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Goa villagers oppose technology institute in forest

Residents of this south Goa village have cobbled up an action committee to campaign against a proposed National Institute of Technology (NIT) in Cuncolim, 40 km from the state capital.

The Cuncolim Citizens' Action Committee (CCAC) has also written to the government to relocate the NIT project, which it says has been allocated a huge tract of forest land which will be cleared for the setting up of the central educational institute.

"We are against it because over six lakh square metres has been allocated for the institute, which seems inordinately large. Most of the area is forested and rich in biodiversity. We want the project shifted to the campus of the Goa University, which has a lot of space to spare," said Oscar Martins, a member of the committee, addressing a press conference Monday.

The committee has now filed an objection to the state government's land acquisition process. The NIT project in Goa was announced by the union ministry for human resource development last year, after taking into account the fact that Goa had no premier technology institute. Students from Goa have to travel to neighbouring states for higher education.

While over 12 lakh sq m had been allocated for the project last year, a string of protests forced the Goa government to declare that the land acquisition proceedings had lapsed. Fresh land acquisition proceedings were started subsequently, with the required area reduced to over six lakh sq m, most of which is forest and agricultural land.

The project has seen opposition from the local municipal council too, which has said that while half the land was forested, the other half belonged to an agricultural trust.

"The local residents should have been taken into confidence before the decision was taken to allot the NIT to Cuncolim," Devendra Dessai, chairman of the Cuncolim Municipal Council, said. The Goa government is however keen to pursue the project. Cuncolim MLA Rajen Naik of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party said that the government would initiate a dialogue with the local residents in order to ensure that the NIT project was implemented.

"I have been assured that locals would get all the preference, as far as the employment generated at the NIT is concerned. In respect to seat reservation, Goans are already enjoying 50 percent seats in the NIT," BJP legislator Naik said. (IANS)

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