Self-defeating politics in Odisha draws red carpet for Vedanta University from the southern states: Odisha may lose this opportunity of a millenium

Following is an excerpt from a report in Business Standard.

The Andhra Pradesh government has rolled out a red carpet for the Anil Agarwal Foundation’s proposed Rs 15,000-crore Vedanta University project, after the Orissa High Court termed the land acquisition process illegal for the multi-disciplinary university in Puri.

In a letter to Anil Agarwal, chairman and founder of Vedanta Resources, K Rosaiah, then chief minister of the state, said, “Andhra Pradesh strongly believes in nurturing great institutions of learning to empower youth, realise demographic dividend in full measure and to truly make the state a global center of learning.”

Despite Rosaiah resigning last month, state government officials say the state is keen on Vedanta considering their proposal. “Even if Rosaiah resigned, we still have a Congress government in the state and we are keen to have Vedanta University on board. The ball is in Anil Agarwal’s court now,” said a senior state government official.

The official said Vedanta University officials were shown three different sites in September. These lands, however, are private ones and would be sold to Vedanta at reasonable rates.

It was suggested to Vedanta officials to have the university’s head office in Hyderabad, with campuses in other cities, including Bangalore and Chennai.

“Instead of setting up a campus in one city, they can spread it over to other cities too. We have shown them land, which is at a reasonable distance from Bangalore and Chennai, and would be connected through the golden quadrilateral,” the official added.

… Vedanta University is modelled on Stanford University and aims to be a world-class, multi-disciplinary university, with students from around the world. However, the varsity, which was to begin operations by mid-2011, has not even started the basic infrastructure work on the land due to stiff opposition from locals and lack of political support.

… A director of a local institute told Business Standard: “The university concept is a good one and if Vedanta opts out, it would be an opportunity loss for Orissa.”

It is really unfortunate that the Congress party in Odisha is vehemently opposing this university and creating all kinds of troubles while its government in Andhra is rolling out red carpet for them. It is becoming obvious that the Congress leaders of Odisha do not work for the people of Odisha but work for their masters in Delhi and elsewhere. [Recently, their prince visited Odisha but would not even give an audience to Odisha congress leaders. But our congress leaders have no self respect. They are used to being humiliated by the prince and his family and the leadership in Delhi. One of them even accepted a demotion and became a state minister without independent charge after being cabinet minister twice.

I wonder when they will realize that a self-defeating strategy, subservient attitude and lack of self-respect will take them nowhere.

I wish Congress had some real leaders and strategists who instead of creating trouble to stop growth oriented projects would do the opposite; i.e., focus on Odisha’s growth and point out the current government’s mistakes in making a mess in achieving that growth after signing tons of MOUs. 

I wish the Odisha Congress took some lessons from their Bihar debacle under the leadership of their prince; the people want growth and development; not partisan politics, anti-development  chaos, and prince worship.]

Note: The portion inside [ ] was added after, but not in response to, Comment 1.

9 comments December 10th, 2010

Congress soft-pedals on Vedanta University: India Today; But hurdles remain

(Thanks to Rahul Barik for the pointer.)

Following is from an India Today story published in its September 20th edition.

The Congress is now soft-pedalling on the Rs 5,000-crore Vedanta University project in Puri. BJD leaders feel Ramesh is under pressure from various quarters to clear the project.

Action taken against what promises to be Orissa’s education city may not fit with the Congress’ neo-progressive image. It might also alarm the powerful education lobby, which has many political patrons. Meant to accommodate one lakh students, the university offers 95 academic disciplines. The Governments of both Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka are now wooing Agarwal to shift to their states – an option he is considering if the project is shut down alleging SEZ violations. "Naveen Patnaik is sold on the university," says Mohapatra wistfully. "He hopes it will become the Oxford of Orissa."

While the above is a bit of good news, the hurdles still remain. Ramesh has not yet given the clearance. Neither the honorable Governor has signed the Vedanta University bill.  Moreover, the  Congress leadership in Odisha seems to not have any self respect. They are mere followers of diktat from Delhi are only interested in whether they can get a nice position by being subservient to Delhi. In that process whether Odisha loses in Malkangiri due to Polavaram dam or Vedanta University goes away from Odisha to Andhra, they don’t seem to care.

Also, MP Pyari Mohaptra is saying that "Naveen Patnaik is sold on the university." What about Pyari Mohapatra himself?

1 comment September 21st, 2010

Vedanta University links categorized to various topics

To make it easier to find various information regarding Vedanta University I have categorized various articles/reports on them. Hope this will be useful in seeing the real value of Vedanta University and convincing people of Odisha that we must thwart the BJP and Congress efforts to take Vedanta University to Karnataka and Andhra respectively.

  1. Must see youtube video on the story of Vedanta University.

  1. Vedanta University Home Page
  2. Initial blog to watch the progress of Vedanta University
  3. Petitions to thwart attempts to take Vedanta University away from Odisha
    1. Petition to the Honorable Governor of Orissa to give assent to the Vedanta University bill passed by Orissa assembly in July 2009 (more than a year back)
    2. Petition to the CM to seek the PM’s help regarding Vedanta University
    3. Petition to Delhi to stop putting hurdles on the Vedanta University project and to facilitate its establishment
  4. Categorizing the articles on Vedanta University in this blog
    1. Accolades for its campus master plan
    2. Ads
    3. Anil Agarwal
    4. Appeal to Anil Agarwal
    5. Architects and Construction Contracts
    6. Beyond the Puri main campus
    7. BJP attempt to steal it to Karnataka
      1. Orissa BJP opposes Karnataka BJP lures
    8. Congress attempt to steal it to Andhra
      1. Andhra Science City plan: They have had plans like the Vedanta University township for a long time. So they are doing their best to take Vedanta University from Odisha.
      2. Congress ruled Andhra’s overture
      3. Environment minister Jairam Ramesh, Congress MP from Andhra, creates hurdles
      4. Orissa Congress opposes Andhra Congress lures
    9. CSR in Puri
    10. Honorable Odisha governor (a former member of Congress) has not signed the Vedanta University bill which was passed in July 2009
    11. International media coverage
    12. Land Acquisition and Land Use (Why so much land?)
    13. Medical College progress
    14. Pictures, master plan layouts, Videos
    15. Provisions for Orissa students
    16. Rally, petitions and articles in its support
    17. Rebuttals to opposition arguments and unsubstantiated rumours
    18. Slowing brain drain
    19. Vedanta University Bill
    20. What does $1 Billion buy? What is once in a century opportunity?

3 comments September 13th, 2010

Hope Vedanta University does not become Orissa’s Nano: Rinkesh Pati in Orissadiary

Following is from http://www.orissadiary.com/ShowOriyaColumn.asp?id=21178 with permission from the author Rinkesh Pati.


It’s not been a long time since the major auto mobile giant, Tata moved out of West Bengal and relocated its new Nano plant to Gujarat after facing stiff opposition from the Trinamool congress party in the Bengal state. Whatever be the stand of the Trinamool party on this matter, the final outcome was that West Bengal lost a great opportunity of aggrandizing its industrial growth that could have brought several benefits to the Singur locality and the state in terms of jobs, per capita income, infrastructure development etc. The vested interests of few political leaders forced the Tata Company to finally move out of the state and look for other favored locations. I fear Orissa doesn’t face the same fate with the Vedanta University project.

It is quite obvious that whenever a new industry or any other major construction is going to be set up in a place, there will be issues like displacement, rehabilitation, fertile land accusation, environmental issues, and concerns of indigenous tribal communities or farmers, followed by opposition to such developments. This is quite natural and it happens everywhere. But these are not the issues which can’t be addressed. The real problem arises when political parties jump into the matter and leave no stone unturned to gain every bit of political mileage out of the issue. They mislead the innocent villagers with their stories and try to give them an impression that the development work is going to affect the area’s cultural values, environment etc.

Their stories may be partially true. But the point is, such concerns can be addressed and resolved amicably by peaceful and constructive discussions among the concerned parties. In this fight, everyone forgets the bigger picture i.e. the greater objective behind the development plan. An institution like Vedanta University will definitely change Orissa’s image in the entire world. Not only will it help Orissa prosper in the field of education and research, it will also bring plenty of opportunities for the state and its people. A big university spreading across 4000 acres of land will bring unimaginable benefits to the economy of Orissa. It will create plenty of job opportunities, scopes for new businesses and infrastructure development and will definitely help improve the living standards of the people of the adjoining localities. This will also help alleviate problems like poverty, unemployment, illiteracy in the state. If Vedanta University turns up the way it has been planned, Orissa will definitely be able pride for decades and centuries to come for housing a university of such magnificent stature.

Despite being announced several years back the university project has witnessed only zero progress as it has always been surrounded by various issues. Initially, it was the stiff opposition by the local political parties and the misled villagers who started displaying vehemence against the project staff. Then there were environmental concerns over the proposed project.

The project was first granted the environmental nod as well as the CRZ (Coastal Regulatory Zone) clearance by the MoEF (Union Ministry of Environment and Forest) in April this year. But the clearance was suspended just one month later. Now the MoEF alleges the OCZMA (Orissa Coastal Zone Management Authority) of not producing sufficient information. I am not overruling the possibility of valid environmental concerns, but I believe these concerns can be addressed if all the political parties and government agencies adopt a balanced developmental approach.

My apprehension is that, the continuous hurdles before the university project in Orissa has opened doors of hopes for other states. Chief Ministers of states like Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka have already started wooing the Anil Agarwal Foundation for shifting the project to their states. Other states will very soon line up in the race and will offer guarantee of facilitating favorable environment for the giant project. The irony is that major political parties like Congress and BJP, which are running their governments in AP and Karnataka respectively, have been strongly protesting the Vedanta project in Orissa since the very beginning. If the circumstances in Orissa do not change, Vedanta may one day shift the university to some other state.

My views are not pro-vedanta, they are rather pro-development. This is the need of the time that all political parties raise above politics, and take steps forward to ensure that the gridlock created before the university project gets cleared soon. With Bhubaneswar being a fast developing city and an upcoming industrial and educational hub, the gargantuan projects like Vedanta University will definitely accelerate the momentum and will help in the progress of the state.

[Writer Rinkesh Kumar Pati, from Bhubaneswar, currently staying in Arkansas, USA, users can contact him by adding comments here.]


This is a good article by Rinkesh. I hope other readers with similar concerns will take similar steps.

5 comments September 13th, 2010

Jairam Ramesh continues to harass Odisha on Vedanta University: report from Dharitri

September 12th, 2010

Vedanta University a closed chapter for Odisha?: Indian Express

Following is from a report in Indian Express.

As Anil Agarwal-owned Vedanta Resources battles to save its 1 MTPA alumina refinery project at Lanjigarh in Kalahandi district from the axe of Ministry of Environment and Forests, the much-vaunted Vedanta University project in Puri is for all practical purposes a closed chapter.

The proposed Rs 150 billion university seemed futuristic and sounded too-good-to-be-true when Agarwal signed the MoU in 2006 with the Orissa government. It was claimed that when completed the world-class multi-disciplinary university over an area of 6,800 acres on Puri-Konark marine drive would be at par with Harvard and Oxford universities. The university, when fully operational, was to have an intake of 100,000 students with cutting-edge research facility in 95 academic disciplines. But local opposition, problems over land acquisition and the MoEF’s spanners seem to have taken the wind out of its sail.

“The project is as good as over,” said a Vedanta official. The company’s officials confirmed that Vedanta has shifted 26 of its 30 staff at the site to other locations and all work has been put on halt.

Though the Anil Agarwal Foundation (a registered not-for-profit entity controlled by members of the Agarwal family) had acquired 4,500 acres of the 6,892 acres allotted to it on paper, it was unable to take physical possession of the land due to local opposition. Even the initial plan to build a 500-bed super-speciality hospital at the site met with hostility, the official added.

The first bottleneck for the project came in March this year when Orissa Lok Pal Justice P K Patra recommended a moratorium on the project till the Foundation complied with legal provisions pointed out by the Ministry of Company Affairs for conversion of its status from private to public company. The Lok Pal said the Foundation was a private company and thus the state government can’t acquire any land for it.

Acting on a petition of trade union leader Dwarika Mohan Mishra, the Lok Pal held that Land Acquisition Act and Section 16 of Shri Jagannath Temple Act, 1954 have been violated by the government. The Lok Pal asked the Chief Minister to appoint a competent authority to investigate and inquire into the land deal and take appropriate action against the erring persons.

The university project faced another big hurdle when the MoEF on May 11 kept the conditional environmental and Coastal Regulatory Zone clearance in abeyance over allegations of irregularities, illegal and unlawful deeds by the Foundation.

With the project facing so many bottlenecks, Vedanta officials said the project may go to Andhra Pradesh or Karnataka. Both Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh have sent feelers to Agarwal assuring him all support.

32 comments September 8th, 2010

MOEF seeks more information on Vedanta University

Following is from a report from Business Standard (via sify.com).

… After rejection of the Stage-II forest clearance for proposed bauxite mining by Vedanta Aluminium Limited (VAL), the Union Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) appears to have trained its guns on the proposed Vedanta University Project (VUP) in the state.

The MoEF, which had suspended the environmental clearance for the university project in May this year over the issues pertaining to the alleged violations of Coastal Regulatory Zone (CRZ) norms, has sought additional information and clarification from the state government.

In a letter to the state Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik datd August 26, the Union minister for environment and forest Jairam Ramesh has stated that the information furnished by the Orissa Coastal Zone Management Authority (OCZMA) is not adequate and more information needs to be submitted.

Ramesh has stated in the letter that OCZMA has not furnished the requisite information despite the reminder of the ministry last month.

The MoEF can place the VUP project before the Expert Appraisal Committee only after the receipt of the said information.

Ramesh has also stated that he has received allegations of violations of CRZ norms at the VUP site from MPs, MLAs and even a member of the technical committee of the OCZMA.

It may be noted that the MoEF had granted the environmental nod as well as CRZ clearance for the VUP in April this year.

The VUP to be developed by the Anil Agarwal Foundation has been envisioned to be a multi-disciplinary university of international standards on the Puri-Konark marine drive at an investment of Rs 5000 crore.

The university which will have an intake of 100,000 students will be spread over 6892 acres with a total construction area of 273.68 lakh sq metres.

The university will have provision for quality higher education and cutting-edge research facility in 95 academic disciplines.

Within the planned construction area of the university project, 1500 acres will be devoted to academic block, 1200 acres will be set aside for R&D centre and research work while 1092 acres will be earmarked for green belt and open spaces.

Besides, a township will be built over 2100 acres for the faculty and other staff of the university.

A sports complex spread over 100 acres and an exhibition centre on 100 acres of land are also set to come up as a part of the project.

3 comments September 7th, 2010

Vedanta University is likely to be issued environmental and coastal regulatory zone clearance: Economic Times

Following is an excerpt from a report in Economic Times.

The Anil Agarwal Foundation’s Vedanta University project, to be housed in Orissa, is likely to be issued environmental and coastal regulatory zone clearance. The proposed university project will now have to give up 200 acres of the 6,892 acres allocated to it, to address a coastal regulatory zone clearance.

It will be located on the Puri-Konark Marin Drive. These clearances were put in abeyance in May, after the environment ministry received information alleging irregularities, illegal and unlawful deeds by the Foundation. The university project had been given conditional environment and CRZ clearance in April. The proposed Vedanta University project is estimated to involve an amount worth Rs 150 billion.

We need to keep a close watch for any further hanky-panky. We need to make efforts to convince the honorable governor to sign the bill. Finally, keeping in mind the open offer from Andhra and Karnataka we need to urge the CM as well as Vedanta University authorities to speed up work.  (Note that already due to Odisha government’s dilly-dallying we may lose Amrita University and Medical College to Andhra.)

August 28th, 2010

Business Standard on Karnataka and Andhra’s wooing of Vedanta University

Following is from http://www.business-standard.com/india/news/rosaiah-invites-aaf-to-relocate-vedanta-university-to-ap/405561/. The highlights are mine.

Even as the Congress and BJP, two parties in the opposition bench in Orissa, are stiffly opposing the setting up of the Vedanta University Project at Puri, two south Indian states, where the government of these parties are in power, are vying with each other to get the project relocated to their respective state.

First it was Karnataka, which had sent feelers to Vedanta chief Anil Agarwal and assured him all support if he decided to relocate the project to the state.

Now, it is Andhra Pradesh chief minister K. Rosaiah, who has gone all out to woo Agarwal to set up the university project in his state. Congratulating Agarwal for entering the shores of Andhra Pradesh through acquisition of majority stake in Cairns India which has interest in KG Basin, Rosaiah in a letter to Vedanta chief has urged him to cement the ties further by complementing the Andhra Pradesh government’s efforts to make the state global centre of learning.

Meanwhile, the fate of jinxed Vedanta University Project appears to be sealed as the company has shifted 26 of its 30 staff at the site to other locations. “All work on the project put on halt and the residual staff will also be withdrawn shortly, said a company official.

In his letter to Agarwal, who is also the chairman of Anil Agarwal Foundation (AAF), Rosaiah said, “I request you to choose Andhra Pradesh as the state has a unique capacity and culture to nurture the institute of your dreams that will put Indian education back on the global map. I depute the chief executive officer of AP Invest, the state government’s nodal agency, to make a detailed presentation to you in this regard. I assure you that the state government will extend every possible support to this endeavour.”

“Your vision of building a research university of the stature of Stanford in India, your dream of providing higher education of global standards to over one lakh students is all the more heartening. My government strongly believes in nurturing great institutions of learning in the state. As part of this vision, we have successfully invited institutions of excellence like Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Chrisitian Medical College-Vellore and Indian Institute of Science-Bangalore to start their academic and research campuses in the state”, the letter added.

AAF had sought around 6000 acres of land for building a university project of international standards in Orissa. The universit was to come up on the Puri-Konark marine drive at an investment of Rs 5000 crore.

The university, when fully operational, was to have an intake of 100,000 with a total construction area of 273.68 lakh sq metres. This proposed university would have a provision for quality higher education and cutting-edge research facility in 95 academic disciplines.

The project could not progress on the ground due to stiff opposition from the locals and opposition parties over land acquisition. Though the company had acquired about 4000 acres on paper, it was unable to take physical possession of the land. “Whenever we went to start work on the project, we were chased away by the local villagers”, rued the company official. Even the initial plan to build a 1000-bed super-speciality hospital at the site met with hostility, he added.

To make the matters worse for the company, the Union ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) had put in abeyance its earlier order granting environment clearance to the project.

15 comments August 24th, 2010

Another article by Sambada on Vedanta university leaving Odisha

The following is from http://orissasambad.com/news_article.php?id=34016. It states that the Chief Minister did bring up the issue of Vedanta University with the environment ministry. That is a good first step. But more needs to be done. Watch out this space for more plan of action. For now, you may still

3 comments August 24th, 2010

Sambada Headlines: Vedanta University to leave Odisha

If you are concerned, please

11 comments August 22nd, 2010

Is Minister Jairam Ramesh scheming to take the 15,000 crore Vedanta University to the south?

It seems like Vedanta University is seriously considering to move to a location in the Southern states. (For those who may not know much about Vedanta University; it is a university proposed by London based industrialist Anil Agarwal who has pledged $1 Billion = 5000 crores of his own money towards this university which will have an overall budget of 15,000 crores. Note that the budgte of a new IIT is about 800 crores, a new AIIMS is about 850 crores, a new IIM is 215 cores, a new IISER is 500 crores. So just the 5000 crore is greater than having 2 IITs, 2 AIIMS, 2 IIMs and 2 IISERs. See http://vedanta.edu.in/ for more details.)

Following are some excerpts from recent news items:

(i) http://www.businessworld.in/bw/2010_07_24_The_Learning_Curve.html

    “Agarwal’s other project in Orissa — Vedanta University — seems to be going nowhere. It appears it would take years before the first brick is laid on his most ambitious, and grandest, education project…. Agarwal, founder of London-based Vedanta Group, turned heads in 2006 when he said he would set up an 8,000-acre, $3-billion university under the aegis of Vedanta Foundation (which later changed its name to Anil Agarwal Foundation or AAF) in the state’s coastal town of Puri. He also offered $1 billion from his personal funds. Agarwal’s holding in his companies is worth more than $10 billion (as on 31 March 2010).

Two states have extended an invitation; a decision is likely to be taken on a new site in two months,” says Ajit Kumar Samal, in-charge of the university project. He, however, refuses to divulge more details. Experts say the alternatives to Orissa could be Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, which have good educational infrastructure.

(ii) http://sify.com/finance/vedanta-may-shift-varsity-to-southern-states-news-default-kgobu9ifgjb.html

The Anil Agarwal Foundation’s plan to set up a Rs 15,000- crore varsity in Puri (Orissa), called Vedanta University, has come a cropper. The management is now in talks with two southern states for alternative land to set up the varsity.

Although there has been opposition from inside Orissa mainly because some people are against Vedanta due to its Kalahandi operations and partly because some people are against the huge land requirement for this university, the last straw seems to be the action taken by the Minister of Environment in Delhi Mr. Jairam Ramesh. His action stopped the construction that was about to happen. See http://moef.nic.in/downloads/public-information/env-crz-vedanta.pdf.

After granting conditional clearance, it has now put on hold the clearance. Following is an excerpt from a report in Hindustan Times:

http://www.hindustantimes.com/Environment-Ministry-puts-on-hold-Vedanta-University-in-Orissa/Article1-542363.aspx

The Union Environment Ministry on Tuesday put on hold the controversial Rs.150 billion Vedanta University project in Orissa following complaints of alleged irregularities by its promoter Anil Agarwal Foundation. The direction to keep the project in abeyance has come within a month of the Ministry granting conditional environmental clearance to the Foundation which is building the university.

While the environment aspects of a mine is understandable, using environment as an issue to stop a university looks somewhat fishy. Especially, consider the following:

(i) The same Jairam Ramesh and his ministry has this week granted environmental permission to construct the Polavurum dam in Andhra Pradesh against the objections of the Orissa and Chhatisgrah government. See http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/Environment-ministry-clears-Andhra-project/articleshow/6233874.cms .

Even Times of India is surprised with this. It wrote: "Oddly, while the ministry had set up separate committees to investigate the settlement of rights under the Forest Rights Act in other high profile cases such as Vedanta and Posco which propose to displace far lesser people, in the Polavaram case the ministry has decided to accept the state government’s compliance report on face value.  The mega-project is expected to submerge 276 villages displacing upwards of two lakh people by some estimates. "

(ii) In the past IIT Madras was built on the land of Guindy National Park. Following is from IIT Madras’s web page at http://www.iitm.ac.in/biodiversity

The IIT Madras Campus was carved out of a natural forest that formed part of the Guindy National Park.

(iii) IIT Bombay is in close proximity to the Sanjay Gandhi national park

Jairam Ramesh’s bias against Orissa was earlier evident when in 2007 when he questioned how an IIT would benefit Orissa. See http://www.orissalinks.com/archives/286 .

I worry that Mr. Ramesh may be scheming to take the 15,000 crore Vedanta University to the south. He is originally from Karantak and is currently a Rajya Sabha MP from Andhra Pradesh. Regardless, losing this would be a great loss for Orissa.

I know oppositions in Orissa have raised many questions about Vedanta University. I have tried to answer their criticisms and questions. See http://www.orissalinks.com/archives/1696

My basic point is that this university with a budget of 15,000 crores out of which 5,000 crore is personal money pledged by Anil Agarwal (who has a net worth of several billion pounds, thus making this believable) can completely change the situation of Orissa and make the Bhubaneswar-Puri area a viable competitor to Bangalore, Pune and Hyderabad in terms of being a knowledge hub. This is a once in a century type of opportunity and letting it go would be foolish for generations to come.

Sorry for being so long, but this is a complex issue and I had to explain the background. We need to do something about this so that Vedanta University is established in Orissa, if not Puri, somewhere else in Orissa is fine too. If we let it go to some other state generations of Oriyas will repent for having lost this opportunity.

What can we do?

To start with please consider sending a version of the following letter (make changes to your liking).

 


 

To: pmosb@pmo.nic.in, kapil@kapilsibal.com, kapilsibal@hotmail.com, sam.pitroda@c-sam.com, s.pitroda@nic.in, jairam@sansad.nic.in, jairam@jairam-ramesh.com, secy.dhe@nic.in , skumar-mail@nic.in

Cc: cmo@ori.nic.in, bmahtab@sansad.nic.in, jayarampangi@gmail.com, pyarimohan@yahoo.co.uk, office.bjpanda@gmail.comk.mangala@sansad.nic.in, mohan.jena@sansad.nic.in, rb.pradhan@sansad.nic.in, sushila.tiriya@sansad.nic.in, pyarimohanap@sansad.nic.in

Bcc: ajit.samal@vedanta.co.in, brajakmishra@gmail.com, Itishree.Devi@vedanta.co.in, cv.krishnan@vedanta.edu.in

SUBJECT: Please stop putting hurdles on the Vedanta University project and facilitate its establishment

Dear Esteemed Prime Minister Dr. Singh:

I am very concerned that various bureaucratic hurdles have been put by your environment ministry on the Vedanta University Project (in Puri, Odisha), which is the only current initiative that has a decent chance of becoming the first (and perhaps the only for several decades) world class university of India.

I have no association with Vedanta University except that I would like India and Odisha  to have world class universities and I see the best hope of that happening soon through the establishment of Vedanta University. I am making this clarification of not having any association with Vedanta University because in India many people are afraid of speaking out in favor of industrial houses lest they be branded as being bought out by these houses.

The annual expenditure of typical state university [1] in the USA is 1.785 Billion USD, which comes to  8211 crores of INR at One USD=46 INR rate. Even taking the purchasing power index according to which 1 USD has the purchasing power of Rs 17,  1.785 Billion USD comes to about 3000 crores of INR using the purchasing power parity (PPP) numbers. Among other universities, Harvard with 20,000 students has an expenditure of 3.756 Billion USD [2] which comes to 6385 crores INR using PPP. Stanford’s budget for 18,500 students is 3.65 Billion USD [3].  In comparison, the 2010-11 budget for IISc Bangalore is 221 Crores INR and the total budget for the seven older IITs is 1600 crores.

The only Indian institution that ranks very high (at number 15) in global rankings [4] is the Indian School of Business at Hyderabad. According to a Times of India report [5]: "Indian School of Business (ISB) pays over Rs 20 lakh to its Assistant Professors (APs). Against this, an IIM-Ahmedabad AP gets only Rs 5.5 lakh as starting pay annually."

Based on the above two numbers one can guess estimate that a university in India aspiring to be world class would need to have an annual budget of 1000-1500 crores INR.  I am not sure what budget estimates have been made for the innovation universities. The closest number that I came across was the estimate (in 2008)  of 720 crores [6] over a nine year period.

The Vedanta University as planned has an overall budget of 15,000 crores with 5,000 crores being pledged from personal funds of the Anil Agarwal foundation. So the scale is way beyond what is mentioned with respect to the other institutions and universities in India.

As per [6,7,8,9]  the budget towards making a new IIT is 760 crores,  a new IIM is 210 crores, a central university is 300 crores, a central university with a medical school is 720 crores, an IISER is 500 crores and an AIIMS is 850 crores. These all add up to 3340 crores which is much less than the 5000 crores Mr. Anil Agarwal has pledged to contribute personally (through the Anil Agarwal foundation) towards Vedanta University. In addition the 15,000 crore overall budget and the plan for Vedanta University [10] which includes a township of 500,0000 and research institutes and centers a la Stanford Research Institute suggest a way to get enough income to match the annual expenses needed to operate a truly world class university. Thus when Vedanta University website talks about being world class [10], the numbers seem to add up.

I am not sure if the proposed innovation universities will be able to pay about 4 times the salary that is paid to faculty at IIMs and IITs. That is what ISB Hyderabad, the only globally top ranked institute is paying. That is what Vedanta University with its planned budget could possibly pay.

Under the above circumstances, Vedanta University seems to me as having the best chance to be India’s first comprehensive world class university.

While the honorable HRD Minister has been visiting around the world to get help in establishing innovation universities, does it make sense to create unreasonable hurdles (as the environment ministry seems to be doing) to the only one foundation that seems to have a real plan [10] and that has pledged money to back up that plan to create a truly world class university.

India’s laws and its constitution are sacrosanct. But as everyone knows one can use laws to create hurdles and one can also facilitate the establishment of one of a kind potentially real world class university while making sure that those laws are in compliance. It is my sincere opinion that the environment ministry is creating hurdles instead of  just making sure that the laws are followed. Also, it is unfortunate that the HRD ministry has not taken notice of Vedanta
University and has not facilitated the creation of this potentially world class university. Please note that, as per [11] "the IIT Madras Campus was carved out of a natural forest that formed part of the Guindy National Park."

In any western country a foundation with a $1 Billion donation towards a new university would have been given red carpet treatment. In India, the HRD ministry does not even notice it and the Environment ministry is bordering on harassing the project. No wonder we do not have any world class university yet.

I know that there are various people and organizations that are opposed to the Vedanta University. Many of them because they have issues with the Vedanta company. Also, most of them do not have a grasp of what a world-class university is, and some with political objectives have even floated malicious rumors. Many of those objections have been addressed in great length at http://www.orissalinks.com/archives/1696.

I sincerely request that you urgently have a meeting with the HRD ministry, the environment ministry and the government of Orissa and facilitate the establishment of Vedanta University  with full compliance of the laws of the land. In addition, please help Vedanta University to immediately start graduate programs in 2-3 areas of need while the various issues are expediently sorted out with your help.

Finally, Vedanta University was in the process of constructing the buildings for a top-notch medical school which would have been part of it. The environment ministry has stopped that. How much sense does it make to stop construction of a medical school in a state (Orissa) that lacks adequate medical facilities and that is at the bottom of many health parameters? 

Please allow the medical school construction to resume at the earliest as by stopping the construction of a medical school, your environment ministry is playing with lives.

[1] http://budget.asu.edu/all-funds-budget-0
[2] http://www.provost.harvard.edu/institutional_research/Provost_-_Harvard_Fact_Book_2009-10_FINAL.pdf
[3] http://www.stanford.edu/dept/businessaffairs/cgi-bin/downloadpdf_v3.php?file=BudBk_2010-11_sec1.pdf
[4] http://rankings.ft.com/businessschoolrankings/indian-school-of-business
[5] http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/news/city/ahmedabad/IIM-A-dons-want-Harvard-like-status/articleshow/4974404.cms
[6] http://pib.nic.in/release/release.asp?relid=37684
[7] http://pib.nic.in/release/release.asp?relid=12975
[8] http://www.financialexpress.com/news/aiims-to-start-functioning-in-jodhpur-in-23-yrs-azad/517370/
[9] http://pib.nic.in/release/release.asp?relid=29814
[10] http://vedanta.edu.in/
[11] http://www.iitm.ac.in/biodiversity

sincerely

13 comments July 31st, 2010

SOS from Vedanta University or Vedanta University’s Good Bye indication to Odisha??

Last month there was an article in Business Standard about the difficulty Vedanta University is facing and its consideration of shifting to the southern states. See http://www.orissalinks.com/archives/4767.

Today I was pointed to a new article in Business World. Following are some excerpts.

Agarwal’s other project in Orissa — Vedanta University — seems to be going nowhere. It appears it would take years before the first brick is laid on his most ambitious, and grandest, education project.

Agarwal, founder of London-based Vedanta Group, turned heads in 2006 when he said he would set up an 8,000-acre, $3-billion university under the aegis of Vedanta Foundation (which later changed its name to Anil Agarwal Foundation or AAF) in the state’s coastal town of Puri. He also offered $1 billion from his personal funds. Agarwal’s holding in his companies is worth more than $10 billion (as on 31 March 2010).

However, as with most projects requiring land acquisition, the university project, too, got mired in controversy. On 17 March, Orissa Lok Pal Justice P.K. Patra recommended a vigilance probe against AAF’s land deals. In May, the environment and forests ministry withheld clearance for the university, citing “irregularities, illegal, unethical and unlawful deeds”.

With the odds stacked against it, AAF is weighing other options. “Two states have extended an invitation; a decision is likely to be taken on a new site in two months,” says Ajit Kumar Samal, in-charge of the university project. He, however, refuses to divulge more details. Experts say the alternatives to Orissa could be Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh, which have good educational infrastructure. “Any place near Hyderabad or Chennai would be a good location,” says Narayanan Ramaswamy, head of education practice at consultancy firm KPMG.

The more important question, though, is: is a large university of this kind feasible in India?

Too Ambitious?
Vedanta’s justification for requiring so much land is simple — to build an institution on the lines of Stanford and Harvard. The 8,180-acre Stanford University was established in 1891. Harvard, set up in 1636, is the oldest institution of higher learning in the US, and has about 5,000 acres. But both were set up when land was not a precious commodity. Besides, the US is a far bigger country than India, and can afford to have universities of such scale.

I was also told that in a CNBC TV show (mentioned here, but no video there yet) Mr. Anil Agarwal said that they are looking for land for Vedanta University in some southern states.

10 comments July 25th, 2010

Vedanta University tries to nudge the Odisha government to action by threatening to move out of state

Following is a report by Kalpana Pathak from sify.com.

The estimated $3-bn Vedanta University was to start Phase-I by mid-2011 but is facing stiff opposition from locals.

The Anil Agarwal Foundation’s plan to set up a Rs 15,000- crore varsity in Puri (Orissa), called Vedanta University, has come a cropper. The management is now in talks with two southern states for alternative land to set up the varsity.

The Anil Agarwal Foundation’s Vedanta University is modeled on Stanford University and aims to be a worldclass, multi-disciplinary university with students from across India and around the world. However, the varsity, which was to begin operations by mid-2011, has not even started the basic infrastructure work on the land due to stiff opposition from locals and lack of political support.

… "We sought support from the state government but it is silent. We agreed to set up the university on government’s invitation but now we are very disappointed. We even revised our initial plans of having the campus on 8,000 to 6,000 acres," admits an official from the university who did not wish to be named. The university board has managed to acquire around 4,000 acres of land so far.

A director of a local institute told Business Standard: "The university concept as such is a good one and considering the varsity is facing stiff opposition from locals, the foundation should look for a smaller piece of land and begin operations."

The Foundation says if it’s not able to set up the university in Orissa, the land acquired could be made into an extended arm of the university which, could be housed outside Orissa.

The Foundation and the state government in 2006, had signed a memorandum of understanding to create the University. In July 2009, the government of Orissa passed a bill to allow the massive university to be set up and function with autonomy. The university being built with an investment of Rs 15,000 crore has plans to come up in three phases. Phase one was to be operational by mid-2011 with an investment of Rs 5,000 crore. The first academic session at the university was to begin in 2009 but the project has been delayed for over two years due to land acquisition tussle with the local residents of Puri. With further delays, the university could take longer to get operational.

To begin with, the university expects to start operations with around 1,000 students in the arts and science streams. The student intake, however, will grow steadily to reach an ultimate goal of 100,000 students. The university board however, is still working on the modalities involving admission and fee structure.

The university has awarded construction contracts of the academic buildings as well as the hospital at the project site to companies like Larsen & Toubro, Shapoorji Pallonji, Ahluwalia, B E Billimoria and Simplex. Architects Ayers Saint Gross of Baltimore, USA, have prepared the master plan of the University. Few international scholars like Will Chase, Pratap Bhanu Mehta and Sam Pitroda are said to have evinced interest in the project.

The campus will have a super specialty hospital, which will answer a long standing need for providing comprehensive and specialized patient care for the people of Orissa and eastern India. Both the University and the hospital are ‘not-for-profit’ institutions. World-renowned hospital architects are developing the design for the hospital, Perkins and Will from USA. The university will also establish research parks to promote science and technology-based entrepreneurship and support an innovation-driven incubator. E-learning programmes will also be launched in future.

At this point, I am not sure the state government is at fault. The state government has passed the Vedanta University Bill. The construction and further land acqusition is stopped by the environmental ministry of the central government (see here and here), and the high court case. I think for the latter Vedanta University Project and its official bear some responsibility as it seems that in their haste to speed up the process of land acquisition, they might not have dotted the i’s at the right time.

Nevertheless, as per the reported recommendations of the Lokpal, the issue is mostly technical. I hope both get resolved soon and the progress is resumed.

One thing the state government can do now is to initiate a dialog with the PM, HRD M and Ministry of Environment to sort out the environmental issues at the earliest. On its part Vedanta University Project should start taking actions as laid out in its act. It should also seriously consider starting some graduate programs at the earliest.

10 comments June 15th, 2010

Vedanta University Project gets environment and CRZ clearance from the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests: IANS

Update: Indian express mentions that the clearance from the center comes with several conditions. Following is an excerpt.

In its letter to the Foundation dated April 16, the Ministry cleared the project while setting about 50 conditions. As per the condition, the Foundation has to get necessary permission and no-objection certificate from the Ministry as the project is situated less than 200 metres of Balukhanda reserve forest and wildlife sanctuary. Besides, the Foundation cannot draw ground water, restrict local fishermen from fishing and construct in CRZ area. The MoEF letter also makes it clear that the clearance order can be challenged before the National Environment Appellate Authority within a period of 30 days.


Following is from this IANS report at Indiatalkies:

… ‘The union ministry of environment and forests (MOEF) has granted the environment and CRZ clearances to the Vedanta University project,’ Sasanka Patnaik told IANS. 

‘We received the letter from the ministry today (Saturday),’ he said.

 The Anil Agarwal foundation is promoted by NRI billionaire and chairman of Britain’s Vedanta Resources Anil Agarwal.

 It has proposed to set up a multi-disciplinary Vedanta University over 6,000 acres of land near the Konark-Puri marine drive, some 60 km from here.

 This not-for-profit university, being built on a global scale, has been envisaged as one-of-its-kind institution for quality higher education and cutting-edge research facility in 95 academic disciplines for 100,000 students.

In March 2009 it had received conditional clearance from the state.

3 comments April 17th, 2010

Vedanta University Project gets Conditional CRZ (Coastal Regulation Zone) clearance: Sambada

Following is an excerpt from a report in expressbuzz.com.

State Coastal Zone Management Authority has cleared the application of Vedanta University project in its meeting held under the chairmanship of UN Behera, Secretary of State Forest and Environment Department.

… It was resolved to accord CRZ clearance while the authority imposed a number of terms and conditions before recommending it to the Centre for granting permission to take up the construction work.

The conditions include not to encroach and obstruct the natural course of the river Nuanai which is flowing through the project area. The authorities have also asked Anil Agarwal Foundation, the promoter of the project, not to undertake any construction activities in the prohibited CRZ area, discharge waste water to the nearby water bodies and it should abide by the proper solid waste management and disposal norms.

The Foundation had applied to the Ministry of Environment and Forests for necessary permission to start the work. Since the project site includes CRZ areas the Union Ministry had sent the application to the State Coastal Zone Management Authority for examination of the application.

1 comment March 6th, 2009

Previous Posts


Calendar

September 2017
M T W T F S S
« Feb    
 123
45678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
252627282930  

Posts by Month

Links

Posts by Category