Jewels of India

When Union human resources development minister Kapil Sibal announced plans for ‘navratna’ universities, his blueprint was not our own ancient universities like Nalanda or the brilliant minds of a Chanakya or Birbal. He looked westward:

“We are working on the concept of having navratna universities or an Indian Ivy League. We intend to nurture these select universities, like the public sector navratnas, by generous financial support, freedom in accessing external funding and total autonomy so as to free them from the shackles of government control.”

While the absence of government control in the running of such universities is gratifying, to what extent will it be so? Will it nurture an open-ended educational system where students are not trapped in outdated syllabi? Will there be freedom to explore controversial subjects and books? And will this further create a fractured society?

Recently, an elite school raised objections to students from less privileged backgrounds enrolling as per the requirements of the Right To Education (RTE) Act because they were concerned about the adjustment issues they might have; there have been instances when this hurdle has been crossed, but it is a fact even in regular schools that the social and financial status counts. The disparities are ingrained at an early stage.

Mr Sibal further stated:

“With regard to our existing navratnas —the IITs and IIMs—we are according full powers to their boards to create posts within the approved norms, top up the salaries of the directors and faculty from the funds generated by them, open centres in India and abroad, amend rules within the framework of their Memorandums of Association and Rules, acquire and dispose property and manage funds generated on their own.”

There is no doubt that some of our bright minds are nursed here and grabbed by foreign companies. By opening centres abroad, they will cater to a limited expatriate population or perhaps those from some Asian and African countries. The wealthy Indian diaspora even today chooses the American school franchises available in the countries they reside in.

As for the Ivy League inspiration, again those institutions do have a reputation, but does that translate into brilliance as a matter of course? The affordability factor is extremely important here, and the snob value. Those who are there because they got a quick ticket have no worries; for the others who are being sponsored the stress is immense.

Check the suicide rates and the culture of angst that these institutes give rise to and you will know that where the crucial human element is concerned, they may not be roughed up as in the colleges of some small town but it isn’t all glittering.

The nine jewels – navratna – must not create a parallel world of India Shining to gloss over the reality.


  1. Although I consider Mr Sibal as a little cleaner of the lot, i feel this is one more telecom scam in making. Universities in West dont have entrance exam with selection ratios of 1:1000, they are privately held, They thrive on Innovation and Not "guess papers" or "Champion Guides". Their profs are not ancient fossils but research students . We will have Tata university, Ambani University and so on where u will still do a BSc in intellactual mastrubation ....what a joke...
    Just let Universities worldwide to come here and set uo shop ...give them land ...and not "licence"

  2. Manish:

    I did not think about the scam potential. Come on, some fossils aren't too bad compared to punks. (Just laying the ground!)

    We will have Tata university, Ambani University and so on where u will still do a BSc in intellactual mastrubation ....what a joke...

    So, you think that even in this we should be a Bachelor in Science 'innovatively'? Chalo, better than Nano and boring Reliance...better to have Bill and Steve :)


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