Oppn ups ante against Naveen on land for Vedanta University:Aftermath of Lokpal Justice Patra’s report

April 5, 2010 at 5:08 pm Leave a comment

Following is a report from http://economictimes.indiatimes.com:

BHUBNESWAR: Vedanta Group chairman Anil Agarwal is having harrowing time. His dream project, Vedanta University at Puri, is not only facing stiff

opposition from the locals, but also now mired in legal controversy following Lok Pal’s order the government for a vigilance probe if handing over of the Puri Jagannath temple land to the Anil Agarwal Foundation was in breach of law and whether any official had a role in it.

The opposition Congress on Monday accused chief minister Naveen Patnaik of favouring Vedanta Universiy by violating law of the land by handing over temple land without following due procedure. The party also demanded resignation of the chief minister and face an “impartial probe” into the handing over Jagannath temple trust land to the London-based Vedanta Resources which is setting up a university project at Puri.

Addressing a press conference here, senior Congress leaders Narasingha Mishra, Nalini Mohanty, L.B. Mohapatra, Niranjan Patnaik and Sibananda Ray said although an Assembly committee constituted by former Speaker Kishore Mohanty had estimated the cost of 1200 acres land given to Vedanta at Rs 80 crore, the company paid a pittance i.e only Rs 8 crore.

“The handing over of the Jaganath temple trust land to Vedanta smacks of a huge scam. The state law department had given adverse note on the transfer of land. But the chief minister office overlooked this for some obvious reasons,” they said, adding an impartial probe could unearth the scam.

Acting on a petition filed by Dwaraka Mohan Mishra, a trade union leader, the Lok Pal last week had asked the state government to submit a report within three months after complying with the recommendations given by him in this case. The Lok Pal has also recommended a moratorium on the project till the Anil Agarwal Foundation complies with the legal provisions pointed out by the Ministry of Company Affairs for conversion of its status from private to public company.

Legally the state government could acquire land for the Anil Agarwal Foundation if the Foundation was a public company. This has been the consistent view of the Law Department of Government of Orissa. The then Orissa chief secretary approved the proposal for land acquisition in the instant case on the 12th December 2006. Accordingly lands belonging to private persons as well as to Shri Jagannath Temple were gradually acquired. But no previous sanction of the state government was taken before acquiring the land belonging to Shri Jagannath Temple though previous sanction was mandatory as per Section 16 of Shri Jagannath Temple Act, 1954, which has embroiled Anil Agarwal Foundation into fresh trouble, officials said here.

Justice Patra has made it clear that if the Jaganath Temple Act and the Land Acquisition Act have not been complied with, no temple land could be handed over to the Foundation for the proposed University. Besides, he has recommended that the state government should work out a scheme for phase-wise delivery of land required for the university project. He also suggested that the vigilance cell should monitor the progress of the project and see that land is acquired and delivered in a phase-wise manner to the foundation so that it is not misused.

Justice Patra has asked the state government to ensure payment of adequate compensation by the Foundation to those affected by the project.

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Entry filed under: Higher Education Zone, Mining and Industrialization, State Watch-Monitoring the Odisha State, Upcoming University, Vedanta, Vedanta University.

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