Ban on sale of land not a solution

By Cleofato A Coutinho
04 August 2014 20:51 IST

The rejection of the demand for special status for the state of Goa has exposed the ‘selling of a dream’ to the gullible Goa populace. Both the Congress and the BJP attempted to cash on the emotive issue of land and the identity of the State of Goa. For some time now the type of seaside holiday destination development for Goa coupled with large scale influx of labour class and small traders have threatened this tiny state of being overwhelmed by ‘outsiders,’ be it the foreigners from the European countries or the rich of north India or the migrants from the neighbouring state. Goa’s misery on identity  is also due to a section from Salcete, Bardez and Tiswadi opting to settle in European countries and countries like Australia, Canada etc.

We in Goa fear of getting overwhelmed by persons not of Goan origin  and in the past five years the demand for ‘special status for Goa’ has become very shrill and the shrillness increases at election time. The Bharatya Janata Party which professes the theory of ‘Akhand Bharat’ also joined the bandwagon of playing the cheap election gimmick of demand for special status. The then prime ministerial  candidate may not have even understood what Goa was demanding at a time when he promised to consider the demand.

At the heart of the demand is a ban on sale of land to persons not of Goan origin for residence and settlement.  Such restrictions can certainly imposed on foreigners but to say that another  Indian citizen cannot buy land in Goa for residence and settlement is a completely negation of a citizens right under Article 19(e) of the constitution of India. We in India have a single citizenship and a ban on outsiders buying residence and settling in Goa is opposed to all civilized rules of citizenship. Even countries like Sri-Lanka, Bangladesh  and Pakistan do not make such laws!

At every stage we are reminded Jammu and Kashmir, Nagaland and Mizoram having special protection under the constitution of India. Jammu and Kashmir has its own constitution, but even the famous Jammu and Kashmir resettlement bill passed by the legislative  assembly could not become law for a long long time. Mizoram and Nagaland and tribal areas and the tribal population  is protected by constitution itself from being exploited by taking advantage of their poverty, ignorance and gullibility. Tribal land is treated differently, preventing forward and sophiscated citizens from other parts of India in settling in tribal areas and disturbing  the tribal culture. It is an extreme irony  that we seek such protection when the landlords herein Goa sell their properties as a part of best bargain in the growing neo economic atmosphere.

 

The correct stand of the central government on the issue of special  status  is received with shock by Goans who dreamt that the Bharatya Janata Party is in power at the center and the state and our closeness of the chief minister to the prime minister would work in the interest of Goa despite the constitution. As a kneejerk creation to the rejection of the demand on special status, the Goa chief Minister and others have now promised a law to be passed at the Goa assembly restraining the sale of agricultural land. We are reminded that Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakand have made changes in their agricultural land laws.  

Banning sale of agricultural land to ‘outsiders’  (persons not of Goan) origin is not at all the answer. It shall only pander to the emotions of the public at large on the emotive issue of land and identity. It shall give satisfaction to the government and the MLAs of having done something, that its net impact shall be nothing. Agricultural land in Goa is not put to any productive use. Large tracks of land particularly paddy field remain fallow leading to a criminal waste of a state resource. Land must be put to productive use whoever does it whether Goans or others in hardly material.

If there is a fear that agricultural land exploited  by ‘outsiders’ (persons not of Goan origin) shall be used for non agricultural purpose like agricultural or commercial that can be done by Goan developers and builders also – and in any case they are doing it. Why blame outsiders only.

The need of the hour is in exploiting our agricultural land for agriculture purpose may be through commercial farming with the protection by special legislation so that commercial elements do not take over the land permanently and banning conversation to non agricultural use by a complete ban, which if violated must be made a penal with a  law punishable with a strong dose of imprisonment. Ban on conversion, complete protection to eco sensitive zones, slopes and forests must be done with new laws  and the violators must be dealt with the might of the state. This can be achieved through the existing laws like the Land Revenue Code, Town and Country Planning Act, Forest Act and other laws being amended. It is not that new laws or amendment to the laws shall save our land and identity but the strict implementation only can reassure Goans that the ecology and environment of this tiny state get protection. A complete embargo in these areas coupled with a strong dose of punishment of imprisonment for violators is the need of the hour. Violators must prosecuted and punished for the reassurance that we mean business.

The state legislature is certainly within its powers in making laws, saving agricultural activities, keeping and pressuring  agricultural land for such activities and protecting agricultural land from non agricultural purpose.  Let us not forget that there is no demand for agricultural land that can never be converted! It is over a decade now that the regional plan is not seeing the light of the day. The freezing of the regional plan has set prices of land and residences to unimaginable limits with only the rich from other parts of the country affording them. That has also heightened the war cry for special status as housing has gone beyond the reach of the middle class locals with bodies like the Goa Housing Board doing precious little in formulating schemes of affordable housing for the local population. 

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Cleofato A Coutinho

Cleofato Almeida Coutinho is a senior lawyer and one of the constitutional expert in Goa. A member of Law Commission of Goa, he also teaches at Kare College of Law in Madgao.

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