Pramod Sawant is not Manohar Parrikar and officials in the central government know that. The difference is that the late Parrikar could hold his own against the Centre; Sawant, on the other hand, is yet to acquire the charisma and prestige of Parrikar.
The result is, the Centre has dumped the IIT land deal with Parrikar to build the institute on 6 lakh sq mt of land. It has now demanded the full quota of 12 lakh sq mt, and Sawant is not in a position to take on the Centre.
Last week the Centre rejected the 7 lakh sq mt of land identified in Sanguem taluka for setting up the IIT campus on grounds (pun not intended) that only 3 lakh sq mt is available for construction. The rest of the land is under green cover.
The IIT officially started in 2016 and is presently housed at the Farmagudi engineering college campus. And since then, the government has been on an unsuccessful mission to identify land for the project.
Nearly four sites were identified and all were rejected due to protests from farmers and residents who saw it as a bid to grab their land with no benefits accruing to them.
Since the setting up of an IIT in Goa was announced by then Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, governments have failed to explain how this prestigious institute would benefit the state. The IIT is a national project, but setting it up in a state with scarce land resources, only because of prestige, flies in the face of logic.
The fact that Goa has a surplus of engineering colleges with many seats remaining vacant makes it even more difficult to understand the government’s need to set up an IIT campus.
Presently, Goa has two educational institutes of national repute — Goa Institute of Management (GIM) and BITS, Pilani. Has any study been done to understand how these two institutes have impacted the state?
In the case of GIM, students from Goa are granted a concession at the admission stage. No such concession will be made for admissions to an IIT. So how does Goa benefit?
Initially, the IIT was supposed to be part of a grand plan to make Goa an education hub. That dream now lies in tatters with none of the colleges drawing students from outside the state or abroad. GIM and BITS, Pilani are perhaps the only exception.
Clearly, successive governments missed the bus in the effort to create institutes of national or international repute. The leaders we elect lack the vision and stamina to convert Goa into an educational hub.
Even our efforts to create an IT hub came a cropper, and land at Dona Paula, which was earmarked for the project, lies vacant. For us, tourism is the best bet. And it grows in spite of the government.
The government needs to rethink the IIT. There is no point in displacing farmers in Sanguem, who are presently agitating against the decision of the government to grab their land for a project that will, in a best-case scenario, convert some of them into taxi drivers.
The IIT should either be set up at its present site as land is already available there or the Centre should be told that there is no land in Goa to set up the institute. Pramod Sawant must stand up to the bullying of Central officials and emerge as his own man.