Unplanned Urbanisation hits Goa

Goa, in the last few years has seen unprecedented urbanisation of her towns and villages. This unplanned urbanisation has taken a toll on her resources and is turning out to be a ‘Disaster’. Goa is faced with myriad problems like safety of citizens, lack of traffic management, poor garbage disposal, lack of drainage systems to avoid a Chennai flood-like situation and poor sanitation. Citizens are victims of the water mafia where they have to regularly order tankers to access water. There is rampant haphazard construction, where permissions are given, without taking into consideration if the city, village, town has the resources to cope with the growing population.

The lack of delivery of these basic services by the local bodies —the Municipality and Gram Panchayats has remained poor. One wonders, why,? despite India having enacted the 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments in 1992 to strengthen these local bodies.

The reason is, in Goa, successive governments have delayed the implementation of the 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendment that empowers the local bodies in urban and rural areas – thus making them weak.

So what comprises the 73rd and 74th  Constitutional Amendment and why is it so important?

Writer, Sudha Pillai in her article— ‘Devolution of Powers and The Panchayats’ writes, “The 73rd Amendment, provides for mandatory conduct of panchayat elections to the three tiers – district, intermediate and village – every five years, the setting up of a State Election Commission, a State Finance Commission and reservation of not less than one-third of the elective seats of members and chairpersons for women, and for SC and ST persons in each district in proportion to their population. The Constitution, moreover, provides for devolution of powers upon panchayats.”

This is non-existent in Goa. NGOs and individuals have been petitioning for its implementation at the panchayat level so as to stop the interference of state run corporations and departments in the functioning of the panchayats, but it’s been a futile effort so far.

The 74th Constitutional Amendment provides a framework for metropolitan planning and development for the provision of infrastructure development, environmental conservation, spatial planning and sharing or pooling of resources. In short the  Act provides for the transfer of 18 different powers to urban local bodies, including the election of a mayor.

But, the present system of governance in Goa, is one where political parties have a field day running local bodies—corporation, municipalities and panchayats.  The political parties’ elected stooges give permissions for massive housing projects in the villages and cities, indulging the real estate mafia and destroying our state. All this under the garb of development. Take for example the Golf course at Tiracol, which is in Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar’s constituency and which he so openly backs.

Non implementation of the 73rd and 74th amendment has left Goan villages and towns forced with development  projects that are completely anti-people—leading to weak governance and paralysis in the local bodies, as they are controlled by the Chief Minister and bureaucrats. It is a parallel governance that takes place. If the 73rd and 74th Amendment is implemented, then the role of political parties, MLA’s and state run government agencies and corporations is minimised.

The BJP identified this problem and in its poll manifesto in 2014 promised, “to look at urbanisation as an opportunity rather than a threat.” Thus gramthe entrance of  ‘100 Smart Cities.’ Goa, too entered the  ‘Smart Cities’  bandwagon and fought tooth and nail to get Panjim on the “Smart list;” now Panaji is among 33 cities selected for development under the 100 Smart City Mission by the Centre. But the question is, can we really make Panjim  ‘Smart’  without implementing the 74th amendment? Do we have a  ‘Smart’  political system in place, I doubt so?

Surendra Furtado, had sent letters to the state department of Urban Development, Union Ministry of Urban Development, Smart Cities’ division, New Delhi, directorate of Municipal Administration, Panaji and secretary of Institution of Goa Lokayukta pointing out that the three projects worth Rs 37.42 crore under Atal Mission for Rejuvenation and Urban Transformation (AMRUT), which were passed by the government had been done so, without taking the Corporation of the City of Panaji (CCP) into confidence.

Mr Furtado highlighted the fact that the state government is reluctant to give up powers on the local bodies and that CCP is just a toothless body.  These acts by the state government just proves to show that there is an urgent need for decentralisation of powers.  We have to bring in transparency, accountability and people’s participation, which can be done only through the implementation of the 73rd and 74th amendment.

One can argue, that in Goa, the government has been following the democratic process of holding Gram Sabhas’ in villages, when it came to the Regional Plan. But, I would like to point out, that the peoples’ voices and changes have not been implemented in the Regional Plans presented, despite us Goans voicing our concerns and against, be it the golf course at Tiracol or recently the Vani Agro Farms Pvt Ltd brewery at Amdai, or the marina project proposed at Sancoale. The government has not take us Goans seriously. At the end it all boils down to the Government, who decides what’s good for the people.

The Goa government through the Investment Promotion Board (IPB) that it set up three years ago, to fast-track clearances for mega projects, has been using its powers to circumvent the constitutional powers of our local bodies. Our Goan voices, that echo in the gram sabha’s and municipalities against the wrongdoing of the Government are being snuffed out time and time again. What Goa truly needs is for its political power to be accountable, by implementing the 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendment.

Unless our corporation, municipal bodies and panchayats are set free from the control of the state government, all efforts made will be useless leading only to paralysis