Goa runs the risk of losing IIT campus
If no land is finalised for the campus of Indian Institute of Technology-Goa, the state risks losing the prestigious institution as the Centre may relocate it to some other state. The state government and the people of Goa had hailed the announcement of the plan to set up IIT-Goa in 2014 but almost seven years after it was sanctioned and five years after it started teaching the premier institute has not been allocated land for setting up a permanent campus. Three sites identified by the government had to be abandoned following opposition from the locals. The government had initially identified land in Canacona but gave it up following opposition from the villagers on the ground it would affect the environment and their livelihoods. The second site chosen in Sanguem also met with a similar fate, forcing the government to look for an alternative. It was about two years ago that land at Melaulim village in Sattari taluka was chosen for setting up the campus but the site was abandoned following prolonged protests from the villagers who contested the government’s claim over the titles of the property.
Though an IIT campus requires 300 acres of land, the Centre had made concessions to Goa and reduced the area to 250 acres. However, it had said that in case the state failed to find a suitable site, the institute would be relocated in some other state. The state government has not shown the seriousness that is required to start searching for a new site, though almost five weeks have passed since Chief Minister Pramod Sawant announced that a committee would be formed to identify one. There are no signs of it being set up. The director of IIT-Goa Prof B K Mishra has said that the central government had conveyed the deadline to the state government as regards completion of the permanent campus of the institute. It appears that decision making on IIT-Goa campus is moving at snail’s speed which could compel the Centre to shift the institution which would be a shame to Goa.
IIT-Goa has been functioning from a temporary, ill-equipped building at Farmagudi since 2016. The funds allocated for building the campus are lying idle. Though seven years have passed since the central government gave an IIT to the state, the state government has not been able to identify suitable land. This has affected the institution in more ways than one. Prof Mishra says that brand IIT was taking a beating in Goa. IIT-Goa has not been able to expand its activities owing to space constraint and absence of infrastructural facilities, as a result of which research opportunities were being lost. Eminent scholars from different parts of the world had shown interest in either joining IIT-Goa or taking up teaching assignments as visiting faculties but the uncertainty over a permanent campus has made them change their mind.
Goans who have been opposing projects that have potential to damage the environment were expected to support the IIT project. Educational projects cannot but be environment friendly, especially an institution like IIT where the best minds teach and learn technologies for improvement of human life. It is true that Goa does not have large areas of land for projects, but there are areas in government hands, one of which can be allotted to IIT-Goa. Perhaps there is a political interest in the site as every minister would like IIT-Goa to be located in his constituency. However, the government cannot dither for long and would have to decide on a new site within the next few months or face the ignominy of losing it. It is perplexing to note that the government has not been able to form the committee to scout for the land. The delay might have a demoralising effect on the existing IIT staff. Other states that were given an IIT have made good progress on development of their campus, because the government, the people, the academic community and the youth of the state understood the importance of having an IIT campus. Goa must find and develop a site for IIT-Goa. If the state loses IIT, it may lose other iconic institutions like IIM or AIIMS as well.