The state government has come out with measures to regulate allocation of plots belonging to communidades. Over the years thousands of cases of land grabbing in communidades has been reported but the communidades have remained mute witnesses to land grabbing and failed to take action against the grabbers. There have been cases of communidade officials being hand in glove with the land grabbers. There are also cases of land grabbing by those wielding power or those enjoying political patronage.
A former minister has been accused of getting communidade land allocated to him using dubious means. As a result of land grabbing, the communidades have lost sizeable areas without getting any benefit or getting less benefit in return. Though successive governments have been promising to stop illegal occupation of communidade land they have failed to do so. The grabbers try to take advantage of loopholes or official provisions to have illegal constructions on communidade land regularized. It remains to be seen whether the government would ensure that its latest announcement is implemented in letter and spirit to establish a system of approval of grant of communidade land.
The government through a recent circular directed all the communidades to forward the minutes of deliberations and decisions on granting of land. Henceforth, sale or exchange of communidade land would be regulated by the government and the communidades would have to send their proposals along with their plan for development of the particular area through the director of civil administration or collector for the government’s approval.
While this will help the government to regulate allotment of communidade land, fears are being expressed in certain quarters that this provision might be used selectively to deny land to some people while granting it to others. The government should lay down clear-cut rules for grant of communidade land along with the category of people eligible for availing the land. The communidades should be directed to adhere to the provisions of law strictly. It must be noted that the breakdown in the system of allotment was due to communidade officials failing to go by the rule book and playing to the tune of politicians or falling victim to allurements. The government should make a provision in the rules to hold the communidade officials liable for action in cases of illegalities.
The government’s new procedure is to ensure that the allotment of communidade land is as per law in the future. However, it has to establish a procedure for action against past crimes, that is, against people guilty of illegal land occupation and permissions over the years. Those who have grabbed communidade land using deceitful means should be penalised and evicted. The government must do this ignoring the undue influence the grabbers might try to use. The government can notify the rates to be collected from those who have failed to pay as per the law. The new measures to ensure uniformity in land allotment should have come earlier. However, it is never too late. With the regulation by the government of allotment of communidade land let us hope land goes to the deserving people. There should be proper monitoring to rule out any undermining by communidade officials.
Goa’s land resources are limited. The government should ensure that whatever land is available is saved from being grabbed by vested interests. As availability of public land is crucial for bringing about infrastructure development, industrial development and providing housing to people and social welfare organizations that cannot afford to buy land at market prices, communidade land must be preserved and allotted discretely.
The government should undertake a survey of communidade lands and find out whether any of the occupants of the land have grabbed land in excess to what was allotted to them. Those found in possession of land in excess of the permitted area should be made to pay for illegally occupying the land at the current rates. The government should also clearly earmark land for housing on communidade land and find out feasibility of setting up industrial projects. All the proposals for development on communidade lands should be reflected in the Regional Plan for the state and only those projects that are in consonance with development plan should be permitted to come up and land allotment made accordingly.
Communidade land should be used for a mix of development and justice. It should be used to generate employment and provide premises and shelter to the deserving. A lot of cleaning up is needed in communidade land, and the Parrikar government would need to have a strong political will to do it.