Residents of Chimbel village near Goan capital Panaji have opposed the state governments plans to set up an Information Technology (IT) park on 45ha of government land in the village. The land was under the possession of the state health services department and was later transferred to the IT department.
The opposition began in 2016 when the IT park was first proposed. The residents have raised their concerns in Village Assembly meetings many times since. In 2017, the Village Assembly passed a resolution urging the state government to move the project to some other location outside the village.
According to the residents, the site proposed for the IT park is a wetland near a lake and is ecologically sensitive. They demand that it should be preserved as a heritage site. The land also includes paddy fields cultivated by the villagers. They say they are not opposed to an IT park in the state, which is facing severe unemployment, but urge that it should be built outside the village and that the land proposed for the IT park be developed into an agricultural project instead. They have also asked the government for a white paper on the project to understand its importance.
Their opposition intensified in 2018 after the state government renewed its push for the project, with active backing from Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar and IT Minister Rohan Khaunte. In October 2018, a public meeting was called by the villagers. Following the meeting, Khaunte warned that action would be taken against those blackmailing the government and misleading the people. He said the project will have a zerocarbon footprint and that only a tenth of the total allocated land area will be used.
In November, one of the village residents, Pravin Chopdekar, who was opposed to the park, was assaulted by unidentified men. He claimed he was attacked because he opposed the project. Khaunte responded to the attack saying that Chopdekar was not an activist but an extortionist working for a rival politician. On November 30, the Goa Police arrested three persons in connection with the assault.
Following the incident, a special Village Assembly meeting was convened on December 9, 2018, at the request of the villagers to debate the project and take a vote in favour of or against it. The meeting, held under heavy police protection, lasted several hours and witnessed heated debates between the elected members of the Village Assembly who were in favour of the project and the villagers who were opposed to it. Eventually, the votes in favour of the project outnumbered those against it. The opposing villagers alleged that the voting was rigged under political pressure.
The demand of the local people has been supported by environmentalists in the state as well as by Anthony Fernandes, a politician from the opposition Congress Party. But the state government has remained resolute in its plans and has dismissed the opposition as baseless.
On January 5, 2019, the IT department presented a detailed plan of the proposed park to the Village Assembly and sought its feedback.