Nearly a week after the central government chose Dharwad for setting up an IIT in Karnataka, Raichur has been on the boil, and protests are being planning all over north-eastern Karnataka.
For over a decade, ever since the Nanjunjappa Committee on regional imbalances submitted its report in 2002, the people of Raichur have been demanding that the committeeâ€™s recommendation that an IT be set up in the district be implemented.
Before the linguistic reorganization of the state, present-day Karnataka was divided up between the Mysore, Madras, Bombay and Hyderabad states. In 1956, Kalaburgi and Yadgir part of the then undivided Gulbarga district, Raichur, Koppala and Bidar districts â€“ the Kannada-speaking parts of the Nizamâ€™s kingdom â€“ were brought under Karnataka.
To this day, these districts have some of the poorest health, education and economic indicators. In recognition of the various factors that contributed to the overall development of the state, the Nanjundappa committee made several recommendations so that development could be spread evenly instead of being concentrated in regions that were historically doing well.
When the central government announced that the IIT would be set up in Dharwad â€“ the state government had proposed two other cities, namely Raichur and Mysuru â€“ the whole of Raichur district and also parts of north-eastern Karnataka erupted in protests that only appear to be gaining momentum.
In an interview with The News Minute, president of the IIT Horata Samiti Basavaraj Kalasa spoke of why the people of the district want an IIT to be set up there and not in Dharwad, which they feel is an injustice. The samiti is a federation of various social groups and individuals. Below, is Kalasaâ€™s explanation of why they want the IIT:
Raichur district meets all the criteria to set up an IIT. We have plentiful resources â€“ two rivers, irrigated land, thriving agriculture, thermal power generation, iron ore is available nearby in Bellary, and Yadgir has uranium mines. We also have 7,000 acres of land in a single-block, ready to be used. Tell me where else you will get that?
Dharwad doesnâ€™t have water. They get water supply twice a week, thatâ€™s why they are demanding the Kalasa Banduri project.
Nanjundappa was a great economist. He would have had reason to recommend an IIT for this region for this reason. But we are not demanding an IIT here simply because he recommended it.
The IIT will do its own work. But it has various departments â€“ food technology, metallurgical engineering, chemical engineering and more. This will make it an attractive destination for the setting up for small and medium scale industries. Raichur and Hyderabad-Karnataka are very backward in industrial development. Other infrastructure such as roads, lighting and more will be created because of the IIT.
According to the recommendations of the Nanjundappa committee report, an IIIT was sanctioned for Dharwad in 2013, a central university has been established in Kalaburgi. Two of its recommendations have been implemented. Kalaburgi was supposed to be chosen for the smart city project, but even that went to Dhawad. Is north Karnataka Hubballi-Dharwad? Why are we being discriminated against?
No one in Karnataka has as much right over the IIT as we do. On October 18, 2012, when Jagadish Shettar was the chief minister, the Cabinet had chosen Raichur for the IIT. How can these BJP leaders now go back on a decision they themselves took?
Political leaders who have a connection with Dharwad â€“ Prahlad Joshi, H N Ananth Kumar, and Jagadish Shettar â€“ put conspired and influenced (HRD minister) Smriti Irani to choose Dharwad.
I am a member of the BJP. I will complain to Amit Shah against them. If they throw me out, let them. This is my region, these are my people. I will not allow them to get away with this.
How can Joshi be called a state leader? He is a Dharwad-based leader. A state leader should be balanced in his outlook of the state.
When they (the three BJP leaders) have done, how will they ask for votes in Hyderabad-Karnataka? People will throw stones at them.
We have reached a state of mind, where if we donâ€™t get it, we will not allow anyone else also to get it. The union of the RTPS (Raichur Thermal Power Station) is with us. We supply 4,800 MW of power per day to the central grid. If 5,000 workers go on a strike, what will the engineers do inside? We can stop production for 48 hours. We have the only gold mine in the country, and we can shut down that too.
We give so much to the state, we have sacrificed our land for the power station. We have power cuts here and we are demanding that 160 MW be given to us without interruption. They owe us that.
But Raichur is always considered the dustbin of the state. Projects that are rejected elsewhere are sent here.
They will get a fight, and we will show them how important Raichur is. The government must sort out regional imbalances.