There is a huge continuous plot of land available at Latambarcem, Bicholim which was earlier proposed for an industrial estate which never materialized
Nandkumar M Kamat
The ground facts of the proposed site for IIT Goa at Xel-Melaulim are now becoming clear. The site was selected under the assumption that technically it was designated as the government revenue land and the local people dependent on it traditionally may settle for some rehabilitation and compensation. The first blunder was the failure of the central and state government to have structured multistakeholder dialogue with the local people. Hundred hectares of land is a huge area and except for a small plateau, the rest of it has thick local vegetation and plantation crops and sacred places for the people. There is no point in going into the micro aspects of reasons for the stiff resistance of the affected people who also suspect that a heavyweight central minister is bringing pressure on the Chief Minister of Goa Pramod Sawant to get the process of land transfer and demarcation completed at any costs.
Nobody knows what specific terms of negotiated settlement the Chief Minister has in mind. Several people view the present anti IIT Goa movement at Melaulim as a proxy leadership tussle between the local MLA and the Chief Minister so it has to be seen if the CM gives full powers to the local MLA to negotiate and settle the matter. If this is not done then the present stalemate is likely to continue further and the future trajectory of the anti IIT movement would be similar to anti Nylon 6, 6 agitation. Pushed to the wall and actively instigated by radical outside forces the local people are likely to turn more violent.
On both sides- there are no voices of restraint and moderation. But would CM Sawant entrust the powers to local MLA Vishwajit Rane or take him for granted? Rane knows the agitators and their leaders very well being the well-informed local MLA. Another solution which I suggested to a senior BJP leader was to get a committee of cabinet ministers appointed- under the local MLA with deputy CM and agriculture Minister, the revenue minister, the tribal welfare minister as members. It could begin the tripartite negotiations with the IIT Goa planning team and the leaders of the Melaulim.
The government must by now know that the public sympathy completely lies with the people of Melaulim and the intellectual class feels that there are other options available for IIT Goa to shift to still another location after being hounded out from Canacona, Sanguem and Sattari. After detail discussion with local knowledgeable individuals -Rajendra Kerkar from Keri Sattari and Prakash Porienkar from Sanvordem, Sattari and people from Pernem taluka I found that two immediate options are available for the state and central government to shift the present site of IIT Goa.
There is a huge continuous plot of land available at Latambarcem, Bicholim which was earlier proposed for an industrial estate which never materialized. So if an industrial estate could be planned at Latambarcem which is outside the eco sensitive zone then why the IIT Goa campus cannot be planned there? More than 200 hectares land is already available for development. It is close to the Amthane dam and falls under Bicholim assembly constituency represented by the incumbent speaker of Goa legislative assembly Rajesh Patnekar.
However, the government must not commit the same mistakes in shifting IIT Goa from Melaulim to Latambarcem. Local people need to be taken into confidence and they need to extend strong and unequivocal support to development of IIT Goa campus. There is another worrisome dimension which nobody is discussing. There seems to be stiff resistance to IIT Goa campus anywhere in Goa not only because of land ownership or environmental reasons but the fear of the local people of “demographic submergence and dilution” because they know a few thousand residents of the new campus would change the social and political matrix of their area in a few years. In big states with large land areas and big populations such concerns are easily dismissed but in Goa selective xenophobia and parochial attitudes are increasing.
In ten years IIT Goa irrespective of its campus would host not less than five thousand people. In small village panchayats this is a big number. People just don’t know how they would adjust to the new demography. This is precisely one of the “fear” in Melaulim and surrounding six villages- the perception of future demographic and cultural shock. No MLA or minister has taken the pains to offer clarity on any practical opportunities for the local people after the establishment of the IIT. Even the advisory committee of IIT Goa has done very little to meet the local stakeholders at Melaulim and convince them how they can benefit tangibly. There is no participatory involvement of the people of Xel-Melaulim in the model prepared by the IIT Goa which is more focussed on architectural and landscaping designs inside a gated complex. Therefore, a fresh start is needed at a new place by abandoning the Xel Melaulim location. That would not solve the land ownership issue of the local people who are likely to face a political backlash if the IIT Goa project is shifted.
If for some reasons the Latambarcem site in Bicholim is not found suitable then there is the barren, treeless rocky plateau of Tuem with a breath-taking panoramic view of Chapora river and the Arabian Sea. More than three hundred hectares of continuous land is available at Tuem. Local people are of the opinion that there would not be any issue if an educational campus like IIT Goa is established at this site. The area around is thinly populated. It is a surprise that the team entrusted with identification of suitable land ignored Latambarcem and Tuem and insisted only on Gulelim.
The IIT managers are helpless as they are at the total mercy of their new political masters. The director, a renowned technologist has very little time left before his appointment at Goa ends. The Chief Minister may be forced to follow the central commands to push ahead with the present project at the controversial site without even understanding the available choice of the alternative sites.
Government is advised not to be harsh with the agitating people and in public interest compound all the cases and create an atmosphere of peace, normalcy and goodwill so that tripartite negotiations could be held in the atmosphere of full mutual trust. It is the responsibility of the people of Melaulim and surrounding area not to resort to violence, permit the demarcation work to proceed, respect the government servants and represent their genuine and legitimate demands in systematic, peaceful manner. But as I see the future- there is no substitute for Latambarcem or Tuem as new locations for IIT Goa.