MAC: Mines and Communities

Vedanta staff chased away

Published by MAC on 2008-11-10
Source: The Telegraph (Kolkata)

Bhubaneswar:: Vedanta Group's proposed international university near Puri in Orissa received a setback today as hundreds of villagers stalled bhoomi puja for a road leading to the site.

According to police, residents from surrounding villages assembled near Balighai, 15km from Puri, in the morning to oppose the function.

The protesters, armed with sticks, shouted slogans against the firm and the Anil Agrawal Foundation, which is responsible for the proposed varsity.

They ransacked the venue, torched equipment and damaged an excavator engaged for levelling the land surface.

The irate mob also tried to beat up officials of the proposed university.

They were chased away and took shelter at a local police outpost, confirmed Puri additional superintendent of police Rajat Mishra.

The situation was contained and the Vedanta employees were escorted back to their offices after tension eased, Mishra added. Four platoons of armed police forces were deployed at the spot.

However, a senior official of Vedanta University underplayed the problem and said only a small section of the populace was against the setting up of the varsity.

He said the contractors and officials were sent to Balighai today to start construction of an approach road to the proposed university.

The district administration and police were given prior information and accordingly proper arrangements were made.

Work was postponed after some villagers attacked contractors and labourers. He reiterated that a majority of the people supported the project and only a small group was creating disturbances.

The project work will continue according to schedule, he added. Benudhar Pradhan, the convener of Vedanta Vishvavidyalaya Sangharsha Samiti, which is spearheading the agitation against the project, said villagers were determined not to allow the Anil Agrawal Foundation to set up the varsity at any cost.

The foundation had signed an MoU with the Orissa government in July 2006 for India's first and only world-class, multi-disciplinary university.

The foundation had announced an endowment of $1 billion for the university. The government had committed to provide 8,000 acres on the Puri-Konark marine drive, 60km from Bhubaneswar.

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