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Aqua varsity in limbo as govt seeks greater role

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The Times Of India
20th October, 2019 04:07 IST

Vijayawada: Two years after getting the approval from the state government, the founders of AP Fisheries & Ocean University (APFOU) are finding that their proposal has been put in a limbo by the government which is seeking a greater role in the proposed university, sources familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.

The university was proposed to be set up by the Bhimavaram-based Ananda business group, at an estimated cost of Rs 300 crore. The Ananda group had donated 20 acres of its own land to the proposed university at Losari village near Bhimavaram in West Godavari district.

The Ananda group was to have a 51% stake in the university, which was to be the first university in the country to offer doctoral programmes in fisheries and aquaculture. The AP government had agreed to hold the balance 49% stake in a special purpose vehicle (SPV) the two parties were to set up for the university.

UJA Varma, vice-president of the Ananda group and a son of group chairman U. Kasi Viswanatha Raju, declined to comment on the development on Wednesday.

Apart from the land at Losari, the university’s proposal was to set up a research facility near Amalapuram in East Godavari district, where the Godavari flows into the Bay of Bengal. The research facility was to be set up on land to be provided by the AP government.

The proposal was waiting for final approval from the AP government late last year, but the approval was somehow delayed, the sources said. “The Jaganmohan Reddy administration, which took charge in May this year, made it clear to the Ananda group that it wanted a greater say in how the university is to be built and managed. In fact, the promoters of the Ananda group met the chief minister to impress upon him the need to fast-track the approval by the government for the university. But apart from giving them a hearing, Reddy did not commit himself to getting the government’s approval for the university,” the source said.

The Ananda group, which has substantial interests in the aquaculture sector, had agreed to bring in the Rs 153 crore needed for a 51% stake in the APFOU. The sources said that the banks had been prepared to lend to the university because the Andhra Pradesh government would be a part of the project.

The Ananda group had tied up with at least six universities, including the Asian Institute of Technology of Thailand; the Shanghai Ocean University of Shanghai, China; the National Taiwan University; University of Stirling in Scotland in the United Kingdom; Technion University in Israel; and Kentucky State University in the United States.

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