Betul villagers, Cong leaders protest at DefExpo site, with new demands

GOANEWS DESK, PANAJI | 15 February 2016 19:16 IST

The proposed Defence Expo site became tense today morning with the protesting villagers led by opposition Congress clashing with the government officials working on exhibition preparations.

Goa Congress President Luizinho Faleiro, Quepem MLA Babu Kavalekar and Church representative Fr Meveric Fernandes staged a demonstration at Naqueri site in Betul village of South Goa along with the villagers, led by Orixtt Porjecho Avaz.

Locals have been opposing the DefExpo, scheduled to be held from 28 to 31 March, fearing that the land provided for four days would never be returned by the defence authorities.

Around six lakh sq mts of land, which is originally acquired for an industrial estate, would be utilised for DefExpo - the Land, Naval and Internal Homeland Security Systems Exhibition - on temporary basis, Goa government has said.

Leaders of the protestors have now put up fresh demand of conducting feasibility report of DefExpo.

They have also threatened of continued opposition if villagers are not taken into confidence before taking any step to build even temporary structures at the site.

Quepem deputy collector Shankar Gaonkar, who spoke to the leaders, told goanews.com that he has forwarded the report in this regard to the South Goa Collector.

 

Tension however mounted at the site since morning with the news that state government and defence authorities would conduct inspection and survey of the site.

While around 300 villagers gathered at the site protesting against DefExpo, deputy collector Gaonkar told the protesters that it was not an inspection but a mock drill of a long heavy lorry to gauge difficulties on the road.

The state government has already widened the seven km long road from Balli to Naqueri while a new bridge is presently being built on the way to carry all heavy defence vehicles for the exhibition.

The mock drill, according to the deputy collector, was inspected by several government departments as well as defence officials.

Freddy Agnel Fernandes, president of the OPA, said the Quepem deputy collector had never invited the villagers for the talks, in protest of which they today demanded that the deputy collector comes to the site to listen to their grievances.

“I had already forwarded their earlier memorandums to the higher authorities and has also assured them to forward fresh demands to the higher ups, of feasibility report and taking them into confidence”, Gaonkar said.

Irked with the mysterious silence maintained by local Congress MLA Kavalekar, the villagers had last week marched to him, demanding to know his stand on the issue. 

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