Planning to impose restrictions on land sale in Goa: Parrikar

Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar has announced the government’s decision to reopen the draft Regional Plan 2021(RP 2021) for public scrutiny and deliberations by July-end.

Fresh from his visit to New Delhi, where he sought from the Centre special status for the tiny coastal State the Chief Minister said on Friday that he was planning to use RP 2021 to impose restrictions on the sale of land in Goa. He added that the conversion of agricultural land to settlement would be totally banned in the plan.

Activist groups associated with the movement for appropriate land use planning, such as the Goa Bachao Abhiyan (GBA), have accused Mr. Parrikar of not coming clean on a well-defined participative process for people’s involvement in the rectification of errors and manipulations in the draft plan. However, Mr. Parrikar has insisted that he had other pressing issues to resolve, such as the rehabilitation of those affected by the mining ban, before attending to the finalisation of RP 2021.

Before it is thrown open to the public, Mr. Parrikar proposes to consult all the stakeholders involved — MLAs, village panchayats, councillors and non-governmental organisations. Village panchayats and local self-governing bodies will be given the opportunity to decide on the development model for their villages, to a limited extent. The government will offer various models of development and the panchayats may opt for the model of their choice.

On the other hand, groups like Church-affiliated Centre for Social Justice and Peace (CSJP) are in favour of involving village gram sabhas in the planning and development process of the villages.

Mr. Parrikar stated that he had no faith in gram sabhas, adding that they were subject to external influences.

He had two options in mind: he could either hold a plebiscite within the village to decide the model regional plan, or go by the existing law, which states that the gram sabha gives a recommendation on the issue while the panchayat takes the final decision.

Political observers say that this could once again invite friction between the government and groups such as CSJP over the village plans, as the latter want gram sabhas to be heard by the government.

The regional plan process is now simmering for long. The draft regional plan prepared during the erstwhile Congress regime was put on hold by the BJP government soon after it came to power in 2012, as many had objected to the errors and omissions in the draft plan.

The land use plan has been the subject of prolonged agitations, debates and controversies. One regional plan, prepared during the Congress’s rule, was scrapped entirely after it evoked public outcry. The second — RP 2021 — awaits finalisation.