Goa MLA casts doubts on land allotment to forensic varsity

A forensic university whose foundation stone was laid by Union Home Minister Amit Shah last week, has come under the spotlight, after an opposition MLA on Thursday alleged that the state government has allocated double the size of the land parcel to a Gujarat-based university, than what was assured by Chief Minister Pramod Sawant on the floor of the house on Tuesday.

Addressing a press conference in Panaji, independent MLA Prasad Gaonkar also questioned the decision of the state government to conduct a foundation stone laying ceremony chaired by the Union Home Minister, even when the government land allocation procedure was yet to be completed.

“The Chief Minister told the House on Tuesday, that two lakh sq mt land originally belonging to the Sanjivani sugar factory was being allotted to set up the Gujarat-headquartered National Forensic Science University. How can two lakh sq mt become four lakh sq mt in a matter of a day?” said Gaonkar.

Gaonkar was quoting a letter dated October 20 from the Deputy Collector of Sanguem sub district to the Director of Agriculture seeking handover of four lakh sq mt land for setting up of the University.

The disputed land is the site of a now non-functional Sanjivani sugar factory, a state government-owned unit, but belongs to the agriculture department. The factory is spread over an area of 14 lakh sq mt, out of which Sawant had told the state assembly on Tuesday, two lakh were being handed over to the university for setting up of its campus.

“The CM says 2 lakh, but a letter to the Director of Agriculture by the Deputy Collector says 4 lakh sq mt is required. This government is lying,” the MLA, who recently offered support to the Trinamool Congress said.

Gaonkar also said that local villagers were not taken into confidence while taking the decision to hive-off the land parcel from the Agriculture department to the University.

“It is important to take farmers and associations into confidence and to take cabinet approval before such a decision is taken. The foundation stone for the university project has been laid even without proper paperwork,” Gaonkar said.

“We welcome good projects to Goa, but the manner of the land handover is suspect. There are processes which should be in place. How can the government allocate this land without informing farmers?” he questioned.

This is not the first time that the state government’s land allotment procedures for educational institutions have come under fire.

In January this year, the Goa government was forced to scrap the IIT-Goa campus project at Melaulim village in North Goa, after protests by local villagers turned violent. Villagers of Melaulim and adjoining villages claimed that land acquisition processes were conducted in haste while identifying the IIT-campus site in Melaulim, which they said would lead several local residents homeless and deprived of their ancestral land.