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Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Ashoka University co-founders, others booked by CBI for 1600 crore loan fraud

The CBI on Thursday said that it has lodged a case against Pranav Gupta and Vineet Gupta, the co-founders of the controversial Ashoka University, a Chandigarh-based pharmaceutical company and 10 others for allegedly cheating Central Bank of India and other banks to the tune of Rs 1,626 crore.

A senior Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) official said that they have lodged an FIR against Pranav Gupta, Vineet Gupta, Chandigarh-based Parabolic Drugs and 10 others under various sections of the Indian Penal Code. The official said that the accused persons allegedly took loans from 11 banks including Central Bank of India but didn’t repay the money.

A CBI team also conducted searches on the premises of the accused persons on December 31 and recovered incriminating documents. As per a CBI press release raids were carried out at 12 locations in Chandigarh, Panchkula, Ludhiana, Faridabad and Delhi in connection with the case.

“We recovered cash around Rs 1.58 crore, digital evidences, incriminating documents and other documents from them,” said a senior CBI official. He said that the team has recorded the statements of a number of people, and is in process of gathering more evidences against them.

The Gupta brothers are facing charges under Sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy) and 463 (forgery) of the IPC.

Link to Ashoka University

According to regulatory filings, Pranav and Vineet Gupta are both tied to the Ashoka University. Pranav, listed by Ashoka as founder of Parabolic Drugs, is Co-founder and Trustee of Ashoka University while Vineet, who is founder and trustee, is described as a key member of the board of trustees and governing body of the University. Vineet, the university website says, “continues to play an active role to help oversee and develop different aspects of the institution”. 

As per latest news, both on Thursday ‘voluntarily’ stepped down from all boards and committees of the varsity pending the CBI case. But their profiles continue to be on the university website at the the time of publication of this article.

In recent years, the university has been in the news, mostly for the wrong reasons, and the CBI action against two founders accused of fraud isn’t likely to help its image. Here are some samples of the kind of mindset Ashoka University and its staff members harbor:

  • In 2016, a total of 88 students, alumni and faculty of Ashoka University signed a petition condemning ‘state-violence’ in Kashmir in wake of the ‘extra-judicial execution’ of terrorist Burhan Wani. The petition also called for a plebiscite in Kashmir, echoing the baseless Pakistani viewpoint. The University formed an advisory committee to look into the matter, but took no action against those involved. Even the 3 staff/faculty members who had signed the petition were not dismissed or disciplined, but later resigned on personal grounds.
  • Ashoka University Assistant Professor Nirajn Sircar mocked Sri Ram while trying to troll President of Bharat over false accusations
  • Another professor of the University was part of the NCERT Project team which released a teacher training roadmap for ‘gender sensitization’ with dangerous and controversial ideas like talking to children about puberty blockers, common toilets in schools etc.

The resignation of two prominent faculty members – political scientist and The Indian Express columnist Pratap Bhanu Mehta, known as a vitriolic critic of the Narendra Modi government, and a few days thereafter of economist and former Chief Economic Adviser (CEA) Arvind Subramaniam – over issues of academic “freedom” caused much discomfort in left-liberal academic circles.

Mehta is on the international advisory board of V-Dem, a Swedish organisation which in its 2021 annual report said that Bharat was no longer a liberal democracy but rather an ‘electoral autocracy.’ Such labels have been part of a sustained campaign, both domestic and international, over the last few years to brand Bharat’s voters as a ‘majoritarian mob’ and delegitimize its elected government.

While Mehta is widely feted as India’s ‘leading public intellectual’ by his admirers, a close scrutiny of his thoughts reveal astonishing arrogance, elitism and a chilling sense of entitlement and omniscience. As this Swarajya article notes –

In an incendiary op-ed that he wrote after the Parliament passed the CAA, Mehta appeared to endorse street violence as “resistance” to the current regime. “The direction is going to be set by mob, by brute power, by mobilisation..while..legal and philosophical work is necessary, don’t count on them,” Mehta thundered.

Mehta had stepped down as Vice-Chancellor of Ashoka University in 2019, but continued as faculty before resigning last year and claiming victimhood by saying he had become a ‘political liability’. The fact that a man with such contempt for common Bharatiyas continued to teach students and resigned on his own terms is a telling indictment of ‘liberal’ institutions like Ashoka University funded by some of Bharat’s richest.

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