Mrunal Manmay Dash

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) came down hard on the Odisha government over the Vedanta University land acquisition issue on Thursday.

Slamming the State government, BJP National Spokesperson, Sambit Patra termed the Supreme Court ruling as the win of ‘Dharma’.

The statement came after the Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the Orissa High Court order which had set aside the land acquisition process for the project. The apex court termed the acquisition of 10,000 acres of land for the proposed project as ‘illegal’. The Supreme Court reprimanded the Odisha government and imposed a fine of Rs 5 lakh on Vedanta.

Citing the SC ruling, Patra said, “The MoU done by the State government with Vedanta allowed the company to acquire 10,000 acres of land. That patch of land has two rivers—Nua River and Nala River flowing through it. Once acquired, the private company would have been the owner of the rivers, which is illegal under the Indian Constitution.”

“Rivers are public property and if given away to corporate, they will control its water flow, then local residents will be affected,” Patra added.

Congress too targeted the State government. Senior Congress leader Jayadev Jena said, “The State government has not only received a shock but the Vedanta University proposal is effectively shelved for good. The State government did not hesitate to move the Supreme Court to help Vedanta get that land. We welcome the Supreme Court decision upholding Orissa HC ruling.”

“The State government went beyond the law to help a private company. They not only tried to bend the law to favour a corporate they also wanted to swindle Lord Jagannath’s land,” Jena said.

The ruling Biju Janata Dal (BJD) however refuted the allegations of showing undue sympathy to Vedanta. Speaking to reporters, Minister Pramila Mallik said, “The Opposition’s job is to oppose every move by the government. Whatever work we do for the betterment of people, they will complain. So there is nothing new in their approach in this case too. But the State government will continue to take decisions for the development of the State.”

Earlier in 2010, the Orissa High Court quashed the process of land acquisition for the university and directed the authorities to return the acquired land to their owners.

Later, the Odisha government and the Anil Agarwal Foundation moved the Supreme Court to save the proposed Rs 15,000-crore Vedanta University project at Puri. The Odisha government signed an agreement with Vedanta Foundation for the university in 2006.

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