Rule of Law, not of Men

By Cleofato A Coutinho
25 January 2010 14:01 IST

After the liberation of Goa we decided to convert this tiny state into a seaside holiday destination. We have certain parameters in our favour. Our per capita income is amongst highest in the Country. We have the very good literacy and our human development index is above average. Though we have been on the high, the sustained tourism activity coupled with the mining boom is taking a toll on our environment. We have about 100 kilometer coast line and a rich green cover seem to be coming under severe strain and there is a feeling that this 'Pearl of the Orient' is getting overwhelmed by the mining activity and the Real Estate Industry.

There can be no doubt that the Foreign Exchange have come here due to the mining and the tourism. Out state as a holiday destination and our natural beauty have attracted people from India and other parts of the world. There has also been increase in industrial activity after liberation and housing for people and land for industry is become a complex issue due to scarcity of the land. Of the available of 3720 sq.mts. only about 10% is available for settlement (residential, commercial etc. ). About 8% of our land is under mining leases producing about 15% of the country with iron ore bringing to Goa over a crore of  Rupees annually which also create millions of tones of mining waste that have polluted our fields. Housing sector is the corner stone of the developmental arch.

The environmental degradation created by the mining boom and violation of laws by certain real estate operators have brought Goa on the center stage of 'Debate on land and development'. At a time when the country is affected by destructive development and certain NGOs taking cudgels against mega dams and farmers opposing the SEZs in the country Goa is also caught in its endeavour  to prevent  greed of a few to swallow our tiny state.

It is expected that the population of Goa by next year will be over 2 millions and the question posed in various quarters is whether Goa has the infrastructure to allow the mining at the pace it is going and whether we have houses to provide shelter to the increasing population and whether our road network is capable to handle to load. Development will have to be planned. The scarcity of land and building activity has led locals feeling overwhelmed. Day in and day out we find confrontation between villagers claiming to be gram sabhas asserting their power over elected members of the panchayat in their opposition   to housing projects and mining activity.

There are no two opinions that the state administration has over a period of time has become corrupt and on number of occasions have colluded with the mining lobby and the Real Estate Sharks. In such a situation it is but natural that societal reaction to injustice shall surface.

The question before the state would be whether issues pertaining to development are to be decided at each village level by villagers or whether issues pertaining to land and development and the preservation of our ecosystem shall be decided by rules and regulations. We live and function under the constitution and the democracy works on peoples mandate but it must be kept in mind that the constitution even prevails over the will of the people as expressed through the majority. In fact it the rule of law that must prevail at all times.

The rule of law having failed in its application to mining rules and regulations and aberrations on the real estate front cannot further lead to a situation whereby mobs at the village level shall hold administration to ransom. There is a claim that the Panchayats have become totally corrupt and have failed to flow the rules and regulations against this the counter claim is that the groups at the village level masquerading as NGOs/ gram sabhas are acting as extortionists. Claims and counter claims shall do no good to our state.

It is just and proper that the government functions in an extremely transparent manner. Power and, water availability for a particular village ought to be made known in advance and garbage management for villages well defined. The plot coverage, FAR must be clearly set out for each village living no scope for manipulation and discretion of authorities must be done away with.

Once the infrastructure of water, electricity, available road width is defined plot coverage and FAR decided in advance there can be no discretion to any authority. Similarly the Mining control and development rules ought to be followed with precision.

Basically it has to kept in mind that we have reached this sorry pass of issues being settled by mobs for the simple reason that somewhere the administration has failed in following the existing law. But the remedy to that can never be worse than the disease. Since flow of technology and investments are required for growth in tourism and industry which cannot now be sacrificed at the alter of the traditional source of living-agriculture. There has to be good balance of both.

To what extent development should be permitted and to what extent can our eco system withstand is a matter top be decided by experts. To my mind the Regional Plan 2021 ought to brought into force without any delay. It is a great job well done.

 Laws must flow from  expertise and the state administration must be ruthless in implementation of the laws. Any aberration in implementation of the laws could be disastrous for our eco-system. Goa cannot be seen as a place whereby technology and investment cannot flow in. Flight of technology and investment from Goa can only be at the cost of the younger generation who are already feeling the heat of unemployment.

The government ought to be transparent, laws  ought to be followed. Our State must be ruled by law not man. Even the Queen in England is under the law.

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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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Previous Comments

This is a good article! Over the years we have become a Country with over-legislations but very poor rate of compliance.It is mostly the God fearing and law abiding middle class which tries to follow the laws and the poor and the rich always escape! The undue delay in getting justice almost amounts to denying justice and one can easily see the ever-increasing cases of people taking law in their own hands, without waiting for the law to take its own course! In fact the law has almost become a tool of harassing a law-abiding citizen rather than punishing a criminal!

I think these are the typical socio-economic conditions which give rise to Naxals and Maoists!

The tourism has brought many evils such as drug abuse, drug trafficking, prostitution, child abuse, rapes, younger generation becoming alcoholic, increasing crime rate and gambling in form of casinos!

The Mining activities have benefitted a few people but have caused tremendous harm to many others. Even a school kid is aware that the mining activities have caused inflow of migrant labour, caused dust pollution, land devastation by converting fertile land into infertile barren lands, damaged our roads, increased accidents, caused increased rate of pulmonary diseases, depleted our ground water, polluted our drinking water sources, and has depleted the scarce mineral resources belonging to future generations!

And all this for just making a few privileged people make money at the cost of causing irreversible harm to the environments its people and topography of this beautiful State!

I feel the blame for all this rot has to go mostly to the so called intellectuals who are all the time busy in their own selfish interests and forgotten their social obligations!

- vishwas prabhudesai, Loliem | 09 th February 2010 16:05

 

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