Now, villagers from Bhuipal, Priol back Melauli protestors

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Valpoi: Residents of Bhuipal village of Poriem constituency and people from Priol are the latest to join the agitating locals of Shel-Melauli, who are continuing their protest against the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT-Goa) project in their village.

Residents of Bhuipal and Priol on Sunday extended their support to the locals of Melauli on their nine-month-long agitation against the IIT project, which has now been moved out of Melauli as announced by Chief Minister Pramod Sawant on Friday.

The Bhuipal and Priol residents said that they are with the people of Melauli, who have been vehemently opposing the IIT and demanding land ownership rights for people of Sattari taluka.

Over the past few days, people from several villages have joined the protesting Shel-Melauli locals, prompting Health Minister Vishwajit Rane to appeal to the Chief Minister to scrap the project from Melauli.

The agitators are claiming that they have been cultivating land at the IIT project site for generations. They are alleging that their names were struck off and the state government took over ownership of the land.

“We are with the people of Melauli, who want the land ownership rights. This is a burning issue and people should get their right of ownership. Protesting villagers’ issues should be addressed and the name of IIT from forms 1 and 14 should be immediately withdrawn. Besides, charges against the protesting villagers should be revoked and police cases withdrawn and the land should be handed over to the villagers,” said an elderly villager from Bhuipal, who came to meet the villagers at Melauli.

Goa Pradesh Congress Committee president Girish Chodankar and other members of the Congress party visited the protest site and commended the villagers for their victory against the government. “The present government is not serious in resolving land ownership rights of the people,” alleged Chodankar.

According to Congress party, the BJP-led government in the state was forcibly imposing the project in Melauli against the will of the people.

Meanwhile, there are demands from legislators from various parts of the state to shift the proposed project in their constituencies. The government is yet to decide on an alternative site for the institute.

Announcing the shifting of the IIT project from Melauli, the Chief Minister had said that the project was planned from the perspective of development but the government could not convince the locals.