SCRAP virus hits Goa

By Prabhakar Timble
24 November 2011 02:58 IST

A proverb in Konkani “Ekdaam dudaan tondd bhaajlem mhuntoch taak legit funkun pivap” probably explains the imbroglio in respect of the Goa Regional Plan 2021. Once lips are burnt by milk, then the person is wary of drinking even butter milk. Village groups, village panchayats and NGOs are coming out with confused and contradictory reactions. To a large extent, the opposition is based on apprehensions and presumptions on the likely misuse by real estate lobby, politicians and bureaucrats and not on the contents or provisions of the Regional Plan. The RP seems to be pre-judged and agenda pre-decided. There is only one track i.e. we disapprove and resist all that is planned and proposed.

A regional plan is limited to an overall physical planning with broad demarcations of land for agriculture, forestry, industry, urban and rural settlements and other activities. The physical plan also deals with needs of urbanisation, transport and communications along with preservation and reservation in terms of ecology and environment. It is not an economic, social and cultural developmental plan. The physical plan is neutral to State domestic product, growth, investment and employment. Further, the regional plan is not a free licence for land utilisation. The activities to be conducted on the land resource are governed by other laws, regulations and rules pertaining to real estate, forest conservation, industrial laws, environmental laws, tenancy legislation and the provisions enunciated in Panchayat and Municipal enactments in view of 73rd amendment to the Constitution. Extreme and irreversible stands on the regional plan exhibits poor understanding of the restricted role, purpose and outcomes of physical planning.

Recognise credits

It is for the first time that the Government of Goa took a view beyond boundaries of the provision of public notice and consultation envisaged under the Town & CP Act, 1974. I do not think that any State in India has gone to such deepening in participation and transparency in preparation of regional plans. The recommendations and suggestions were perused and decided on the basis of the overall parameters and objectives of the RP 2021. No regional plan of the earlier years, not only in Goa but throughout the country has witnessed such acrimony and debate as well as reasonable hearing and gentle consideration on the part of the special task force formed to prepare the plan.

The due credit needs to be given to the government for the patient participatory approach despite impatience from the NGOs and civil society and their failure to make an attempt to absorb the merits of the 2021 exercise.  The plan has given prime importance to eco-sensitivity which itself has been a factor inviting opposition from the politicians largely from the ruling party. For the first time, there is village-wise mapping and demarcation providing a very high degree of clarity to all. Eco-tourism, agro-tourism, micro-industry zoning, and ear-marking for different purposes including solid waste management are noteworthy approaching to physical planning. Identification of new growth hubs, education hubs and creating opportunities in hinterlands are clearly visible in the plan. The task before the Chief Town Planner is to rationalise physical planning. The actual outcomes will be governed by the annual economic plan and investments by the private and public sector. The control and monitoring authorities of the government will have to work to ensure development on the track prepared by the CTP in the form of the regional plan.

Rectify errors

There is also a need to understand that RP sets the broad framework. Minor deviations can, will and may have to happen from the physical plan. There is also a provision under the TCP Act to revise and modify the regional plan. Many village groups put forward the argument of grabbing of land by outsiders and real estate lobby. The regional plan of 2001 and 2011 cannot be held as the culprit for land transfers. Neither is such a plan responsible for the unaffordable cost of housing and real estate in Goa. The causes for these largely lie outside the ambit of the physical planning process.

The apprehension that RP 2021 is a made to order product of the real estate lobby is unacceptable. This lobby itself is not at all happy with the restrictions imposed in the plan. In fact, vested interests including political heavyweights want a change of land marked under orchard to settlement zone. There is demand for land marked under CADA to be brought outside the purview and may be rightfully so considering that large tracts of such lands are lying unutilised for over 25 years and there is no hope that these lands would be brought under canal irrigation. There is a demand for certain portions of land to be brought outside the purview of forests. The village groups who outright demand scrapping of the plan need to ponder over these issues.

There can be genuine errors in any planning exercise and there are processes to rectify the same. Satellite pictures are used for land mapping and hence some mapping may be at variance with the actual ground situation. There may be inconsistency in respect of RP 2011 and 2021. As understood from reports, there can be differences of opinion on the width of public roads in villages. There may be demand from individual owners in respect of their properties being categorised as orchard and not settlement. Due to unsettled tenancy issues, uneconomical agricultural operations and absence of basic infrastructure facilities, the lands under agriculture and horticulture continue to remain ill-nursed and unattended. The demand from the Gram Sabhas cannot be treated to be genuine in each and every case. Many times, it is a demand from a noisy group in a specific Gram Sabha meeting with vested interests which is recorded as the view of the village. At a subsequent Gram Sabha, the demand raised could be totally contradictory.  These matters need to be addressed but they are insufficient to produce the present outburst for scrapping of the RP 2021.

 Costs of NGO delinquency

We should not take transparency and people’s participation to the abyss of failure for all. NGO is not to be reduced to a gateway of negativism. Opportunities to participate and recommend is not only to show disagreement and total absence of positive responsibility. We do not want more immigration into Goa is at some level understandable. But, we do not want to create any opportunities for Goan youth to contribute to the State and their family during their productive years is pure madness. I would call this phenomenon not as NGO activism but parochial negativism leading to developmental suicide.

On every matter it is a big NO from civil society who proclaims to be torch bearers of Goan interests and identity. No to agriculture because it is not profitable. No to industry because it is assumed to generate pollution. No to infrastructure and real estate because it leads to immigration.

What do we want then? Only shacks on beaches, feasts, ‘zatras’, music, fish, football, Bible and the Bhagvad Gita? With such attitudes, we may be left largely with senior citizens in Goa waiting to Rest in Peace in the village crematorium or cemetery! 

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

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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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