A considered choice should have come earlier
Despite growing opposition to the site for the Indian Institute of Technology (Goa) at Melauli in Guleli village of Sattari taluka, Chief Minister Pramod Sawant on Tuesday firmly said that his government would ensure that it was set up on the same site. Senior politicians across all the political parties including Bharatiya Janata Party state president, Sadanand Tanawade, have said that the government should not impose the site on the people. By saying: “The IIT-Goa campus will come up at the selected place and there should be no doubt in anyone’s mind about shifting it to any other place,” the Chief Minister has rejected their plea. We will have to see how leaders of political parties deal with Sawant’s rejection. Though the politicians from different parties want the project to be relocated there is no unanimity where it should be set up.
By affirming that the IIT campus would come on the selected site, the Chief Minister has sought to send a message to his colleagues in the cabinet and his party leaders that it was his prerogative on the issue and that he would not go by their advice. Sawant has gone on to say that the government would eventually succeed in convincing the locals who are opposed to the project and take them onboard, even as the state unit of the BJP is set to meet him to find an alternative site to locate the IIT campus. Many in the party feel that such a move could go against the party in the elections to the state assembly, which are due in about a year and half from now. They feel the Chief Minister has sought to go by his instinct to brush aside the opposition to the project though he said that the government would compensate those likely to lose cashew trees.
Politicians across the spectrum have spoken against imposing the projects that are being opposed by the people, especially the locals. IIT campus is not the only project in the state that was being opposed by the people. The people are also opposed to various other projects, including doubling of railway tracks, tree cuttings to facilitate power lines, etc. Goa has had a history of opposition to the developmental projects over the years. They had opposed the Konkan Railway but eventually gave in. But many other projects, including industrial ones like Special Economic Zones, Nylon 6,6, etc had to be shelved because of the opposition of the people. Despite the fact that locals are sensitive to the projects in their areas, the government apparently has not learnt a lesson and continues to be bullish in imposing the projects. The opposition to the projects could have been avoided and their implementation facilitated by the authorities by explaining their salient features to the people and taking them onboard by assuring them how they would benefit them in the long run.
It is unfortunate to note that the state authorities have sought to deal with the opposition to the projects after much delay rather than taking steps to curb them in the bud. While opposition to polluting projects could be understood it is puzzling to note that even non-polluting projects like institutions of higher learning like NIT and IIT have been opposed by the people in Goa. The opponents of the projects, especially those who opposed setting up of mobile towers have to realise that they should not oppose for the sake of opposition. Goans had to pay a heavy price for such opposition as the coronavirus pandemic forced authorities to teach students by using the internet and a section of students were denied internet connection in absence of mobile towers. It would have been better had Sawant come out with the solution earlier. Now that the Chief Minister has made up his mind to ensure setting up of the IIT campus at Melauli, he should try to build consensus among his party leaders, those from opposition and also the locals so that building of the campus does not encounter any further opposition. Or the site should be changed.