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Jaitley's Melbourne visit: Students, environmentalists protest against Adanis' Australian coalmining project

By Our Representative
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, who addressed students at the Melbourne University on April 2, was preceded by students' and faculty members' protest against the controversial coalmining project, taken up by one of the most influential business houses in India, Adanis, in Australia's Queensland state.
The snap protest was organised by the Australian Youth Climate Coalition (AYCC) outside a public lecture by Finance Minister Arun Jaitley at the Melbourne University. AYCC has a huge following in the university.
Their placards read "No future funds for coal" and "Coral not coal". The project is being implemented in Queensland's Carmichael region. The high-quality coal is proposed to be exported to other countries, particularly via the North Galilee Basin rail project.
Environmentalists, particularly well-known environmental NGO Greenpeace and other groups, have accused the Australian authorities for having cleared the project, pointing towards how it would affect the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park.
 The aborigines, who have gone to the Federal Court against the 16 billion dollar project, have joined in to say that the project is being implemented without taking into account their land rights.
Unmindful of the protests, Jaitley told Australian students how the Modi government cared for the marginalized population of India. He said, the Government of India planned to continue with the "reservations in jobs and educational institutions for Scheduled Casts (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) for a long time", reports South Asia Times.
Jaitley's address at the Melbourne University and an interaction following that was organized by the Australia India Institute (AII) and the Indian Consulate, Melbourne, and conducted by AII Director Craig Jeffery.
Jaitley admitted that the ST were still the most deprived sections of Indian society for whom the quality of life had not improved, even as pointing towards how the Indian economy was on the upswing. He said, "The Indian market-oriented development model has to have a social aspect", so that a large population, suffering from inequality, does not suffer.
Jaitley also admitted that agriculturists, except for the few rich ones, were "in a bad shape" and his government was "trying" to empower the rural people with different schemes.
There a flutter when a question was asked to him as to what could Australia do in the ‘Make in India’ scheme, when it itself had little manufacturing.
Jaitley replied, India was looking at Australian resources, food processing and infrastructure projects like highways, railway stations and airports. "Lots of investment funds in Australia are looking for investing and there has been some positive response,” he said, but did not elaborate.
Students wanted to know about the atmosphere of unrest among Indian universities, especially the University of Hyderabad and the Jawaharlal Nehru. Jaitley defended the Modi government’s stand, but bypassed any direct answer, saying India was "the worst affected by terrorism".
Referring to the Mumbai blasts and the terrorist attack on Parliament he said there was a need to defend "sovereignty of India", and under special circumstances there were bound to "exceptions to freedom of speech."

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