Four government national universities in India are in serious trouble after it came to light that they have entered a "secret pact" with one of the leading food brands in the country to promote its goods during their nutrition awareness programs in government run schools.
According to a letter sent by Breastfeeding Promotion Network of India (BPNI) to the secretary for school education and literacy, Anshu Vaish, Nestle India had signed a confidential MoU with four universities, Punjab Agricultural University (PAU) Ludhiana; National Dairy Research Institute, Karnal, Haryana; University of Mysore in Karnataka; and the GB Pant University for Agriculture and Technology, Pantnagar, Uttarakhand, under which Nestle sponsored nutritional awareness programs back in 2009.
BPNI argues that the MoU basically allows Nestle to indulge in brand promotion in the guise of nutritional programs in the public education system. BPNI went on to say that when it had filed an RTI with PAU seeking information, the university refused to give it and instead wrote a letter to Nestle asking its opinion about the RTI application.
Expressing his displeasure over the letter, BPNI's Dr Arun Gupta said, "Why should a national university have to take the permission of a private company to give information under the RTI Act? They are duty-bound to provide the information. After all, what is so secretive about the contents of a nutritional program? They have sold their autonomy and independence as a national institution to a corporate entity for a paltry sum of Rs 2.5 lakh, the sum Nestle is paying PAU for this project."