The Curious Case of Vedanta University | OPEN Magazine

<blockquote class=’posterous_long_quote’>In 2006, the Vedanta Foundation submitted a proposal to the Orissa government for acquisition of land to build an eponymous university. Accordingly, on 19 July 2006, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the two, with the state promising 10,000 acres of land off Orissa’s Puri-Konark Marine Drive road. While the deal was signed on behalf of the state government by its Commissioner-cum-Secretary, who signed it on behalf of Vedanta remains unclear. What is clear is that in less than two months of the MoU, Vedanta Foundation changed its name to Anil Agarwal Foundation (AAF). Also, that the proposal was met with stiff public resistance and the plan had to be whittled down to 6,892 acres, 5,000 acres of which was to be private land (with the government delivering the rest, including land belonging to Puri’s Jagannath temple).</blockquote>

<blockquote class=’posterous_long_quote’><p>The district authorities of Puri admitted afterwards that the mandatory requirements of the Indian Companies Act, 1956, had not been followed. On the other hand, in May 2008, the Registrar of Companies in Mumbai DK Gupta stated categorically that the AAF “is a section 25 Company as per Section 25 of the Companies Act, 1956, and not a public limited company”.</p> <p>But this did not deter the Orissa government from doling out favour after favour to the Foundation. It was decided that the university will be exempt for 20 years from all levies and taxes related to construction and procurement of educational equipment. Also, by the MoU, a 5 km radius area around the campus would be under the virtual control of Vedanta, since residents of this area would have to seek its permission to undertake any sort of structural work. Opponents of the deal also maintain that the Jagannath Temple’s world-famous Rath Yatra, a centuries-old tradition, would have to take Vedanta’s clearance as well. If that’s insensitive, the state government did not even take into account the fact that a fifth of the people living in this 5 km radius area are farmers who own no land, and would thus lose their livelihood because of the project.</p></blockquote>

<blockquote class=’posterous_medium_quote’>Suspicions have only grown since. As have voices of objection. Responding to a question put up by Rudra Narayan Pani, BJP MP and member of the Union Ministry of Mines’ consultative committee, in November 2009 the Central Government said that the Atomic Minerals Directorate for Exploration and Research had identified 1.82 million tonnes of thorium-bearing monazite resources along the Orissa coast—the same area, oddly, where Agarwal wants his world-class university.</blockquote>

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