State decision to leave out some areas is questionable
The government decision to categorise 56 villages as urban areas is being strongly opposed by the residents of the concerned villages. Villagers of Candolim, Saligao, Chicalim and Sao Jose de Areal have passed unanimous resolutions opposing the change. Other villages are likely to follow suit. Most of the villages that have been categorized as urban areas are in the coastal parts of the state barring a few in hinterland talukas. Bardez has the largest number of newly notified urban areas numbering 16 followed by Salcete which has 10 villages now as urban areas. No area in three talukas of Canacona, Sanguem and Dharbandora has been classified as an urban area. The state government’s justification that the decision to name the villages as urban areas has been done on the direction of the central government to have smooth coverage of Census 2021 has not cut much ice with the opposing villagers.
The opposition of the people of the concerned villages is also supported by their fears that the exercise is aimed at getting the Coastal Regulation Zone II tag to the coastal areas that have been declared urban under the new Coastal Zone Management Plan. They are objecting to urban area classification as they automatically change the CRZ classification from CRZ-III to CRZ-II.
They fear that the urban classification will lead to opening the floodgates for unbridled construction in the areas which hitherto had been a restricted zone in accordance with CRZ-III classification. The rural area status has been helping the local community protect their traditional occupations and livelihoods. Their contention is that when the coastal zone management plan 2011 was yet to be finalized the government decision to notify villages as urban areas was totally illogical and motivated. It is worth noting that while the government has notified the concerned villages as urban areas, it has not shown the same enthusiasm in preparing the regional plan.
This is not the first time that the government has gone ahead to classify areas falling under villages as urban areas. It had made unsuccessful attempts about six years ago to include village areas surrounding municipal limits as part of civic bodies, but following strong opposition from the local people it had to abandon the plans. The government should have taken the people residing in the villages notified as urban areas in confidence before arriving at a decision, because this is going to affect the livelihood and daily life pattern and conveniences of the residents. The panchayats should have been consulted. The government should have called for the views of the panchayats before taking the decision. The decision taken by the government without taking the people into confidence is going to strengthen the suspicion that it has notified the concerned villages as urban areas for assessing them under revenue code to generate more income through higher taxes. It is pertinent to note that even though many parts of Goa have an urban environment, their rural classification helps them derive many benefits including obtaining faster building permission and lower taxation in comparison to municipalities.
With opposition building from many quarters, the government cannot ignore it. The trend has been that when people get organised and fight for rejection of the notification of the concerned villages as urban areas, a big pressure builds up on the local MLAs who will in turn build pressure on the government to put off the decision. Surprisingly while many villages which do not fit into urban definition have been declared as urban areas even in hinterland two prominent areas – Porvorim and Taleigao – which has urban environment have been left out of list of 56 villages which have been classified as urban areas. Many have attributed politics behind the government decision and wondered whether the central government on whose direction the state authorities claimed the exercise was carried out had approved the decision to leave out these two villages. The government decision to leave out these villages is questionable and is likely to serve as an additional point to the people in the concerned villages notified as urban areas who are expected to organise protests, with the support of the panchas, and mount pressure on the local legislators and the government.