic and intellectual freedom. How do I prophesise that an institute named Jio will be a model expected to raise the standard (or at least ranking) of educational institutes from rock bottom to the top? How do I not think that it is going to be just another institute (not necessarily of higher education) for the growing demand of degree and diploma distribution centres, for the increased young population of India?

The Academic Aporia

The contemporary saga of Indian educational system concerning Higher Education Institutions (HEI) is at the crossroads of only name and fame. The empty promises and use of academic autonomy is an axiomatic excuse under which most of the high offices take refuge. The need of the hour is decentralisation of the existing academic autonomy and democratisation of the administrative decision-making process.

The paradoxes of our HEI are such that we cannot convincingly acclaim any institute for being at the pinnacle of knowledge production. But, we can name many public intellectuals and academicians who are at the zenith of their scholarship, working in those universities or institutes. I can say in full shame that we, the people or citizens or governance apparatus of respective educational institutions, have failed.

The irony is that the state celebrates this failure by ordaining new campuses every month, in one corner or another. In this interminable wait of academic excellence and namesake eminence, we expect this new one will be the chosen one.
Instead of sharing a meme, I jump from my seat in excitement. I do that when I discover a new name of higher education institution from Bikaner to Burdwan. This time, I was not excited.

For the first time, my instincts rebelled against my conscience. I will not defend or allege foul play in the legal or political process, through which an institute, backed by the wealthiest man of the country, deserves a tag of eminence. The court of public opinion and many critiques of governance have indicated that we are in bed with a person whose offers we can’t refuse. The one who is not capable of following Raja-dharma then is the Dharma-raja now (a government unconcerned for the “rule of law” but daunts people by “rules of law”). Thus, we should get over with the fact that government and the corporate lobby has a quid pro quo relationship. It cannot get more obscene and explicit. Exposing the nakedness is tough enough. Even in these terms, I’m confident that they will stoop to further lows to prove me and you, the people, wrong.

I met Prakash Javadekar in the summer of 2012 in the Constitution Club. It was around the last days of the summer, in the House of Parliament. The issue was still around the Ambedkar cartoon in the NCERT textbook and debates about composition and members in Ashok Thorat Committee. The hearsay impression of Javadekar which had been presented to me by my boss was: “he would listen to whatever you have to say and will cordially invite you to submit your views, but he would have already decided, very prematurely, what he is going to do. It is like going for a walk-in interview, but he already has selected a candidate of his choice”.

I learnt two lessons on democracy that day – one, a decision by this man (Javadekar) on face value will be democratic, second, such namesake democratic and legal decisions which follow the established procedure are not always right. This decision of Javadekar (of declaring Jio Institute as IoE) reminds me of my boss’s advice. Although in a hearsay scandal, in the unwritten code of politics, it can be counted as evidence.

Further on, I don’t see any reason for the invitation of applications costing one crore in the first place. What happens to the non-refundable application amount? Does it go to committee members for their research and evaluation or visits to the said campuses? I fail to gather how the Jio Institute justifies its application fees. My curiosity is to know the email id from which the proposal was delivered to the esteemed committee. A mammoth ₹9,500 crore plan not including a social media handle or web footprint is absurd.

Nonetheless, memes have filled that gap of a digital print as India moves on from Neymar. If something is not fishy, then what makes such news, a controversy? This ocean of memes and coverage has definitely spared Team Jio some money from their marketing budget, in the coming three years. The government has advertised them, not by name but by their tag. The name is not a surety; it may change, but the eminence tag gave it good fame.

I sincerely hope that one day in near or in distant future, all the meme mongers aspire for admission or work in the Jio Institute. It shall bring back my faith and make me jump from my chair again. I am tired of clichés and regular excuses or blame games on regulatory authorities. Now, when these new goodies of IoE have dawned on our existential reality, I expect them to perform as any top 10 institutes of global repute would perform, from the beginning.

A Dystopian Utopia

My expectations from academic institutions of higher learning have been of Nobel prizes and Olympic medals. In realistic terms, it cannot be achieved in a decade. But, I would like to see how many Nobel laureates or Abel prize winners or Pulitzer awardees, or global star athletes shift their bases to train and educate at this new Greenfield institute.

If one aspires to be amongst the best, do we dream as high as the best institutes dream? Our academic culture is infested with mediocrity and has an impoverished imagination. I just want to know if Jio’s educational imagination includes my expectations.

What promises and model of academic governance does Jio institute present before the people? A plan or making of great HEI ought to be presented in public domain to compete with our humble expectations. Whether this top-class facility will be free for some initial few years and subsidised for the people like their telecom service? I don’t crib about the non-existence of physical infrastructure. Those who already possess state–of-the-art architectural setup haven’t contributed enough to the knowledge society either.

In the end, I would humbly conclude that a tag isn’t an evidence of eminence. Real eminence can be achieved through academic vigour and governance. The problem that academic institutions face is that they don’t behave like welfare institutions. The matters which ought to be more professional are treated in a very casual way. At the same time, trivial issues are not de-professionalised and they stretch in bureaucratic tunnels. Academic governance is a craft which when practised within existing parameters of autonomy without blaming regulatory authorities, may yield visible impacts in a HEI.

If these steps are achieved, even in the limited funding and capacities, the word of mouth or social media will surely make this institute an ‘eminent’ one for the people. In the meantime, as a part of ‘jugaad’ prone India, we ought to make full and optimal use of the limited resources available to us.

Jio might or might not become a premier institute that imparts quality education. It all depends on how ambitious we dream and how hard we work to achieve excellence for an HEI. Unfortunately, the dreams of Ambani will always be of more ‘reliance’ than hopes of millions.

The author is a passionate socio-political-legal theorist committed towards legal education policy and teaching. He is currently an M.Litt. candidate (Legal & Constitutional Studies) at the Institute of Legal and Constitutional Research (School of History), University of St. Andrews.

Image source: Kunal Patil/Hindustan Times via Getty Images
You must be to comment.

More from Pradyumna Purohit

Similar Posts

By Vipashyana Dubey

By Imran Hasib

By Meemansa Narula

Wondering what to write about?

Here are some topics to get you started

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below