A SUB-COMMITTEE of the Town and Country Planning Board has agreed to exclude the villages of Azzossim-Mandur and Gauxim-Batim from the jurisdiction of Greater Panaji Planning and Development Authority. Having decided in favour of the villagers, the committee will submit its report to the board. The final decision to remove the villages would, however, vest with the T&CP Board, which is expected to meet on April 10. Ever since the constitution of the GPPDA was notified in the state gazette, people from most of the villages included under the new planning authority have been opposing their inclusion. The opposition from the villagers was visible at the gram sabhas held in the recent past, and the villagers forced the local legislators to quit the membership of the GPPDA and show their solidarity with the electorate. While the sub-committee has decided to remove two villagers, it will have to take a call on the opposition from the villagers of St Cruz, Merces, Chimbel and Curca over their inclusion in the new planning entity. It remains to be seen whether the T&CP committee will adopt the same yardstick while deciding on the opposition of the other villages or a different mode would be adopted.
The four member sub-committee said that it was ‘totally’ convinced with the arguments put forth by the sarpanchas of the village panchayats, with facts and figures as to why they should be out of GPPDA. It would be better if the committee hears the other village panchayats as early as possible and take decision on merits so as to avoid any confrontation with the locals. There are at least seven representations that are pending before the T&CP board. A just decision needs to be taken in the larger interest of the society to ensure that peace prevails in the villages. It would be better that the government accepts the public opinion and refrains from imposing its will on the people. It is quite apparent that the government erred by going ahead with the formation of the GPPDA even when there were murmurs of opposition to the new planning body. The state should accept public demand and remove the villages from planning body. Removal of the villages does not mean that they cannot be brought under the jurisdiction of the planning process at a later stage. It can thereafter make concerted attempts to win over the villagers by creating awareness among them and bring them back into the planning process by evolving wider consensus.
The opposition to the PDAs is nothing new in the state but despite past experience the government has continued to bulldoze its ideas on the people. While in the past the government managed to quell the opposition as it was limited, this time around most of the villages were opposed to the idea and joined hands to collectively fight for their cause. The government apparently formed the GPPDA hurriedly perhaps on the premise that the opposition would die once the new entity was notified. The hurry in which the GPPDA was formed aroused suspicion among the people over the motives of the government which were heightened by the appointment of Atanasio Monserrate as its chief. Had the government tried to explain to the people of what would be benefits of the new planning authority and take them onboard, the opposition could have been quelled. The government did take steps on finding the opposition growing but failed to convince the people. Besides, having fear over sharing the existing infrastructure in the villages, they also feel that the planning entities would destroy the village ambience. Their fears are not unfounded as the government has failed to improve the infrastructure in villages and people do not get adequate water or power supply on daily basis.
It is a well-known fact that the development in the state has been haphazard. The state government feels that the development should be regulated especially in semi-urban areas and villages which are fast developing into townships. The illegalities and irregular development can be seen all around and has to be stopped forthwith. If the haphazard development is not controlled now it could lead to chaotic situation in days ahead. The state authorities need to act fast and ensure that the planning does not succumb to the pressure of vested interests. The best way would be to adopt proper planning process and allay the fears that people have about the PDAs by taking them onboard by creating awareness among them. At the same time it has to ensure that infrastructure is routinely upgraded so as to ensure that existing population in the areas proposed to be developed further does not suffer due to inadequacies. Rather than resorting to piecemeal development, it should be endeavour of the government to finalise regional plan and ensure that the development is carried out as planned all over the state.