Vedanta University a closed chapter

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.

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