New Delhi

NEW DELHI: A proposed memorandum of understanding between the Centre and controversial political donor Vedanta Foundation for the construction of 4,000 anganwadis in public private partnership (PPP) model has raised eyebrows. 

The proposed MoU is expected to be signed between the ministry of women and child development (WCD) headed by Maneka Gandhi and the foundation on Wednesday at the inauguration of one of the centres in Sonepat, Haryana. 

The Vedanta Foundation, run by London-based Anil Agarwal, is not new to controversy. Agarwal has been subject to a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in connection with alleged irregularities in the disinvestment of Hindustan Zinc Ltd (HZL). However, recent reports suggest that the CBI is contemplating closing the preliminary enquiry for lack of evidence. 

According to data analyzed by the Association for Democratic Reforms (ADR) which works on election reforms, Vedanta subsidiary Sterlite Industries donated Rs 6 crore to the Congress during 2004-05 and 2009-10 while Madras Aluminium, also a Vedanta arm, gave Rs 3.50 crore to the BJP in the same period. Sterlite contributed Rs 15 crore to the saffron party in 2013-2014. The donations came under the Delhi High Court scanner which ruled that both parties had violated FCRA guidelines in accepting the funds. 

Senior Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan, who argued the case on behalf of ADR, said there was a conflict of interest. "The terms and conditions of the MoU must be carefully scrutinized to see if they are being favoured by the government,'' he said. 

A Vedanta Foundation spokesperson said, "We are partnering with the government for holistic development of women and children. We will provide smart classrooms for children and skill development for women.'' 

WCD sources said the company was one of the first to come forward with this initiative. There are 2 lakh anganwadis that do not have permanent structures. They are running in makeshift rooms or rented accommodation. The anganwadis in 100 high burden districts will be a priority for the government.

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