PRATIK PARAB treks across the Bhagwati Plateau to find out the scenario after the IIT project has been "shifted" to Ponda following protests. He checks the heartburns and the whines of all those who OPPOSED & PROPOSED
"Why did the voice supporting the proposed IIT project in Loliem die down?"
"Why couldn't we resolve the issues of water and waste management of the village by bringing in the IIT?"
"What made the the issue become so untouchable that even the politicians have stopped discussing it?"
Questions are galore and so are answers. But people are interested to know whether Canacona stands to lose or gain(?) even as the project has been shifted out of Loliem.
In a bid to feel the pulse of the villages, Herald got down to the wire and realised that the issue was perplexed due to political, personal and caste factors. The failed talks between the pro and the anti-IIT lobbies has nearly at 3 occasions resulted in a proposal to shift the IIT site. Now it stand at Ponda, according to the CM. The project though has managed to split the villagers vertically --- the AMBITIOUS & the CAUTIOUS groups.
Youths of the village of course have diverse reactions over the exit of the IIT. Anil Kamat from Loliem told Herald, "The problem of water is the biggest issue of the Canacona villages. People never opposed the IIT in Loliem. It was the intellectuals of Canacona who were optimistic and upbeat about the IIT but they failed to address parched issue which would have worsened if the project had to happen here," said Anil Kamat.
Meanwhile, the CCL has maintained its stand that the IIT on Bhagwati Plateau in Loliem would have only destroyed this highly eco-sensitive plateau. The CCL convenor Dennis Fernandes has expressed his happiness over the shifting of IIT.
The CCL says the plateau is a source of fresh water for the wards like Peddem, Agas, Maxem, Karoim, Iddar and other adjoining places. There are numerous perennial springs that emanate from the Bhagwati plateau and support the lives of thousands,” said Fernandes. “Already we have faced scarcity of water in Canacona and our village wells and water bodies have dried up. Now, any interference with the eco-template will destroy the recharge qualities and permeability of the plateau and source of drinking water of thousands of residents,” he added.
Dattaprasad Prabhugaonkar, a resident, said: “The Bhagwati temple which lies on the plateau has great significance to the local Communities. The plateau is a sacred land which cannot be diverted from its traditional uses.
"The religious procession of ‘toko’ of Betal God also uses traditional paths across the plateau, which are totally sacrosanct and cannot be interfered with in any circumstances,” he added.
“We have strongly opposed the proposed IIT at Bhagwati plateau and demand that the proposal be scrapped forthwith now that the plan to shift out is in pipeline” Denis said.
"IIT was not an unviable project but it wasn't right to have it here without solving the basic problems," said Kamat.
Yet another Loliemkaar Suraj Prabhudessai said, "The apprehensions of the people regarding water shortage which may have been aggravated if IIT came into being, could have been addressed by improving the infrastructure in the village. There was no need to be completely pessimistic and oppose the project," he said.
Suraj also said IIT in Loliem could have had a triple benefit of Education, Improved Infrastructure for Villagers and also Employment in the form of cabs and also a lot of allied units. "Many people who wanted the IIT in Loliem stayed silent to "buy" peace due to which the opposing forces' voice got louder than the proposers," said Suraj. Suraj also underlined the fact that he is a land holder on the Bhagwati plateau and is still open to the project mainly because of its non-polluting nature.
Yash Prabhugaonkar from Loliem said Lolienkaars lost the opportunity of setting up a huge unit of small scale business.
Sunny Prahudessai said that Loliemkaars and Canconkaars as a whole, have lost a chance to get green development into the taluka. Sunny said, "It is sad that the issue which was of the development and achievement on academic front has been missed by the Canacona. This is because of political interference for personal benefits with also the involvement of caste Politics which has caused this loss," he said.
"What was Manipal once upon a time? It was a barren land but after Manipal got education hubs it has become a well developed town. We too are opposed to excessive development at the cost of the eco-system but it is always good to learn, earn and serve the motherland. And the IIT project would have done exactly that for us," said Sunny.
Yet another Academician and a IIT protagonist from Agonda said "If IIT has been shifted then the people have lost a big chance of getting a good platform for development of the village. Almost all people of Canacona have been moving out to Navelim, Margao, Panaji and other places due to lack of quality education. If IIT had to come to Canacona it would have had its own school, hospital and other facilities in the campus and have also given preference to the villagers too" he said.
"When we attended the meetings it was known that the Chapoli Dam has double the amount of water to serve the areas which need it. It was also told that the water pipelines carrying are old and need to be renovated which will solve the water issue" he told. He and his group also felt that there was a lack of effort as far as sitting across the table and discussing resolutions to issues was concerned.
"It is a wrong notion that we were against IIT and IIT in Goa. We were not against IIT in Goa but were against the Concretisation of the Bhagwati Plateau. We were opposed to having it on the Bhagwati plateau which is a nature hotspot and has to be preserved" said the youth. He also said that there is a need to promote more agricultural based projects at the land in Loliem which will preserve the land and the natural heritage of the village.