Even as the Congress and BJP, two parties in the opposition bench in Orissa, are stiffly opposing the setting up of the Vedanta University Project at Puri, two south Indian states, where the government of these parties are in power, are vying with each other to get the project relocated to their respective state.
First it was Karnataka, which had sent feelers to Vedanta chief Anil Agarwal and assured him all support if he decided to relocate the project to the state.
Now, it is Andhra Pradesh chief minister K. Rosaiah, who has gone all out to woo Agarwal to set up the university project in his state. Congratulating Agarwal for entering the shores of Andhra Pradesh through acquisition of majority stake in Cairns India which has interest in KG Basin, Rosaiah in a letter to Vedanta chief has urged him to cement the ties further by complementing the Andhra Pradesh government’s efforts to make the state global centre of learning.
Meanwhile, the fate of jinxed Vedanta University Project appears to be sealed as the company has shifted 26 of its 30 staff at the site to other locations. “All work on the project put on halt and the residual staff will also be withdrawn shortly, said a company official.
In his letter to Agarwal, who is also the chairman of Anil Agarwal Foundation (AAF), Rosaiah said, “I request you to choose Andhra Pradesh as the state has a unique capacity and culture to nurture the institute of your dreams that will put Indian education back on the global map. I depute the chief executive officer of AP Invest, the state government's nodal agency, to make a detailed presentation to you in this regard. I assure you that the state government will extend every possible support to this endeavour.”
“Your vision of building a research university of the stature of Stanford in India, your dream of providing higher education of global standards to over one lakh students is all the more heartening. My government strongly believes in nurturing great institutions of learning in the state. As part of this vision, we have successfully invited institutions of excellence like Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), Chrisitian Medical College-Vellore and Indian Institute of Science-Bangalore to start their academic and research campuses in the state”, the letter added.
AAF had sought around 6000 acres of land for building a university project of international standards in Orissa. The universit was to come up on the Puri-Konark marine drive at an investment of Rs 5000 crore.
The university, when fully operational, was to have an intake of 100,000 with a total construction area of 273.68 lakh sq metres. This proposed university would have a provision for quality higher education and cutting-edge research facility in 95 academic disciplines.
The project could not progress on the ground due to stiff opposition from the locals and opposition parties over land acquisition. Though the company had acquired about 4000 acres on paper, it was unable to take physical possession of the land. “Whenever we went to start work on the project, we were chased away by the local villagers”, rued the company official. Even the initial plan to build a 1000-bed super-speciality hospital at the site met with hostility, he added.
To make the matters worse for the company, the Union ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) had put in abeyance its earlier order granting environment clearance to the project.