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.
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.
Must see youtube video on the story of Vedanta University.
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.
I would now like to rebut the couple of points mentioned in the above writing.
(i) In regards to the size it is true that no world class university currently has 100,000 students. However, several of them have around 50,000 students. Please see Q6 of http://www.orissalinks.com/archives/1696. Some of them, especially Arizona State University, expects to reach a size of 85,000 by 2030. Moreover, one must note that Vedanta University aims to have 100,000 students at build out, which may be in 20-25 years or beyond.
(ii) On the issue of minerals, one just has to make sure that it is explicitly mentioned that any mineral from that land becomes state property and have a mechanism to monitor it.
(iii) On why in a rural location; the Vedanta University location is about 40 kms from the outer edges (Jatni) of the Bhubaneswar area. With plans to connect it by a 4-lane highway it will only take 25-45 minutes to get there from various points in Bhubaneswar. Also, most the new IITs that are coming up, especially IITs in Hyderabad, Punjab, Patna and Indore, are 25-50 kms from the airports or city center of their respective metropolitan areas.
Also, I have not seen any Orissa govt. claim or Vedanta statement regarding any plans to get SEZ status for the university. In any case, education institutions probably already have tax-free status on certain aspects.