Tuesday 19 Jan 2021

Is IIT campus a priority over the people of Melauli?

| JANUARY 09, 2021, 12:00 AM IST

What is the government trying to prove with the tough and stubborn posturing on the IIT Project at Guleli? Is it trying to send a strong message that protests will be dealt with an iron hand, and people will have to face dire consequences? Or is there is an inflated ego involved? Chief Minister Pramod Sawant has sounded defiant by saying that the IIT will come up at the designated Guleli panchayat areas, and nowhere else. By agreeing to talk with locals on the condition that a 10-member delegation visits him in the capital city, the lack of confidence in Sawant to resolve the issue is showing.

Given the fluid situation at hand, the CM should have tried to douse the flames of revolt by visiting the site and engaging locals. Calling a selective team to Panaji, that too comprising of farmers and economically backward villagers, for talks is not a hallmark of a true leader. Leaders have to wade through stormy situations. Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar reached out to people and addressed them during the fieriest issues, including facing those affected by the mining ban.

State BJP President Sadanand Tanavade says that IIT campus in Guleli is a fitting tribute to Goa's first IIT-ian chief minister. Little does Tanavade realise that it was Parrikar, during his tenure, who conceded to similar protests from people and decided against setting up a campus at Bhagwati Plateau in Canacona, and later in Sanguem.

The insistence in sticking to Guleli and not looking elsewhere when there could be feasible viable options available speaks of an ego inflated on account of the pressure piled up on the sidelines by activists and political parties. The recent developments go a long way to show that the IIT is a priority for the government, not the people and their welfare. The contention that land belongs to the government is taken, but why is this land issue not taken to its logical conclusion? If locals fighting the agitation are called encroachers, what was the government doing all along? The administration cannot chase people out of their habitats and displace them.

It is bizarre that the government machinery is being let loose on the helpless citizens to achieve goals. Economically weaker sections are terrorized and traumatized, and the simmering tension and uneasiness at Shel-Melauli continue to prevail. Arrests have been made, and FIRs booked, but it has not deterred locals from returning to the site and protest even on Friday, despite police blocking entry points. 

The violence inflicted on locals has only festered the agitation with support pouring in from all other villages under Guleli panchayat, and even tribal groups in far-flung areas, including Canacona. The chief minister must refrain from settling scores and rather take pro-active measures to ease off the tension on an urgent basis. Do not allow the situation to escalate into a major law and order issue of the State.

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