New Delhi: Under fire for declaring the Jio Institute of Reliance Foundation, which exists only on paper, as an “Institution of Eminence”, India’s government on Tuesday clarified that the move was not final as Jio had only got a “letter of intent.”

The University Grants Commission (UGC) had on Monday announced the name of six institutes — three public and three private — Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Bombay, Indian Institute of Science (IISc)-Bangalore and IIT-Delhi, Jio Institute, Birla Institute of Technology and Science (BITS)-Pilani and Manipal University.

Defending the move, UGC said Jio Institute was selected under rules for greenfield category for new or proposed institutions.

“At this juncture, there is only a letter of intent. They are not same as established institutions. For a greenfield institution, they should have land, equipment, building, staff, etc. and for that, they need a lead time. They have to first meet the requirements,” Head of Empowered Expert Committee (EEC) N Gopalaswami told media.

He said Jio was given three years’ time to make the cut.

“So they have been given three years’ time. It is only after that they will be given the status,” Gopalaswami added.

Union Human Resource Development (HRD) Ministry on Tuesday said in a statement that it received 11 private proposals but its panel felt that only Jio cleared all four factors - land availability, highly qualified and experienced core team, funding and strategic vision with clear milestones and action plan.”

Education Secretary R. Subramanyam also clarified that Jio Institute was yet to qualify for the tag of “Institution of Eminence.”

“If they set up a good campus within three years and have a good faculty and fulfil all the criteria, they will get the ‘Institute of Eminence’ status. Right now they don’t have the tag, they only have a letter of intent,” he said.

He trashed reports that Jio would receive a grant of Rs10 billion (Dh534 million).

“The government grant of Rs10 billion will be given only to public institutions ie. IIT-Bombay, Indian Institute of Science (IISc)-Bangalore and IIT-Delhi, Indian Institute of Science, IIT Delhi and IIT Mumbai,” Subramanyam stated.

EEC chose Institutes of Eminence in three categories - public institutions, private institutions and Greenfield private institutions. The tag of “eminence” gives these institutes greater autonomy and freedom from several governmental controls.

“The greenfield private institutions are not there as yet but where well-meaning responsible private investment wants to bring global standards to the country, they should be welcomed,” Subramanyam said.

The government’s move has been strongly criticised with many questioning HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar about Jio Institute’s credentials.

“To apologists who say Jio Institute has been placed in the greenfield category, a greenfield university outside Chennai is being helmed by former Reserve Bank of India chief Raghuram Rajan, whose academic qualifications are in inverse proportion to those of Ambanis who own Jio. Why not choose that,” historian Ramachandra Guha tweeted.

Congress party also accused ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of “unduly favouring” Reliance Industries Limited’s chairman Mukesh Ambani.

“The illusionary Jio Institute which is yet to see the light of day has been declared as an eminent institute. The government needs to clarify the basis of classification for granting such a status,” Congress spokesperson Randeep Surjewala tweeted.