Oxford University in land-grabbing row for its Indian campus

August 30th, 2009 - 12:31 pm ICT by ANI  

London, Aug 30 (ANI): Oxford University’s first overseas campus in India, which is going to be set up in Lavasa near Pune, has been embroiled in a land grabbing row, with accusations of human rights violations against the land developers.

Oxford’s outgoing vice-chancellor, John Hood, has been a strong backer of the Lavasa venture, described by the university as its first overseas campus.

Oxford has struck a preliminary deal with Ajit Gulab-chand, chairman of the company that controls Lavasa, to endow a chair at the Said Business School in Oxford for a reported 7.4 million pounds, The Times reported.

The Indian developers of the 12,500-acre Lavasa site have been accused of forcing farmers into selling their land and of pressing them to accept low prices. They have also been accused of worsening deforestation by cutting down millions of trees.

Medha Patkar, a human rights activist at the forefront of villagers’ campaign, described Lavasa as a “land grab”.

“People are threatened … made to feel like criminals. They cannot survive there unless they submit so they sell their land for the prices offered. They are continually asking them to leave. They say, ‘Give away your land, give away your land’.”

Oxford plans to offer courses for Indian executives in an education centre in Lavasa, a privately managed city modelled on hill stations built during the British rule,The Times reported.

Lavasa is to be home to 200,000 middle-class Indians and include resorts, educational and sports facilities including a golf course designed by Nick Faldo. The first of its four settlements, Dasve, is due to open next year.

Oxford will not offer degrees in the planned 15-20 million pounds education center, but Rajgopal Nogja, president of Lavasa Corporation, said he hoped 5,000 students would study there in its first five years.

He said Lord Patten, Oxford’s chancellor, had been enthusiastic about the plan in a visit two years ago. “It’s going to be the best building in my city, timeless architecture for the best university in the world,” the paper quoted Nogja, as saying. (ANI)

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