After protests, Goa CM announces relocation of IIT project from Melaulim, says CM
Goa chief minister Pramod Sawant on Friday announced that the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT)-Goa campus that was to be set up at Melaulim village would be shifted to another place in the state.
The decision caps more than six months of protests largely by the residents of Melaulim village who had refused to concede land and had set up a blockade at the entrance to the site refusing to allow government surveyors to enter the village to demarcate the land. On January 6, at least 12 policemen and several villagers were injured when both the groups had clashed as the police attempted to clear the blockade set up by the villagers.
“We wanted the IIT project in Sattari so that the region is developed. (Health minister and MLA from Valpoi in Sattari Vishwajit) Rane also tried to explain (to the villagers). We had also invited the villagers for discussion, but they wouldn’t relent,” Sawant told reporters.
On Friday, elected representatives from the neighbouring villages in Sattari submitted a formal request to the CM asking him to shift the project elsewhere.
“The whole idea to bring the IIT to Sattari was for the development of Sattari and the development of the whole taluka and the neighbouring talukas. But if the people do not want the IIT in Sattari, I would like to make a humble request to please take a decision to shift the IIT out of Sattari and from Shel Melaulim,” the representation signed by around half a dozen district panchayat members, said.
Bowing to the request of the elected representatives of the villages, Sawant said, “This government listens to the people. The government has decided to shift the project from Sattari to another place in Goa. We will be informing the IIT officials and a future decision will be taken to honour requests made by the elected representatives. Both me and health Minister had no personal interest in going ahead with the project.”
Notably, on Tuesday, in a letter to CM, Rane had urged him to drop the proposal for an IIT campus at the village.
“I want to assure the people of Sattari that for as long as I’m in politics and the representative of this area, we will not allow anyone to even put a single stone in place for the IIT because the people don’t want it,” Rane had said.
In May last year, the Goa government had formally transferred around 10 lakh sq. mts land in Melaulim village in North Goa, for setting up of IIT-Goa. Functional since 2014, the IIT Goa has been functioning from a temporary campus at the Goa Engineering College.
Melaulim village falls in an eco-sensitive zone but hasn’t been formally declared so with notifications not being formally issued. The land on which the IIT is scheduled to come up is revenue land belonging to the government, but the villagers have said that situation has persisted only because they did not have the required documentation to prove that they have rights over it.
Two sites previously identified by the state government, in Canacona and Sanguem sub districts, for setting up of a permanent campus for IIT were scrapped, in face of protests from local residents.Villagers have opposed the project claiming that they are dependent on the land for their sustenance including cashews, betel nut and other agricultural produce.
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