PANAJI: The serious charges made by ‘Goencho Avaaz,’ a civil society organisation, during a public meeting on April 27 in Margao alleging involvement of top state politicians in illegal land conversion by taking advantage of the Regional Plan 2021 seem to be leading nowhere, as members of the civil society have failed to substantiate their claims in writing before the five-member expert committee constituted by the town and country planning (TCP) department.
The first meeting of the committee, which was constituted to revive the Regional Plan 2021 and later asked to inquire into the charges made by ‘Goencho Avaaz,’ was held on Wednesday wherein the panel assessed the allegations made by the activists.
The committee comprises of Institute of Town Planners India (ITPI) member Venancio Fernandes, Institute of Engineers India (IEI) members Ernesto Moniz and Paresh Gaitonde, Indian Institute of Architects Goa Chapter chairman Manguesh Prabhugaonkar and Chief Town Planner (Planning), Rajesh Naik. During its first meeting, the panel could not do much in the absence of a written submission by ‘Goencho Avaaz’ to substantiate its charges.
Chief Town Planner Rajesh Naik told the media that the committee has only undertaken an assessment of the charges made by the civil society members, adding that it will deliberate further during the next meeting. “Since there was no written submission by the organisation to substantiate the charges, the committee will now decide how to go further and to what extent it can go into the alleged charges of illegal land conversions by the politicians and others,” Naik said.
Giving mandate to the panel to inquire into the allegations made regarding illegal land conversions, the government had directed the panel to submit its report by June 1.
The Chief Town Planner further said that the delegation of ‘Goencho Avaaz’ called on him on May 11 and suggested to him to take the details of allegations made from media reports which were published on the next day of the public meeting held at the Lohia Maidan on April 27. He further said that the delegation also suggested to him to inquire into the illegal conversions of land on the basis of objections filed during the rectifications of the Regional Plan 2021.
Meanwhile, Town and Country Planning Minister Vijai Sardesai said that allegations should not be made without substantiating the same in writing. “Simply ‘firing in the air’ and then apologising for it is (Arvind) Kejriwal’s style. Such allegations cannot be endorsed,” he pointed out, adding that in five years of the erstwhile government, over one crore square metres of land has been illegally converted and surprisingly no one is talking about it.