MAC: Mines and Communities

Agarwal's "global seat of learning" gets boot up the backside

Published by MAC on 2010-04-08
Source: Express News Service, Financial Express (2010-04-01)

Once again, the prime mover behind notorious UK-listed mining company, Vedanta Resources, is under the critical spotlight.

This time Anil Agarwal is accused of failing to change the status of his eponymous Foundation from private fiefdom to that of public company, as he proceeds with construction of a highly-contentious academic institution.

In a report last week by the Indian government's ombudsperson (Lok Pal) it is Orissa state officials have also come most under fire.

They are accused of handing-over temple lands for Agarwal's Vedanta University without the proper mandate.

This huge "global seat of learning" has long been a pet project of Mr Agarwal's and met vociferous condemnation by local farmers.

Inevitably this opposition is now set to intensify. For background, see:

http://www.minesandcommunities.org/article.php?a=9389

http://www.minesandcommunities.org/article.php?a=9572

http://www.minesandcommunities.org/article.php?a=6779

 

Editorial note: In 2007, Anil Agarwal's Foundation was virtually synonymous with Vedanta Resources, thus making its promotion of the Orissa-based University technically a breach of the law, since the company is based in London and therefore classified as foreign. The following year the Foundation "switched" its location to India, but has continued being operated as a private enterprise, fuelled by overseas contributions.

Top officials were found wanting: Lok Pal

Express News Service

1 April 2010

BHUBANESWAR: The observations made by Lok Pal Justice PK Patra in his judgment on Vedanta University issue delivered on Tuesday, are a virtual indictment of the functioning of the State Government.

While the Lok Pal has pointed out the non-application of mind by some top officials, he has also faulted the Anil Agarwal Foundation for misrepresenting facts.

The Government, the judgment said, acted in undue haste in handing over the land to the foundation which is building a world class university near Puri.

There was no application of mind by the members of the core committee, comprising senior government officials, constituted to go through various aspects of the Vedanta's proposal, it said.

Giving his ruling on a petition filed by Dwarika Mohan Mishra, Justice Patra observed that the core committee did not examine various aspects of such a gigantic project and was critical of the top bureaucrats including the then secretaries of the Higher Education and Revenue departments.

Had they applied their mind, they would not have suggested to the Government for initiation of land acquisition proceedings before the foundation complied with the provisions of the Companies Act, Justice Patra observed.

The MoU was signed six days after initiation of the proposal of the university. The MoU does not constitute a legally enforceable contract and the officials acted in haste to accede to the request of the foundation, the Lok Pal said.

The views of the Law Department on land acquisition, the judgment said, appeared to have been misread. It was the opinion of the Law Department that before acquisition of land, the foundation would be required to change its status from private company to public company. While the application of the foundation was under consideration of the Company Affairs Ministry, as per the ministry letter of November 22, 2006, it was `misread by the commissioner-cum-secretary to the Higher Education Department'.

For his part, the foundation's representative misrepresented that the status of the company has changed. Believing this statement, the Higher Education Secretary wrote to the Revenue Secretary that the company had become public.

Surprisingly, the file was not put up before either the Revenue Minister or the Chief Minister and was approved by the Chief Secretary.

Even a letter on May 7, 2008 from DK Gupta, registrar of company, Maharashtra clarified that the legal status of the company had not changed, the government did not follow it up.

Justice Patra has, however, stopped short of indicting the officials without sufficient materials on record against them. It may not be reasonable, just and proper to indict them for their lapses without a thorough probe into the deal from the beginning, he said.


Orissa Lok Pal orders probe into Vedanta varsity land deals

Financial Express

1 April 2010

Bhubaneswar: Vedanta University, the world class university project of the Anil Agarwal Foundation, has landed up in further trouble with the Orissa Lok Pal directing a vigilance probe into the land deals.

Lok Pal justice PK Patra has directed the government to probe if the handover of the Puri Jagannath temple land to the Anil Agarwal Foundation was in breach of law and whether any official had a role in it.

Observing that if the Jaganath Temple Act and the Land Acquisition Act have not been complied with, then no temple land will be handed over to the Foundation for the proposed university, Justice Patra has directed "a vigilance cell be constituted to monitor the land deals".

The Lok Pal has recommended that the state government should work out a scheme for phase-wise delivery of land required for the university project. He also suggested that the vigilance cell should monitor the progress of the project and see that land is acquired and delivered in a phase-wise manner to the foundation so that it is not misused.

Justice Patra has asked the state government to ensure payment of adequate compensation by the Foundation to those affected by the project.

Acting on a petition filed by Dwaraka Mohan Mishra, a trade union leader, the Lok Pal has asked the state government to submit a report within three months after complying with the recommendations given by him in this case.

The Lok Pal has also recommended a moratorium on the project till the Anil Agarwal Foundation complies with the legal provisions pointed out by the Ministry of Company Affairs for conversion of its status from private to public company.


Anti-Vedanta outfit to intensify stir

Express News Service

1 April 2010

PURI: Vedanta Viswavidyalay Virodhi Sangharsh Samiti has decided to intensify stir against the proposed Vedanta university to be set up along Puri-Konark marine drive.

Addressing mediapersons yesterday, samiti leader Umaballav Rath and president Benudhar Pradhan announced that a ‘Sankalp Yatra' comprising anti-project activists from various villages would be taken out on April 1, the Utkal Divas day, from Biraharekrushnapur village from where noted freedom fighter Jayee Rajguru raised a banner of revolt against the British.

The yatra would culminate at Sri Jagannath Temple on April 5 after covering the areas to be affected by Vedanta project.

Rath said the Lokpal in response to a petition critically commented on the manner vast temple land was given to the Anil Agarwal Foundation, which is setting up the project, and recommended action against the officials responsible for such irregularities.

This apart a number of international funding agencies like Church of England have withdrawn their share from Vedanta protesting alleged human rights violations, Rath added. The samiti would take all possible steps in a peaceful manner to prevent the foundation from going ahead with construction activities, he said.

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