Zamindari in Liberated Goa

By Prabhakar Timble
09 December 2011 19:53 IST

The more I move to the depth of the issue of Evacuee property at Mayem, I realise it is an economic issue. It is an issue of land and property relations in the 3773 hectares of land area of the village in Bicholim taluka. Evacuee property is also located at Honda, Poriem and Bhiroda in Sattari taluka (154 hectares), Nirancal in Ponda taluka (92 hectares), Caurem in Quepem taluka (63 hectares).

A pure issue of application of land reforms legislations for equity and distributive justice is positioned as an issue of foreign ownership and kept burning using the fuel of nationalism. Emotions are incited through inflammatory speeches on foreign hands. Portuguese, Portugal and liberation from colonial rule are made convenient drums, though the answers lie with the local government. We need a political and legislative response from the Goa government to rectify the economic wrong at Mayem. It is pointless to blame the colonial rulers for allotting the land to a selected few because they did what was best for their economic and political interests. At least they left for us a progressive, equitable and just system of “communidades”, which liberated Goa ransacked and destroyed in a span of less than 30 years.

Revenue Collectors become Owners

The manner of few families getting hold of entire village and in some cases cluster of villages is known to all. Whether it is “Conde” or Count or Viscount or “Barrao” or “Mocasodar”, they were all revenue collectors for the rulers. Land, economic and social relations were different in the early times. The otherwise tenants of such lands may not have proper records to prove their tenancy due to feudal setting and terror of landlordism. Similarly, mere revenue collectors for rulers do not ipso facto mean ownership rights, though some powerful families might have done some documentation to this effect.  History has also documented how certain families have usurped lands from the rulers through events documented as revolts or mutinies which had no give and take with struggle for liberation and freedom.

There has been no will to address the issue of Mayem evacuee properties from any government starting from the erstwhile Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP), the supposed messiah of Bahujan Samaj which ruled the State during the initial period after liberation. The MGP or BJP or the different shades of Congress governments which we witnessed since liberation sympathised with the villagers of Mayem but all maintained the status quo. This is because a change in the government does not automatically mean a change in the rulers. The power has rested in the same lobby or coterie. This is probably the main reason for the failure to solve the issue. Hence, positioning the Mayem issue as an issue of “liberating” the village from a foreign owner serves the interests of the political class much better. The monster preventing the solution is within us, not in Portugal. The blocks lie not in External Affairs or international conventions, the lumps are in our internal affairs.  

Adversary is local not foreigner

Relevant amendments to the Evacuee Property Act, 1964, The Goa Agricultural Tenancy Act, The Goa Mundkar Act, the Land Revenue Code can provide a solution to the vexed issue. Plainly speaking, the issue is of ‘zamindari’ land settlement. The Indian Constitution provides effective remedy to deal with such inequity.  The same solution also needs to be applied to the non-evacuee properties held by the former Viscount de Pernem (Deshprabhus), Viscount de Allorna and the properties under the “mocasodari” held by Ranes, Dessais, and Sardessais in the State. Simply because the evacuees are in Portugal, there is no need to demonise them. Further, because the ‘mocasodari’ was conferred by Maratha rulers or Adil Shah, it need not be sanctified.  Foreigner or domestic landlordism is not a significant point of difference to deny application of land reforms. Finally, it is a form of “zamindari or inamdari” which perpetuates feudalism in all its facets making justice, freedom and democracy meaningless.  The struggle of the villagers of Mayem would be successful if we can identify the real enemy of the less privileged and the landless. The interrupter of reforms cannot be the imaginary evacuee. The landless agricultural labourers and the cultivators in Pernem. Bicholim and Sattari talukas should form a strong platform to assert their rights to land. The adversary is the landed lobby which is politically powerful irrespective of the government which comes into power. It is this feudal lobby largely in the Pernem, Bicholim and Sattari talukas which is the giant thorn for reforms.

The evacuee property at Mayem is presently managed by the Custodian of Evacuee property. Actually, it was improper to declare the entire Condade property as evacuee to keep it outside the purview of reforms. Such things can happen only due to the politician-landlord nexus. The blame for this should squarely fall on the State Government.  No proper legal successor of the evacuee has been so far identified, though there is supposed to be a claimant. Even if there was one, the claimant could be definitely subjected to the land reforms laws of the land. The villagers of Mayem, utilising the land as settlers or cultivators are paying the rent to the Custodian as per the rules and there are records to this effect. These records can prove tenancy or other form of rights to the land. What is needed is an extended application of existing laws to these evacuee properties. The evacuee would be also entitled to the share in the property as per the existing laws of the State. The entitlement would be what he/she would have been entitled if the person had continued to reside in the State.

Guard Mayem from new “Conde”

The Goa Law Commission has submitted a report on providing for abolition of proprietary rights of Conde de Mayem in the Condade property situated in Mayem and its allotment to the villagers. The recommendation is to extinguish the title of “Conde de Mayem” granted by the Portuguese and administered by the Custodian. One fails to understand why such titles continue for nearly fifty years after liberation. The extinguishment should have been natural and automatic. The second major recommended provision is the vesting of the “Condade lands” in the hands of the government which is to be allotted to the villagers of Mayem as per a scheme to be devised by the Government. It is at this level that vigilance would be needed to protect the lands and rights of the genuine settlers/cultivators/users. There are many politically influential “land bankers” watching from backstage the developments to grab huge tracts of lands in the name of “liberating the villagers” and themselves becoming mini “Conde”. The title of “Conde de Mayem” would stand extinguished by law but the villagers of Mayem would not be free from the local mushrooms flowering into “Conde”. You have live instances of the leaders of tenants, “mundkars” cultivators and SC/ST who have turned out to be worse than the one-time landlords, ‘bhatkars’ and ‘Brahmins’. This will defeat the purpose of the struggle and the proposed reforms. The possibility of the real beneficiaries being evicted and denied benefits through different means cannot be ruled out.  Hence, the extended application of existing land reform laws through appropriate amendments should also be examined and set in motion.

 

 

 

 

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Prabhakar Timble

Mr Prabhakar Timble is an educationist and a legal expert. He has served several educational institutions, especially as the Principal of Government College at Quepem, Kare College of Law in Madgao as well as couple of Management Institutes. He was also the State Election Commissioner of Goa.

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