Bhumiputra bill as election strategy

By Cleofato A Coutinho
08 August 2021 15:02 IST

The Bhumiputra Adhikarini Bill 2021 has ended in a fiasco. The Chief Minister has announced that the name of the bill would be changed from Bhumiputra Adhikarini to Bhumi Adhikarini. He has called for suggestions from public and introduction of a new bill in the winter session, which only means that the bill passed by the house would not be sent to the governor for his approval. The Chief Minister has not stated that the bill is being withdrawn creating some confusion over the status of the bill bulldozed in the house without any discussion and debate. Having taken a belligerent stand on the bill, it is but natural that the Chief Minister would find it difficult to admit withdrawal of the bill. The public backlash and the social media battle was too hard for the government not to retreat.

There were serious issues over the bill. Whether the governor could sign or  reserve the bill to the present assent for granting ownership to third parties without acquisition is a separate issue altogether. The bill made no distinction between an encroacher or a rent paying tenant or whether the claimant was residing under an agreement of leave and license and/or with the consent of the owner of the land. The bill did not even clarify as to whether the house tax by local authority and water and electricity connection should stand in the name of the claimant. It did not even state that so called dwelling unit had to be used only for residential purpose. There was no clarification over whether the so called ‘dwelling unit’ could be an apartment in the building or a standalone structure in the property.  All that was required was occupation on 1st April 2019 for a third party called bhumiputra to claim ownership of the structure not exceeding 250 sq.mts.

The bill was a serious assault on citizen’s right to property. Though right to property is no longer a fundamental right nevertheless it is a constitutional right and the Supreme court right has placed that right on a pedestal of human rights. Citizens rights cannot be robbed  of their rights in this fashion which is a fraud on law and the citizens. In Goa there are large number of small landlords who have built small structures and/or bought apartments from their hard earned savings with the sole purpose of renting out or permitting interstate labourers to reside for consideration. The bill deprives them of their life time earnings.

The bill was a tremendous set back to the fledgling real estate industry. The law was a total deterrent to investment in the real estate sector; Nobody would buy apartments and/or other spaces with the fear of losing them to third parties in case such laws come into force. The fear of such laws is enough to act as detriment to any person not to invest in building houses or apartments. Work force is required for industry and/or for domestic purpose. Migration cannot be halted as the ‘city state’ of Goa is becoming more and more urban. That would only lead to mushrooming of illegal slums and  shanties adding to the already existing slums and shanties in the main cities. The slums and shanties would now grow in every village as no citizen would invest in building   houses for the purpose of letting out.

The CM claims that the Mundkar law did  not give protection to large number of  persons whose names did not exist in form I and XIV. If that is the case, all that was required was an amendment to the Mundkar law and approving appropriate evidentiary value to the house tax and/or water and electricity connection.  However the intention of the government was loud and clear. It was only to pander the migrant work force. It was actually a joke on the gullible lot as the law department must have known that such law would not stand the scrutiny of contents. 

The bill created a strange confusion between ‘origin of a person’ and ‘domicile’. Thirty years domicile can never grant ‘origin’. That may have to go to three generations.  The government only attempted to create an feel good  atmosphere for acceptance of the bill, basically meant for migrant labour force by misuse of the word bhumiputra. The backlash of the actual bhumiputras was possibly not comprehended by the government.

Migration is certainly a fall out of urbanization. The marginalized, and the under privileged and the migrant labour force provide a great service to society. The city state of Goa would come to a halt without interstate migration. They deserve protection and low cost housing schemes in land acquired by the government.  Legalizing illegal structures and divesting private landowners of their property without acquisition in the manner the failed bill attempted can only be dubbed as a pre-election season stunt and a joke on the people to whom the law was meant to serve.

In 2016   a few months before the 2017 assembly elections the government brought a law to regularize unauthorized structures existing without approvals and permissions from statutory authorities. About 8000 applicants are awaiting benefit of that law. Only the influential few may have benefited from that law brought as another  election jumla by the then government. Laws must have   same sanctity and such sanctity comes from approval of the public and society. It has to be as a result of discussion and debate. Like 2017 the government tried to fry a bigger fish before this election season of 2022. The failed law highlighted the type of law makers we have sent to the house. The opposition walked out due to genuine reason of lack of time for discussion but not one from the ruling side  stood up.That is our tragedy and misery.  The misuse of the house and the laws at a time when their fortune was at a low, received a tight slap. There lies a silver lining. There is some hope.

 

Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author's own.

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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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