Tuesday , 18 February 2020
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Why Regional Plan is Regional Pain – VI

Nandkumar M Kamat

CHAMPIONS of RP-2021 would have no answer if villagers in more than 100 villages in Goa lacking land and facilities to perform final rites of the dead raise the question – “Where is the provision for public cemetery or crematorium for us? Have you identified, earmarked and reserved the land? Muslims in South Goa and especially in Salcete taluka could ask the question, “The Kabrasthan at Pajifond-Margao is full. Sonsoddo site has not made any progress. What’s the provision in RP-2021 for the growing Muslim community of Goa to establish their Kabrasthans?”

Awaiting ST Status

Such needs based on human rights were not internalised by the urban-centric creators of the RP-2021 draft. Ten thousand traditional agropastoralists of Goa, the Dhangar or Goulys, scattered in 110 hamlets in 11 talukas, waiting to get their much-deserved ST status, could also ask, “What’s the provision for us for protection against eviction from our traditional ‘Gavals’ (a dwelling with people and milch animals occupying same space) and what RP-2021 offers to us to earmark, conserve and preserve our traditional ‘Gavthans’ or community pastures?” This community would cease to exist if they are evicted from their traditional hamlets and their pastures are not conserved. Central government catalogued 57 fishing villages such as Mandrem, Morjim, Siolim, Candolim, Calangute, Nerul, Siridao, Betul, Colva, Talpona, Galjibaga etc in Goa in 1981 and identified 20 thousand traditional fisherpeople. This community could ask, “In what manner our identity as ancient traditional fishing villages would be conserved consistent with FAO, UNESCO and UNEP norms ratified by Republic of India?”

A self-sustaining fishing village has an ecological ethos, occupational history and traditional ethnoicthyological knowledge base of thousands of years. The wisdom of the small coastal fishing communities in Canacona – the ‘Gabits’ and ‘Pagi’ goes back to pre-historic period. Such heritage can’t be artificially recreated by pumping in new knowledge, capital and technology by any investment board. Land use policies first impact such heritage because no regional plan is based on critical understanding of ecological history of land use in any area.

Misguided Ministers

Goa, a 28-year-old full-fledged state, is not interested in a slew of fundamental, long pending public policy, legislative and administrative reforms. Some Cabinet ministers make irresponsible statements like – ‘who needs policies, we believe in action on ground first’. This indicates that the top well trained bureaucracy recruited from IAS has failed to properly brief and guide them. They should guide the hand of the cabinet government by pressing hard for reforms in public policies, legislations and administration. All the Chief Ministers post 1998 developed habit of procrastination and buying time till next assembly elections. They contributed to the ever-growing backlog of pending decisions on public policies and several essential legislative and administrative reforms.

Most Accessible Politician

Having studied the whole RP issue since 1998, I was very blunt after receiving a call in June 2007 from former Chief Minister Digambar Kamat within a week of his taking over the mantle of the state by defeating the challenge posed by ex-CM and a leader of the masses Ravi Naik. Kamat still remains Goa’s most accessible Chief Minister and still the most accessible politician. Kamat said on phone that he wanted to discuss the RP imbroglio and he felt that a way has to be found out to solve it. When I entered his cabin, Ravi Naik was sitting in front of him. I told Kamat – “Chief Minister, your government has no choice but to take forward the process began in 1998 to its logical end. “What Process?’ he asked. I presented him a bound photocopy of Model Urban and Regional Planning and Development Law (Revised) as proposed in 1998 by the Ministry of Urban Affairs and Employment, government of India, New Delhi. “Chief Minister, this model act debated in 1998 by Goa government in a technical workshop aims to provide for the development and regulation of growth in urban and rural areas in the state as a consequence to the Constitution (73rd and 74th Amendment). I find it bit ironic that I am presenting your government one of your own document printed by Government Printing Press”. “You need to recognise the Village Panchayats and Municipal Councils as the local authorities under Article 243G of the Constitution of India and respect the statutory role of the District Planning Committees which are required to prepare District Development Plans, which include spatial planning, along with the local bodies in the district as per Article 243ZD of the Constitution of India.”

CM Kamat responded, “Personally having worked as a councillor myself in Margao, I am in favour of decentralisation of spatial planning powers to local authorities. But first let me study this issue. I would call a meeting of town and country planning department soon.” “It’s good idea”, I said, but I would like to ask your TCP department a few questions in the light of my findings after conducting public hearing on privatisation plan of Miramar beach in 2002 and the memorandum submitted by the CSJP in 2005 so please let me know when that happens”. He closed the topic and I left his cabin wondering what the meeting with TCP department would actually achieve. I had a positive experience of CM Kamat during assembly session of January 2002 when as Minister for Urban Development he had readily accepted the private members’ resolution tabled by Santa Cruz Congress MLA Victoria Fernandes recommending constitution of a task force on sustainable urbanisation in Goa. MLA Victoria was not sure that the resolution would be accepted and passed so she called me to the chamber of Minister Kamat. After reading my explanatory note he said that there was no problem in accepting the resolution. Who can lead the task force – he asked me. I recommended the name of former chairman of TCPO Edgar Ribeiro. The resolution was unanimously adopted by the assembly but was never implemented after 2002, despite Goa achieving the distinction of India’s most urbanised state in 2011 census. RP-2021 is useless without a clear Sustainable Urbanisation policy and Town Plans consistent with UN Habitat objectives

(to be continued).

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