Thursday, March 26, 2009

S.O.S. Goa

Goa is facing a crisis of democracy in the past few months. The elected government has passed legislation that strikes at the very root of the constitutional rights of its citizens.
Goa needs your help and support. Please stand with us and let us take a stand for democracy and good governance in Goa.
The past few months have seen a crisis of democracy in Goa.
There are protests on an everyday basis. The elected Govt as well as the Opposition have chosen to ignore these protests completely.
First, there was the RPG 2021 - the proposed Regional Plan for Goa, locking in place its development up to 2021. The supposed involvement of people in their own development and future planning is tokenism at its worst - there is no technical or base data made available. The RP 2021 is a glossy near-200 page document at odds with its own stated policy. How can that which destroys precious natural resources and a way of life be offered up as development?
Villagers in a peaceful little village from Patiapur were beaten - by the police - when they grouped to protest against a luxury housing development of 41 bungalows in the village. This mega-project, called Dreamwoods, destroyed the hills that provided people in this village their livelihood. (read separate post on Nightmare at Dreamwoods for more details on this)

Second came the proposal for a 6-lane NH 17 across Goa - the alignment that was made public will mow down cultivable fields, houses, villages and destroy one of the six major rivers of Goa. Vitally - the public information conceals the survey numbers that will be affected, in a transparent bid to prevent correct identification and protest. Newspaper reports pegged the damage at 9 lakh sq kms of cultivable fields; 3460 homes...not to mention the environmental devastation from a busy 6-lane highway running 5 kms OVER a river; at the second village from its source and with 500 villages downstream dependent upon the River Sal. No impartial impact assessment studies have been undertaken. Are there alternatives to build this highway in a manner that does not destroy land, habitation and environmental resources? Yes, there are. And these have been brought to the notice of the Town and Country Planning Dept; the PWD minister; the local MLA; the Leader of the Opposition and the Chief Minister of the State. The alternatives have been proposed at public forums as well as by citizen-delegations. These alternatives were proposed by an eminent engineer with international experience and were backed by technical know-how and expertise. They were proposed with a view to ensure that development objectives are not impeded whilst ensuring that such widespread damage and destruction is not wrought upon Goa and its people. These are alternatives however do not allow for land-grab and heedless development and were simply disregarded by the ruling party and the opposition without consideration or explanation.
Third came the amendment to the TCP Act - Sections 16 and 16A - these amendments entitle the Govt to undertake any project without seeking objection or consent. This amendment was violently and strongly opposed by people and citizen-bodies but passed UNANIMOUSLY by the Govt and the Opposition.
Today, the 24th of March 2009, the Goa Govt passed a bill to amends Section 41 of the Land Acquisition Act, 1894. This empowers the government to overrule the judiciary and effectively prevents people from seeking justice through the courts.
Various organisations, communities, local groups and individuals have spent the last 6 months battling these proposed changes. The government dismisses these protests as 'anti-development'.
No, we do not and cannot oppose development. We can, however, demand sustainable development. We can demand that the government remembers it exists to serve people. We can demand that the government awaken to the fact that it holds land and natural resources in trust for the people. We can demand that a greed-and-power sodden government STOP the course of arbitrary destruction it has undertaken.
Enough is enough. Stand up beside us as we take a stand for Goa - HELP!
Contact Info
FaceBook Group: S.O.S. Goa

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