Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar on Thursday floated a new idea ostensibly to placate the growing opposition to the proposed Mopa airport in Salcete in south Goa stating that the government would make an offer to the Prime Minister to shift Navy to Mopa, and give Dabolim entirely for civilian operations.

While Goa at present is trying to go ahead with a new civilian airport at Mopa in north Goa, people from south Goa’s Salcete and Mormugao taluk have been demanding that the Mopa airport proposal be scrapped though the government has assured that Dabolim airport under Naval jurisdiction would continue to be operational for civilian use.

They oppose dual airports theory fearing Dabolim airport in south Goa will be closed affecting tourism of south coastal Goa once Mopa becomes operational.

Idea opposed

Mr. Parrikar’s idea of offer to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on shifting Navy to Mopa and expanding the Dabolim airport to meet the civilian needs on Friday met with strong opposition within 24 hours by none other than senior Congress leader from north Goa and the former Union Law Minister Ramakant Khalap.

Mr. Khalap, addressing presspersons at the Congress House here, said Mopa is a green-airport meant for civilian purpose, conceptualised, designed and taken forward by both the BJP and the Congress. “How can that now be offered to the Navy?” he sought to know.

Ripple effect

Mr. Khalap said this was a brazen attempt by Chief Minister Parrikar, who was cornered by opponents of dual airport concept, to hoodwink his MLAs from south Goa who have been, perhaps, threatening to pull down his government over the issue and also the Salcete voters, keeping in mind the Parliamentary elections.

Mr. Khalap said that the proposed Mopa site was suggested by experts after scouting for different sites and was supported by political parties. If Dabolim airport under Naval jurisdiction was meant for present day needs of Goan civilian traffic, including tourist arrivals, Mopa will have to come up to meet Goa’s future challenges, said the former Union Law Minister, who was till recently the Chairman of Goa State Law Commission.

Therefore, he said this new “magic trick” of Mr. Parrikar had been floated just to misguide people of Goa. “Why can’t he take a decision and stick to it?” he asked.

Mr. Khalap warned that once the proposed Chipi international airport comes up in neighbouring Sindhudurga district of Maharashtra, the entire purpose of Mopa airport would be lost.

To a query, Mr. Khalap alleged that Mr. Parrikar was not merely buying time by floating this proposal but had a sinister agenda to blame Congress during the elections once Prime Minister rejects this inane proposal.

Referring to the Chief Minister’s statement that he would write to Prime Minister with this proposal, Mr. Khalap said, “I am opposing this letter and I will also urge the Congress party not to be part of this letter.”

In reply to a question, Mr. Khalap agreed that there was substance in the argument of people opposing two airports over the “over-development of Goa” which could destroy Goa’s identity.

But, development has to take place and people have to pay some price for the development, he said.

Regulate sale of land

He felt that the State government instead of chasing the mirage of “Special Status” must take measures to put restrictions on indiscriminate sale of land in this tiny State where land was a very limited resource.

He also agreed that people across the political board had been involved in large-scale real estate in Pernem and other areas of north Goa in anticipation of the international airport.

As for the land of farmers being acquired for pittance, he said the government must have in place the land acquisition legislation on the lines of Haryana and Punjab to give remunerative compensation and other benefits to farmers who lose their land for projects like Mopa airport.

He asserted that the Congress party stand continued to be in favour of new Mopa airport while Dabolim airport would continue to be used for civilian purposes even after Mopa becomes operational.

  • Ramakant Khalap opposes the idea, says Mopa is a green-airport meant for civilian purpose

  • ‘Parrikar floated the idea to hoodwink MLAs who have threatened to pull down his government’