Thursday, July 12, 2007

Mega University in Orissa

Shailaja Neelakantan reports in the Chronicle of Higher Education (it's likely to go behind a paywall soon, so go read it NOW):

On 6,750 acres that [Anil Agarwal of Vedanta Resources] plans to buy with the blessing of the government, which will lease him another 800 acres, Mr. Agarwal intends to build a $3.5-billion university.

In 2023, when it is scheduled to be completed, Vedanta University is expected to house 100,000 students and 40,000 faculty and staff members.

The area will also be home to a resort, a golf course, a government-built airport, and townships to house the employees who will operate those many ventures. If it succeeds, Vedanta will boast faculty members and students from all over the world, producing "tomorrow's Nobel laureates, Olympic champions, and community leaders," according to promotional materials.

And then there's this:

Many local residents are predisposed to distrust Mr. Agarwal. His mining operation in the state's dirt-poor Kalahandi district is controversial for dodging environmental laws. A Supreme Court investigation in 2005 found that the company had failed to disclose that it planned to encroach on endangered forests.

"When people who are known for flouting the rule of law talk about setting up a university, you wonder, and everyone knows the land earmarked for it is a dream area for setting up industry or dealing in real estate," says Mr. Patnaik.

I hope I am wrong here, but I have to say this: When you read the article, you can't help thinking that this might be a scam masquerading as a university. Lots of very important people refuse to be interviewed, and lots of questions and concerns go unacknowledged. Mega-projects, even noble ones such as those for a university, need to be mega-transparent about how exactly they are going to be implemented. The news trickles that I have seen on this initiative have only led to stronger suspicions. Frankly, I am surprised that our press has not taken any serious interest in Vedanta University's plans.

Like I said, I would like to be proven wrong on this one. If you have information or links that can help me change my mind on Vedanta University, please leave a comment below (or send me mail).

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Some of Neelakantan's previous articles are available at her website.


  1. Yogesh K. Upadhyaya said...

    It is sad that a corrupt person like Anil Agarwal is talking about investing money in education. So far, no businessmen (except Tata for IISC & Birla in BITs, Pilani and some others)in India have donated large sum for higher education in India.

    The Telegraph India states that Anil Agarwal had boasted of giving 250 million pounds as bribes to politicians in India.

    "The issue was earlier raised by the Orissa Gana Parishad leader, Arun Dey, during a discussion yesterday on an adjournment motion relating to the Vedanta alumina project in Kalahandi.

    Dey had alleged that the chairman of the Vedanta Group, Anil Agarwal, in his annual general body meeting in London last year had spoke of contributing £250m for politicians to India."

    Despite warnings, he has neglected central govt. concern for environment by his $800 million alumnium refinery project.

    Orissa tribals are also opposed to his university project, as they fear that Anil will convert thousand of acres of land for mining project.

    Yogesh K. Upadhyaya

  2. Anonymous said...

    abi, u are right. a mining company owner is planning to invest 3.5billion in univresity, when his company does not have that kind of cash, it rings alarm bells private individual can set up an university independently in todays costs, it has to be funded by various private sources. This is a scam!!

    i hope the project fails