At the Chimbel gram sabha on Sunday, a demand was made by some members that the government release a white paper on the Information Technology Park proposed in the village. They expressed fears that the IT park, which is to be set up in a 6 lakh square metre area, would “destroy natural resources including a lake,” which supplied water to Panaji during the Portuguese era. The villagers have threatened to take the matter to the court in case the government goes ahead with the project without taking them into confidence. The gram Sabha was informed by the sarpanch that he has written a letter to IT Minister Rohan Khaunte seeking details of the project and the steps taken by the government to allay fears of the villagers but has not got any response so far.
If that really is the case, Khaunte should cut the bureaucratic red tape and respond to make the people of Chimbel fully aware of the details of the project the soonest possible. The Chimbel IT park should not be allowed to meet the same fate as Rajiv Gandhi IT Habitat at Dona Paula. It is the delay in government’s response to the sarpanch’s letter that has caused apprehensions. The government had a lot of time since the project was announced to take the villagers on board. However, for reasons unknown the government failed to do so, creating room for fears that the government was hiding something and going ahead with the project and they might not get any substantive benefits out of it. In such an atmosphere it becomes easier for elements in the habit of opposing everything to take advantage and create unease among the people on the issues of damage to environment, depletion of natural resources and denial of employment to local youth, goading them to demand scrapping of the project. The good thing to note at the gram sabha was if there were people speaking against the project, there were also people speaking in favour of it.
Regardless of who are speaking about it, the issues of damage to environment, depletion of natural resources and denial of employment to local youth have to be dealt with in a satisfactory manner. The IT park must not damage environment and ruin natural resources. Local youth should be given employment in the projects that would come up in the IT park. The government should take the demands of the villagers seriously and take all steps to allay their fears. Any effort to ignore their demands could stall the project.
The IT Minister had announced last year that allotment of land to IT firms would begin between February and April 2018, but nothing has been done in this regard so far. The IT park is expected to create 5,000 jobs. Khaunte has been in the forefront to bat for employment of Goan youth in the industries in the state. He has talked of tagging local employment to IT investment too. However, the youth of Chimbel want not just vocal batting but actual batting for them. The government should bring out the IT-HR (Information Technology-Human Resource) policy that was promised last December. Goa has let more than two decades pass before really getting on the IT bus. A lot of brainstorming has gone into creating an IT perspective for Goa with the consultations of some of the best in the industry. The two IT projects must not face any roadblocks because they are going to the flagship that would bring in more of IT investment to the state.
The government needs to take steps to resolve the issues raised by the Chimbel residents. The villagers should be informed as to how the project would benefit them. Also their fears about the damage to environment and ecology and natural bodies should be set to rest as also the fears of stress on the existing infrastructure. On the issue of employment the people have to be informed that IT being a skilled profession the villagers would need to meet the criteria to get selected. It should be the endeavour of the companies setting up shop in Chimbel to give first preference to qualified local youth. They could also identify talented youth from the village and impart them training. The government must find all ways possible for skilling the youth of Chimbel and other parts of Goa for creating a local human resource base for IT investors. A robust, transparent and sincere approach will help the government overcome the fears expressed by people and facilitate the IT project to come up quickest at Chimbel.