Reality Check India

PIO university to be set up in a SEZ

Posted in Uncategorized by realitycheck on November 8, 2006

A sign of things to come ,

”We want to make education in India affordable for our overseas students,”

Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi said at the two-day Economic Editors’ Conference that began Tuesday in New Delhi.

The full story is here  India to extend affordable education to diaspora.

In the meantime, a project that NRIs can look forward to is the setting up of the PIO (persons of Indian origin) university—fully funded by NRIs and PIOs. According to ministry officials, the government has already okayed the proposal in principal. Ravi said the new policy for the proposed PIO university is in the final stages.

The university, spread over 100 hectares, is likely to be set up in a special economic zone, which would give the investors tax exemptions.

The SEZ policy itself is atrocious, this just takes the cake. Does anyone actually know the meaning of the word “NRI” ? It is someone who has said goodbye to India for greener pastures. There is nothing wrong with that, but it must be remembered that they have factored into account the education conditions in their adopted country.

We all know that all incompetent desi kids who fail to make it to pre-med state schools in USA or Carribean would now flock to this PIO university established on the soil of an impoverished country. Of course, our government would lobby with the appropriate US Justice department to get the coursework approved. There is absolutely no way a US NRI kid will come to India if he has an admission from a med school in the USA.

NRI students have always faced discrimination in India where education was concerned. There are huge disparities in fee structures in private professional colleges—overseas students oftentimes have to pay five times more than the general category.

However, there is hope of justice. According to Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi, India will take the necessary steps to extend affordable education for NRI students.

Yes Mr Ravi, NRIs are charged more than locals because their daddy and mommy are earning in dollars , pounds and dirhams.

Note to NRIs / Diaspora : Please be loyal to your adopted country that has given you everything.  Let your kids join the US Marines, law enforcement,  rock bands, get season tickets to baseball games, celebrate thanksgiving,  integrate into american society. The PIO card can be used to reduce visa hassles. Please do not lobby for special universitites, schools, parks, or zones for you and your kids to play around.  There are others in this poor country that need attention.

( I had to document this story)


24 Responses

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  1. Barbarindian said, on November 8, 2006 at 3:58 pm

    This is funny man.

    I have another take on it. I guess only the worst lot of the US/West will come here as you mentioned (as they do today). But this would be great for the kids of vast majority of skilled workers in Middle East and Africa. Those countries do not have too many great schools.

    Now, remember that you can not force a person not to work in India, if he has a citizenship. So I am guessing some kids who will come here will find better employment opportunities in India itself and start working here.

    Looks like it is pushing the SEZ first principles into a murky territory.

  2. realitycheck said, on November 8, 2006 at 4:04 pm

    Yes, I agree about the kids in Africa. I have friends and relatives in those places too, they want to send their kids to the US/Canada/Aus for undergraduate studies.

    In any case, I dont have a problem with these schools as long as they are not in an SEZ (and) they admit a large majority of “natives”. We already have colleges like Manipal that do that – no problems there.

  3. Barbarindian said, on November 8, 2006 at 5:02 pm

    The total NRI remittance was $22B this year. That is why they are a useful group to appease.

  4. Nitin said, on November 9, 2006 at 8:01 am

    1. The university will be funded by private investors; not the government

    2. The university, because it is private, can decide to admit whom it wants. It can take in rank idiots if it wants to. The idiot is paying for it.

    Can’t see anyone should complain about this. In fact all private universities, not just those in SEZs, should be allowed the same flexibility. They should be free to set their own standards, their own curriculum, their own admissions policy.

    The government can decide whether or not it wants to recognise the graduates of these private universities…refuse to take them if it feels that the standard is too low. The private sector can make its own decide.

  5. Barbarindian said, on November 9, 2006 at 2:22 pm

    Mr Nitin,

    Let me explain. Our problem with SEZs are at a different level altogether. In fact, SEZs violate free market principles in a more fundamental way than many other socialistic ponzi schemes do.

    I think it is preposterous to give SEZ status to private schools. First, what is the product here? SEZs are based on the premise that the products will not be sold in India. Perhaps that is where the NRI/PIO angle comes in. Second, who decides who gets to make the first SEZ university?

    As far as private companies doing as they please, sure, then pay taxes like everyone else.

  6. realitycheck said, on November 9, 2006 at 2:39 pm

    I have been following this story for a while before deciding to blog about it. I understand and fully endorse the various free market philosophies, the problem is when it comes to questions of citizenship and exclusion.

    1. The problem is that only upto 25% of the seats are open to Indian children (ie children with Indian citizenship). Contrast that with 85% of seats for Indian children today.

    2. The University is going to be located in a SEZ. This means the university need not pay customs or indirect taxes. Everything from top class lab equipment to computers to bathroom fittings can be imported duty free by these universities, do Univesities run by Indians have this luxury. Move the university outside an SEZ and this complaiint will go away.

    3. The rationale for this university does not square with its implementation. According to Jagdish Tytler, “While most places where Indians are settled have good facilities up to the high-school stage, many Indians living abroad have to face disappointments when it comes to higher education”. Vayalar Ravi also echoes a similar argument.

    I presume they are talking about the Diaspora in African countries or Iran/Iraq/Russia. If that is the case, then should we allow give preference to them vs American kids ? No. This is a bait and switch like everything else.

    3. The world is still not flat. Citizenship and nationality still mean something. I can even agree to a university for NRIs (those who still hold Indian citizenship) – I cannot fathom why Indian government should care for PIOs (those who have American/UK/Australian or other citizenship).

    4. Finally, there is an issue of poaching. Due to their financial superiority and the fact they are located in SEZ, the exclusive PIO university will easily attract top faculty from universities run by Indian citizens. This is not the same as say a Great Lakes attracting faculty from IIM. Both Great Lakes and IIMs do not have access restrictions for Indian citizens. It does not deplete an already pathetic talent pool of faculty, available to Indian children.

    If we must have one, exclude PIOs, locate it outside SEZ, buy land at fair price, pay customs/excise and all other Indian taxes, admit a majority of Indian citizens (it is their soil), give preference to NRIs from coutries such as Africa/Middle East. If you can do all that we are golden, otherwise this kind of appeasement will lead to widespead unrest among Indian youth.

  7. realitycheck said, on November 9, 2006 at 2:43 pm


    Agree with you. SEZs must make products that are exported to other countries. I believe Murasoli Maran (Dayanidhis) dad was pretty clear about this, he clearly said – “manufacturing must be the primary activity within an SEZ”.

    SEZ are for export promotion not for real estate promotion.

  8. Nitin said, on November 10, 2006 at 1:01 am

    Barbarindian & Realitycheck,

    I agree that SEZs are simply a way of chickening out—instead of liberalising the entire economy, the government has gone about doing it selective.

    That being so, I think it is unreasonable to single out Universities for criticism. Rather, the argument should be why restrict Free (as in liberated) universities to SEZs. And why have unreasonable restrictions on percentages and quotas based on citizenship? If one private entrepreneur thinks he can run a university exclusively with Pakistani students, then neither the government nor Indians should have any problem with that. Tax their incomes, but don’t tax their inputs!

  9. realitycheck said, on November 10, 2006 at 3:35 am


    On the face of it, I dont disagree with you. Total privatization, freedom, and a borderless world is too utopian a concept to take up today. Matters of citizenship, reciprocity, and nationality do matter.

    In a resource constrained country like India, you cant have exclusive universities for foreigners without causing social tension. Yes, brown skinned, but still foreigners. Hike the quota for Indian citizens from 25% to 85% and I will take back this argument. The government must take care of Indian citizens first – it is amazing that we are even having to make this point.

    A good analogy :
    Have to you ever stood in line at a railway station to get a current ticket ? The queues are long, the heat is unbearable, tempers are raised, and a small mistake can send you right to the back of the queue. It is no fun to get a ticket without being crushed, abused, or mauled.

    Now assume, the Indian railways opened another private counter right next to these lines. Unlike others, this one is for foreigners only. Note this is not a special needs counter such as for handicapped, women, or senior citizens. Do you know what will happen ? Sooner or later, the counter will be torn down and vandalized.

    This is a hare brained idea, that will never result in any foreign investment. This is simply a way of appeasing PIO/NRI whose kids have cash, but not the brains to get into US/UK/Aus medical schools. Almost all these kids will finish their med school, apply for a residency at a US hospital and voila! we have another Doctor Patel in Chicago.

    Appeasement is ok if it results in industrial investment, not if it creates social tension. Foreigners should adapt to their chosen homeland and not expect anything from India.

  10. Barbarindian said, on November 10, 2006 at 4:05 am

    I think it is unreasonable to single out Universities for criticism.


    I am not critiquing univs in SEZs in isolation. It is just that this particular case is funny. It just does not fit into the SEZ model. It is not specifically beneficial for economic growth. As a matter of fact, the NRI/PIO (specifically PIO – who is a foreign national) route could be a way to transfer a lot of wealth outside the country.

    (A) For instance SEZs:
    1. given land to set up industry in SEZ
    2. operates in India in a no mans land
    3. employs Indian people
    4. sources some material from India
    5. sells products outside India
    6. pays no taxes, duties, levies – nada

    (B) The idea is:
    1. we will have more industry than we had prior to SEZs
    2. some extra people will get employment
    3. the profit earned will add to our GDP

    The problem is, factor B.1 is not happening. Existing companies are making a beeline for SEZs. So, B.2 does not materialize, B.3 is marginally better but we lose out on taxes. Fine. I guess there is some weird justification for certain industries.

    Now take a univ.
    Point A.3 is a red flag, since as RC pointed out it will drain existing private univs of scarce teaching resources. This is not that big a problem for other industries. Point A.4 is negligible – univs do not use much of any raw material. Point A.5. is very questionable. Who will guarantee that the kids will not start working in India? I Agree there can not be any moral justification not to let them work. Point A.6. the univ is competitive against another private univ. The poor other univ suffers for no fault of theirs, they just didn’t know anyone in the Government to get an SEZ license.

    If you grant SEZ univ licenses to PIOs, point B.3 is nullified, as entire profit is expatriated out.

  11. Kannan Infratech said, on December 11, 2006 at 7:39 am

    This is my first post here.

    Many indian students go abroad for undergrad and post grad degrees and the number is climbing very steeply over the years. The foreign exchange lose is tremendous. (Fee plus travel, stay ,food etc)

    Wards of NRIs and PIOs do not have an open opportunity to study in India due to quota restrictions. Moreover too many students chase too few univs here.

    Allowing Foreign Univs to open up their branches in India inside SEZs looks like a probable solution to solve all these problems.

    We will get the best Univs from all over the world in India. Even the NRI / PIO professors may be willing to relocate in that case.

    Many deserving Indian students who may qualify for admissions in foreign univs are not able to go abroad due to steep hike in finance requirement. If they arrange only the fee in USD / Euros, the balance extra expenses can be in INR.

    NRIs & PIOs will not have problem on this front but they will get seats in these reputed Univs, that too based in India. Perfect solution for them.

    The Govt should screen and allow only Good & reputed Univs inside which will add value to the present system. The price to pay for this to allow the Univs to repatriate their profits without taxes, which is dwarfed in comparison to the gains, we are going to get. Brain Drain is also not a problem any more and many of these talents may choose to stay back in India and work.

  12. […] When I started this blog, I resolved I would not fall into snarkiness.  However, I dont know if I can stay cool in the face of outrageous policies such as the SEZ – the most egregious spawn of which is the proposed PIO University.  See my earlier post on the PIO University. […]

  13. chrisdavid said, on May 22, 2007 at 11:33 am

    i need universities in india that will accept foreigners from west africa. please contact me asap.

  14. Slovenia news « Reality Check India said, on June 21, 2007 at 6:49 am

    […] depending on the producers budget, a complete desire to jettison national identity. We can have PIO Universities  and NRI Quotas when our own people run from pillar to post seeking basic quality education. Isnt […]

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  18. Ram Singh said, on October 18, 2009 at 9:50 am

    Many Indian who wanted to return to India, did not have the opportunity to do so, so do not their offspring to stay in a country that is not theirs, Whenever a PIO wants to return to India, he should not be hindered and get the same rights as all other Indians.

  19. Ram Singh said, on October 18, 2009 at 9:51 am

    Many Indian who wanted to return to India after serving 5 years in semi-slavery on the plantations, did not have the opportunity to do so, so do not tell their offspring to stay in a country that is not theirs, Whenever a PIO wants to return to India, he should not be hindered and get the same rights as all other Indians.

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  21. pass said, on January 11, 2011 at 7:29 am

    Hi Can you help with examples of Universities established or proposed to be established in SEZ in India or abroad?

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