New Delhi: India’s premier liberal arts university Ashoka University isn’t the only university with which the two Gupta brothers, Vineet and Pranav, accused by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) of bank fraud through their company – Parabolics Drug Ltd – are associated with.
It now transpires that they were also among the investors behind the Mohali-based technology university Plaksha University. But, following the expose by India Ahead, the university has claimed they have “voluntarily stepped down from all official positions at Plaksha”.
The duo had also similarly stepped down from their role in Ashoka University following the expose.
As first reported by India Ahead, the two top execs of Chandigarh-based Parabolics Drugs stand accused by the CBI of fraud and the CBI had, on December 31, conducted raids on 12 locations including in offices and residences of those accused.
In a statement dated January 7, 2022, Plaksha University said, “Plaksha is a collective philanthropic effort with nearly a hundred individual and corporate donors and practices the highest standards of transparency and governance. This is Plaksha’s strength. No one donor’s personal situation has a bearing on the project. It may be noted that Vineet Gupta and Pranav Gupta have voluntarily stepped down from all official positions at Plaksha.”
To establish Plaksha, a company Reimagining Higher Education Foundation, a Section 8 not-for-profit company, was set up for the purpose.
In 2019, it was reported that the Union Ministry of Home Affairs had granted approval under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA) to Re-imagining Higher Education Foundation to raise funds abroad.
The newly established Technology University at Mohali is the brainchild of about 60 entrepreneurs and business leaders from across the world with an investment of over Rs 1,300 crore in the next five years.
Prominent founders trustees of Plaksha include Rakesh Bharti Mittal, vice-chairman, Bharti Enterprises, Pankaj Chaddah, Zomato founder, CP Gurnani, MD and CEO, Tech Mahindra, Anil Rai Gupta, chairman and managing director, Havells India and Aakash Chaudhry, co-promoter and CEO, Aakash Educational Services.
The approval for the “Private Self-Financed” university was granted by the Punjab government when Capt AmarinderSingh was the Chief Minister According to the Punjab government press release, the self-financed private Plaksha University would be established as a highly research and innovation driven university on a 50.12-acre state-of-the-art campus. It was to be developed at a prime location in Mohali with an investment of Rs 244 crore in Phase-1 and total Rs 1145 crore over five years.
The upcoming university’s website says that its journey started in 2015, “as a conversation among a few friends about how and why technology education needs to change”.
“Reimagining Higher Education Foundation, a Section 8 not-for-profit company, was set up in 2017 with a mission of converting the idea into a plan,” it says.
Many articles including this one mentions Vineet Gupta as founder and Trustee, but his name is now missing from the list of founders on the university founder’s page. Same is true for Pranav Gupta.
While their names were present until January 7, 2022, on the founders trustees donors section on the website, selecting on “know more” option takes the readers back to the landing page of “our donors”. This is not the case with others whose pictures are missing. A selection of “know more” on their name leads to pop up with a description of the person current position and education.
According to a report where Vineet was cited as co-founder of Ashoka, it was said all the contributions made to the Plaksha University were through philanthropists.
“So, we felt that a high quality private effort in engineering education was needed. With those thoughts, Plaksha was born. It’s a collective endeavour. The university is founded by a trust. When we started, we were just four or five of us but we have 80 large donors now. They all contribute philanthropically. These are entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley and New York to Delhi and Singapore. It’s a large group and expanding. Once you contribute to the institution, it’s a donation. So, there’s no expectation of any return of any kind,” the report quoted Gupta as saying.
It remains to be seen if the MHA, in light of the CBI case against the Guptas, revisits the FCRA clearance.
Questions sent to Plaksha University remained unanswered.