When it had acquiesced to the demands of the people of Melauli on the shifting of the institute, it had done so with the promise that an alternative plot of land would be given to the IIT. At that time the Chief Minister had said that the alternative site would be identified in the coming days. It has already taken weeks to constitute a committee to identify the land, and given the past experience with the IIT land issue, this committee is not going to have an easy task.
Melauli was not the first site for the IIT that was rejected by the people. Earlier a plateau in Canacona taluka had been selected for the institute but after objections from locals the government had looked elsewhere. A site at Sanguem had also been proposed but this was not taken forward, before the choice fell on Shel-Melauli. Here the land was even handed over to the IIT before the people rose in protest. Hence, following as they work with full knowledge of this background, the committee’s task is not going to be restricted to just identifying land, but also ascertaining that the land in question has the backing of the people, to ensure that there is no going back on the decision again.
On identifying a suitable piece of land, the first task of the committee will be to interact with the local residents, the local government representatives and the MLA so that the people are taken into confidence on the siting of the institute. This is important because in the case of Shel-Melauli the local MLA had backed the project right from scratch, but it was the people who had opposed it, forcing the MLA, Health Minister Vishwajit Rane to change his stance. The institute is important for Goa, and it cannot be made to face a further hurdle because there was a lack of communication between the government and the people, where only the local MLA’s opinion is taken into consideration and that of the people ignored.
A step further would be if the committee that has been constitued conducts the process in a very transparent manner and makes public its decision making process. The committee’s terms of reference is to identify suitable sites for the institute and submit its report to the government that will then finalise the location. But, to avoid any disagreement at a later date, the committee could even announce that certain sites have been identified and call for objections before the site is recommended to the government. While this may delay the process of finalisation of a plot of land for the IIT, it will ensure that the people are not surprised at a later date and the site selection does meet people’s protests. Can this be done?
Not that there is a dearth of land for an institute such as this in the State. Suggestions have already been made and Curchorem MLA Nilesh Cabral, who is also a minister, has even offered land in Curchorem-Sanguem for the institute. All this is welcome, but the approval from the grassroots is important as without this the site could run into trouble all over again, and that has to be avoided, as such a situation is not good, neither for the institute nor for the State. A good number of weeks have already been wasted since the Shel-Melauli site was withdrawn for the IIT. The committee has to now speed up the process, and yet get the people’s approval, for without the last it could end in further polemics.