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Thursday, April 22, 2021

Following protests, CM Pramod Sawant scraps IIT-Goa project at Shel-Melauli

Speaking following a meeting with the panch members of the village as well as the MLA of Sattari Vishwajit Rane, CM Pramod Sawant said the decision was taken keeping "public sentiment" in mind.

By: Express Web Desk | Panaji |
Updated: January 15, 2021 6:14:04 pm
Linear projects not just for coal but for future of Goa: Pramod SawantGoa CM Pramod Sawant said that the three linear projects in the state, against which local residents as well as environmentalists have been protesting, were not just for transportation of coal but for the development of the coastal state. (File)

Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant Friday announced that the government was scrapping the proposed IIT-Goa project at Shel-Melauli and shifting it to another location. Speaking at a meeting with the panch members of the village as well as the MLA of Sattari Vishwajit Rane, Sawant said the decision was taken keeping “public sentiments” in mind.

“On the request of the Health Minister (Vishwajit Rane) and the citizens of Sattari we have decided to cancel the project at Melauli and we will shift it to another location. If the people of the village have decided that they do not want the project and discussions have happened, then we do not want to cause any trouble. This has nothing to do with the elections. Rane is not scared of winning the next election… The discussion has been about keeping the project in Goa but moving it to another location,” Sawant said.

Rane, who had insisted on the government going ahead with the project, made an about turn following protests in the village earlier this month, that turned violent. He wrote to the chief minister asking that the project be scrapped. “I have written to CM Pramod Sawant that I do not want an IIT in my constituency. I have taken this decision in the people’s interest… the people’s sentiments are against the IIT,” Rane said.

“With a lot of videos being circulated online, showing my earlier stand in support of the IIT project & now withdrawing my support, I would like to reiterate that IIT is a reputed educational institute & having it in my constituency would have been a feather in the hat but I will not go ahead with the project without the support of my people & at the cost of manhandling of my people. Having said that, if tomorrow they support IIT, I will support the project. My statement & opinion are directly correlated to the sentiments of my people,” Rane tweeted.

Sawant in a meeting with villagers of Shel-Melauli. Rane was also present at the meeting where the decision to shift the project was taken.

The IIT-Goa campus was proposed on a 10 lakh square metre area in Shel-Malauli and Guleli villages, some 50 kilometres from Panaji. It was awarded to Goa in 2014 and has since been functioning from a shared campus in Farmagudi, Ponda. Villagers opposing the project had said that they were not taken into confidence and that the land being acquired were cashew plantations that have been in existence for decades. Two earlier sites – one in Canacona and another in Sanguem – were also scrapped following protests from villagers.

During the protest on January 6, hundreds of villagers had gathered in the area forming a human chain in order to prevent land survey officers from entering the location and carrying out the demarcation. Villagers at the protest alleged that Valpoi Police Inspector Sagar Ekoskar stamped upon the chest of an elderly woman during the clash, following which a huge crowded gathered outside the police station demanding action against the officer. The police had then registered an FIR against 21 persons on charges of attempt to murder, unlawful assembly and criminal conspiracy among others. No action has been initiated against the Ekoskar as yet.

On Monday, Shubham Shivolkar, one of the leaders of the organisation opposing the project, had said they were serving the government a 10-day ultimatum. “We are giving the government 10 days to withdraw the decision to build the IIT in our village. We are firm that we do not want the IIT to come up here. Today, people from many villages and the rest of Goa have come to support us,” he said.

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