The Goa government has demarcated the land for the proposed Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) campus at Shel-Melaulim village in Sattari taluka of North Goa amid protests by the people.
But the protests turned violent turn with police reportedly lobbing tear gas shells at villagers who had set up a human chain at the entrance to the site about 50 kms from the state capital of Panaji.
Protesters hurled stones at police personnel, who responded with lathi-charge. At least 12 police personnel were injured in the attack, an official earlier said, reported media.
The village falls in Satturi taluka in the Western Ghats. Lying in the midst of three major wildlife sanctuaries – Bondla to the west, Madei in the East, and Bhagwan Mahavir wildlife sanctuary in the south, the village was identified as an ecologically sensitive area (ESA), according to a government notification released in October 2018.
The notification states that in an ESA, any construction extending more than 20,000 sq metres is not allowed. “However, the proposed IIT will be constructed over an area extending 15 lakh square metres, violating the ESA norms,” said Abhijit Prabhu Desai, an activist who has been working for tribal rights told media.
Earlier, Goa chief minister Pramod Sawant said that while the government was open to discuss and address the villagers’ concerns, the IIT-Goa campus will be built at the present site.
“We are ready to discuss the demands of the locals. The project has not been scrapped. Formalities for construction are going on,” the CM said.
IIT Goa has currently been functioning from a temporary campus at the Goa Engineering College. Two sites previously identified by the state government, in Canacona and Sanguem sub districts, for setting up of a permanent campus for IIT were also scrapped on account of protests.