Vedanta University and its Real Aims –
Criminal Mastermind Anil Agarwal’s
land grab scheme
Criminal Anil Agarwal
the MNCs and Indian Corporate houses are showing excessive interest in Orissa ‘development’. The Government at the centre and in Orissa, which are committed to serve the imperialists and their compradors, are giving full momentum to their plunderous invasion through their policies of globalisation. Every day, our people are witnessing the model of ‘development’ thurst upon them by the rulers. They are experiencing their consequences. They are opposing these policies in various forms. The ever tightening noose of imperialist plunder is all embracing. With the recent WTO agreements, the imperialist penetration into the service sector is gaining momentum. This is depriving the people even the minimum services.
In this background, Anil Agrawal, the chairman of Vedanta Foundation has come on the scene with an idea of establishing ‘ Vedanta University ’ in Orissa. Not only this, on July 20, 2006, the Orissa Government and Vedanta Foundation signed a MoU in regard to this. It is a Rs. 15,000 crore project. Anil Agrawal alone will contribute Rs. 4,500 crores for this project. Anil Agrawal boasted that there is no profit motive behind his idea of this university. He assured that he earned enough wealth through his business and industrial activities. It was only a strong desire to establish an university of highest standards in the world and an abode of knowledge which can stand in the rank of Stansford university in the US which inspired him to this move.
Thus he has shown how a boundless magnanimity and urge for country’s progress can overflow from the heart of a big industrialist like him, and projecting himself as a distinct example for this. He even boasted that world’s wealthiest person like Bill Gates could not show that kind of large-heartedness which he has shown to a good cause. In Orissa, the Chief Minister, ministers, bureaucrats, a section of intellectuals showered all praise on him. They lauded the proposed university as a great achievement and a big leap towards progress for Orissa. But no one, who is really interested in the progress of Orissa, must be swept by this kind of orchestrated propaganda. They must arrive at decisions on the basis of facts.
Main Features of Vedanta University
The details that appeared in the media, in MoU signed by the Orissa government and the Vedanta Foundation, and in the talk of Anil Agrawal are as follows:
– This University will be set up in the area between Puri and Konark near Nuvai river in Puri district of Orissa. It is said, the university presently requires 8,000 and later 2,000 acres more. Thus together, it requires 10,000 acres land.
– In course of time, a small city, which will eventually be transformed into a satellite city, will come up at a 10-15 KM distance.
– Rs. 15,000 crores are required to establish the University. About Rs. 4,500 crores needed for the completion of first phase will be given by Anil Agrawal as “donation”. Rest of the money will be pooled from the students who take admission in the University. The University maintenance expenses too are to be borne by the students.
– The University will be managed by an autonomous council.
– All the work connected to the setting up of the University will be completed by 2025. The admission for students will begin in 2008. In all 1,00,000 students will study here.
– It will be a multipurpose University. It will be a ‘ Knowledge City ’. From sports to all branches of education and research will be available here. The entire educational programme is carried on in accordance with a long term plan. Liberal arts, economy, environmental science, etc. will be taught here. In due course, the facilities will be provided here for research in information technology, communications, health, rural economy, mechanical engineering and all other branches. It will develop, on a long term basis, researchers, scholars and intellectuals.
– It will have links with various industries on the line of Stansford University in US (it is having links with more than 12,000 companies and these companies are having their research units in the Stansford University ). These companies will have their research units in Vedanta University . It also maintains relations with the government.
– It will produce Nobel lauretes, gold medallists in sports, top ranking footballers and champions. It will produce doctors, engineers of highest order and the leaders who can efficiently administer the country.
– Only those with merits of world level will be given admission in this University. The system of reservation is not applicable here. There will be no special benefits for students from Orissa.
– Anil Agrawal assured, once this University comes up, Orissa will occupy a special place in the world map. Henceforth, one can compare Orissa not with MP and Gujarat, but only with France and Japan .
– The Orissa government will provide the necessary infrastructure like water, electricity, etc. needed by the University. It will lay an Express Road connecting Bhubaneshwar Airport to the Vedanta University .
Land the University Swallows
The land that this University require is quite large, i.e., 10,000 acres, is quite huge. Let us compare it with the land occupied by some of the leading educational institutions in our country.
IIT Kharagpur 2100
IIT Chennai 625
IIT Delhi 320
IIT Kanpur 1055
IIT Guwahati 712
JNU Delhi 1000
Hyderabad University 2300
Benaras Hindu University 1300
In terms of land area, these Universities are dwarfs as compared to Vedanta University . The Utkal University , which is called Orissa’s modern educational centre, occupies only 400 acres of land. At this rate, Vedanta University alone swallow 25 Utkal Universities. A University does not require such a huge amount of land. The intentions behind the proposed acquisition of 10000 acres of land for Vedanta University are, therefore, questionable.
The state government has agreed to supply 11 crore litres of water to this University every day. Why such a huge amount of water is required by it is a question. The municipal authorities (Puri town) are supplying 2 crore 30 lakh and 50 thousand litres of water every day to Puri town. It means, the government proposes to supply 5 times more water to the Vedanta University .
If we assume that one person consumes 80 litres of water every day, the water proposed to be supplied to Vedanta University each day is enough for 13 lakh and 50 thousand people. Puri district’s population is 15,21,682 (as per 2001 census and Orissa State ’s Economic Survey for 2004-05, See Annex 12). At this rate the water Vedanta University is expected to consume every day is equal to the water consumed by 90 percent of entire population of Puri district. The University will bring much pressure on the water resources in Puri district.
It is indicated that this University requires 150-600 Megawatt electricity. According to this, the University alone will consume 10-40 per cent electricity consumes by the entire state. The generation of electricity by all the hydel projects in the state (Hirakund, Rengeli, Upper Kolab, Upper Indrawati and Machkhand) taken together comes to 684.21 Mega watt. The two thermal projects together generate 584.84 MW electricity (Orissa State Economic Survey). If the Vedanta University requires 600 MW electricity, almost the entire electricity generated by the hydel projects will have to be diverted to it. This will create a serious deficit in electricity in Orissa.
People Lose Lands and other Means of Livelihood
The area chosen for Vedanta University is a rich, healthy sea coast. The people here live on agriculture, fishing and other rural professions. Once the University is allowed to swallow 10,000 acres, the people depending on land and agriculture-related professions lose their means of livelihood. All the promises of state government as well as Vedanta Foundation about paying market rate to the lands is a big deception. Here the lands are under different types of ownership, like, private land, mutt land, government land, banzar land and grazing land. Once the people agree, in principle, to part with the lands, they would be at mercy of government and Vedanta Foundation.
There is every possibility that the government will take shelter under so many alibis to deny the payment of rates to the real and rightful owners of lands. The people of Orissa who were displaced from their lands at various times and in several areas have horrifying experiences in this regard. The life turns too pathetic if the people in the Puri and Konark area lose their lands and other means of livelihood. There is no need what-so-ever for the peasants and poor of other professions to sacrifice all their means of livelihood for the sake of rich-Indian as well as foreign.
Real Aims of University
The Vedanta University is a castle in the sky which takes away the education and knowledge to such height that even the children of higher middle class cannot reach it. The “meritorious students of world standards” about whom Anil Agrawal talks about can be none but the children of rich. Healthy and sumptuous feast of education and research is served and fed by golden spoons here only to these ‘fortunates”. The magnificent facilities arranged for this purpose are what is called ‘ Vedanta University ’.
This University is a move towards giving a practical shape to the ideas of those who want the education and research to remain in the control and service of the rich. Like Stansford University the job of this university is to produce the spare-parts and machines in a human form in accordance with the specifications and needs of MNCs and Indian corporate houses. It proposes to link itself with the companies and government only to perform these responsibilities. At a time when the imperialist plunder is being imposed more widely and more systematically in the name of globalisation, there is a need for them to produce the intellectuals, leaders and administrators having the ideas, skills and capabilities necessary for this.
This will provide educational and research facilities for foreign students at a lesser cost as compared to the costs in their countries. There is no relation what-so-ever to the plan of this university to the urge and aspirations of our people for an independent and all round development of our country. In reality, this university is aimed at frustrating such urge and attempts and producing the intellectual tools who can frustrate such urge and attempts.
Behind Agrawal’s ‘Magnanimity’
Anil Agrawal began as scrap dealer and, with in a short span of time, rose to the level of a big capitalist. He is from Bihar, but stays in London . He now owns the properties of about Rs. 14,542 crores. According to Sunday Times, he occupies 28th place in the list of richest in the world. He is the chairman of Vedanta Foundation. His attempt to set up an Alumina Factory at Lanjigarh in Kalahandi district of Orissa is encountering serious opposition and protest from people. This company was given the name ‘Vedanta Alumina Company’, but in reality, it is another name of MNC called “Sterlite Company”. This change in name was a part of deceptive move to make it acceptable for the Indian people.
His business and industrial activities are spread in other countries also. The fact that some of his companies are black listed has come to light in the deliberations in the Orissa state assembly. This company together with the state government unleashed a reign of white terror against the people who were protesting against the setting up of Alumina Factory. This factory is opposed by all the democratic and patriotic forces because it only causes loot and destruction of precious natural resources, destruction of environment, dries up underground water resources, deprives people from the means of livelihood and turns the entire area uninhabitable. The owners of Alumina company did not stop at unleashing repression against the people. The company goons chased Shukru Manzhi, leader of people’s protest movement, using Jeeps and crushed him to death in a most dastardly manner under their wheels.
Anil Agrawal who has a history of this kind flocked to Puri-Konark area taking the incarnation of a new Nagarjuna (he claims that Nalanda University is his ideal for this Vedanta University ). He is offering as “donation” a small part of the wealth he amassed by plundering people. All his sweet talk about his burning desire to establish a knowledge treasure house of world standards in Orissa is nothing but a beautiful mask for a colossal deception he is aiming at committing in future. The money he offers to give in the name of spreading education and knowledge is nothing but a disguise form of investment.
The name University is only a license to enter this area with no hindrance and in a favourable atmosphere. Once the Vedanta Foundation succeeds in this attempts, the land, infrastructure, etc., which are many times valuable to the money ‘donated’ (invested) would come under its control and utilisation. Once a foot hold is gained, it can carry on and enlarge its activities through and under the cover of University. Anil Agrawal has ideas and proposals to establish a steel plant in Orissa with an investment of Rs. 12,500 crores and of 50 lakhs tons production capacity. The land proposed to be acquired, the infrastructure proposed to built up and other resources and sea coast in Puri-Konark area may be used to put this idea into practice. A SEZ (Special Economic Zone) is expected to come up in this area. There should be no doubt that Vedanta Foundation will reap the benefit that come with it.
The Puri-Konark sea coast is most valuable tourist area. This area becoming a centre for the activities of MNCs, researches, etc. all in the name of international university and being turned in to a special, autonomous and secluded zone is wrought with dangerous consequences for our country. The cultural environment this university and other activities bring with them will have a bad influence on the cultural and economic life in the area. There is a danger of this area becoming a potential area for imperialists nefarious designs. Thus this University is an instrument for many declared and undeclared designs which are harmful to the interests of out country and people.
People’s Fight Against the ‘Development’ Touted by Rulers
Already, the people have come in to action opposing the setting up of Vedanta University . The people of Puri-Konark area are not prepared to sacrifice their lands and other means of livelihood for the sake this of university which is sought to be forced upon them by the rulers with a clear aim of pushing them away from the opportunities for education and with questionable design. The people can imagine how frightening their life will become once they lose even whatever minimum means of livelihood they are having.
In the last two decades period, the Congress as well as the present BJD-led NDA governments had taken the lives of dozens of people in their despicable attempts to pave the way for the loot of precious natural and human resources by the MNCs and Indian corporate houses in Orissa. They had tasted enough of people’s blood. The massacre of 13 adivasis by police on January 2, 2006 in Kalinganagar was only a recent incident. The government have displaced people in several areas. They have devastated the economic, social and cultural life which the people had built through generations of toil. These bitter experiences are before the people of Puri district.
The rulers in our country are in the service of imperialism in looting the valuable mineral wealth, sea, water, forest, land and human resources – all in the name of economic and industrial development. They are providing the imperialists and their compradors with modern and well-built infrastructure and markets. Thus, they are, in reality, destroying whatever the possibilities available for India for an independent and all round development – all in the name of “development”. They are closing the doors for the overwhelming masses of our people to education – all in the name of spreading education. Turning education in to a big business is only a part of this. They are, at the same time, depriving the people from the minimum means of livelihood and pushing them in to a helpless state to build most modern, well furnished and luxurious castles of education for a handful of rich.
There is no way for our people other than carrying on an organised and united struggle against these policies. The ongoing struggle of people of Orissa in general and the people of Puri district in particular against the establishment of Vedanta University is only a part of this just democratic and patriotic struggle.