Taking a U-turn on the IIT-Goa campus project, state Health Minister Vishwajit Rane on Tuesday urged the Chief Minister to withdraw the project from his Valpoi Assembly constituency in North Goa in view of public protests.
Rane, who earlier repeatedly insisted on going ahead with the construction of the Indian Institute of Technology-Goa campus at Melaulim village “at any cost”, has now cited “popular sentiments” against the project for his about-turn.
“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 in a video message on the social media.
The Minister also urged Sawant to withdraw criminal cases filed against protestors who turned violent and also action against police officials for alleged assault on women who protested against the project last Wednesday.
“I urge the CM with folded hands that the cases against people should be withdrawn,” Rane said.
More than 100 residents of Melaulim along with opposition politicians were booked, many on the charge of attempt to murder, for the violent protests against the IIT-Goa project.
The IIT was allotted to Goa by the central government in 2014, but it was functioning from a temporary campus shared with Goa Engineering College in Farmagudi village in South Goa.
Two IIT campus sites previously identified by the state in Canacona and Sanguem sub-districts were also dropped after protests by area residents and opposition pressure, which alleged a “land scam” in the shortlisting of probable sites for the institute.
The Melaulim residents, mostly from Scheduled Tribes, claim that they were getting forcibly evicted from their land by the Goa government to make way for the IIT campus project.