The Benaulim village panchayat, in a bid to stop outsiders conducting illegalities in the village, at the extraordinary gram sabha held on Sunday agreed to a ten-point resolution asking the panchayat to maintain demography of the village.
The gram sabha was attended by over 500 people including 10 of the 11 panch members including sarpanch Ezlina Fernandes. Panch member Nilesh Prabhudessai was absent and had issued a letter stating that he was boycotting the meeting on the grounds that there was a ‘hidden agenda’.
During the meeting, villagers agreed that there were illegalities including the sale of drugs and prostitution that was rampant as well as harassment to tourists by hawkers.
The gram sabha unanimously resolved to ask the panchayat and the state government to keep a check on uncontrolled migration into the village and investigate illegal activities by migrants including drug peddling, prostitution and criminal intimidation.
It was also resolved that the panchayat should stop unauthorised trade carried out by migrants in the village and that no business for which panchayat has given permission should be allowed to be sublet.
Fearing taking over of traditional coastal occupations, villagers also resolved to protect and run activities related to fishing, shack operations, tourist taxi operations, garment and jewellery business, salons and massage parlours and the restaurant business themselves.
A committee will also be constituted and some volunteers chosen to keep an eye on illegal activities on the beach and in the village particularly among migrants involved in hawking and mugging of tourists.
The resolution also called for the village panchayat to carry out a study on the carrying capacity of the village taking into consideration the infrastructure, permanent and floating population, tourists and take appropriate measures to ensure that demography, cultural and socio-economic interests are not affected.
Former MLA Caitu D’Silva, who was also present for the meeting, said that there were many households that rent out premises to migrants but were not providing toilet facilities and other basic amenities and asked the panchayat to take action.
Another villager Royla Fernandes pointed to the Gram Panchayat Development Plan (GPDP) urging the panchayat to take necessary steps. “During the GPDP preparation, the VDC had spoken to taxi and shack owners etc and we had said that migrants were creating nuisance and encroaching into our business. Under the security and safety head of the GPDP, the panchayat should take up tenant verification with the necessary resource persons,” she said.
After patiently hearing the villagers, sarpanch Ezlina Fernandes said a resolution would be taken at the next meeting. “We are definitely with the people on this issue. Based on today’s resolution, we will put them up for discussion at the next body meeting and take legal advice as well and forward the relevant follow ups with the state departments,” she said.
Villagers under the ‘Banalkaracho Ullo’ have started a campaign by conducting corner meetings calling to unite villagers in their fight against illegalities of outsiders.
“This problem has always been happening just as the tourists season starts and we have decided that this has to stop now. We ourselves are to be blamed for letting the situation get this far, but we have to do something now to save our future. There are many migrants in our village like the Kashmiris who come for the season and then leave. But the Lamani community is trying to take over our traditional occupations, which needs to be prevented,” said Jose Fernandes.