Centre halts Vedanta university

Violations of environmental clearances to be investigated

In a letter, the ministry asked the foundation, which was building the university, to halt all construction and developmental works immediately. It also instructed not to resume development works unless all complaints against the varsity for the violation of environmental clearances are investigated.

The ministry accorded the approvals to the university on April 16, 2010, with some conditions because of its proximity to the Balukhanda reserve forest and wildlife sanctuary.

But within a month, the same ministry found enough reasons to stall the project.
It claimed there were irregularities, illegal, unethical and unlawful deeds, reportedly committed by the university as well as the state, which need to be looked into.

The ministry now claims that the objections raised by the Orissa Coastal Zone Management Authority were not “appropriately considered” while granting the coastal zone regulation  and environmental clearance.  This leads to pertinent questions on the quality of approval given by the ministry on various developmental projects.

An expert appraisal committee of the ministry has now been tasked to probe the allegations and all approvals would be kept at abeyance till the ministry takes a decision based on the expert panel’s advice.

In 2006, London-based Vedanta Resources Corporation and Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik signed an agreement to set up Vedanta University, which was dubbed as, probably, one of the biggest universities in the country, houses in a 6,800-acre campus accommodating 1,00,000 students. But, it soon ran into a controversy with Orissa Lok Pal Justice P K Patra recommending a vigilance probe indicting the chief minister’s office and four senior government officials for acting hastily in handing over the land to the foundation.

The Lok Pal noted that since the Foundation was not a public company under the Companies Act, the state government’s acquisition of land for the university was illegal. Apparently, part of the land belongs to Jagannath temple trust.

Activists as well as the Orissa coastal zone management authority too came out with reports claiming gross violation of environmental norms while approving the land, which is close to reserved forests.

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