The Devil wears Prada

The Regional Plan (RP2021)and Outline Development Plan (ODP) seem more like ”The Devil Wears Prada.” The two FInal_vitohave been cleverly disguised to keep the people for whom they are supposed to benefit out of the process.  The government in its crookedness opened up RP21 in the month of December, when Goa’s tourism was at its peak, leaving not much opportunity for people and villages to assess the documents. The RP21 is set to be notified soon and despite Goans and the villages protesting against the move, the government is bent on pushing  it down peoples’ throats.

It must be remembered that in 2010-11 a seriously flawed RP21 was offered to the citizens of Goa. But, due to widespread protests it had to be iced up. With elections fast approaching, the present government has resurrected it as an incentive to MLAs to do what they like and present it to their voters.

Goans are against RP21 and ODP for the sole reason that Goa has traditionally been an agrarian state with land being extremely personal and dear to each one. RP21 defiles all that we Goans hold dear and sacred.  Our paddy fields are being converted and roads marked passing through agriculture land to make way for the unseen investor who will be given permissions to build a high rise, destroying everything that Goa stands for. All this only for the MLA to feed his ever growing greed to accumulate wealth and buy his way up the social ladder.

World over nations are moving towards an agrarian economy, but the MLAs and panchayats in Goa are destroying our fields for the real estate lobby. So called subsidies on offer are  beyond the reach of the poor farmer. These subsidies are just a hogwash. Farmers cannot access  them because the rule states that a farmer first has to invest his own money and then submit a bill to avail a particular subsidy. The buck does not stop here. The government has made accessing subsidies further difficult by incorporating as much documentation it can. If a farmer is lucky, and manages to get past the piles of documentation, it’s another wait of about eight months to a year before the subsidy amount can reach him. In the mean time the poor farmer is unable to continue with cultivation as all his money is blocked, while he waits for the government to release the subsidy. For a farmer who sells his produce to the government he has to wait for four months before he is paid his dues. Add to this the Muncar and Tenancy Act have made cultivation of fields beyond the reach of the poor farmer, leaving him no choice but to sell his field at despicable low rates.

Photo Credit: Oherald -Voice of Goa

Photo Credit: Oherald -Voice of Goa

Taleigao is a good place to see this destruction taking place. The low-lying paddy fields which are actually fields under cultivation have been shown as settlement zones. The RP21 has roads passing through low-lying fields. The proposed road via the field has been marked close to the farm house of St Cruz MLA Atanasio Monserrate,  who is know not only for bed-hopping parties, but is also solely responsible for the rape of Taleigao for his own personal benefit. These proposed roads make no sense as all they do is just help mutate the fields further for builders to gain access to.

Steep slopes beyond permissible gradient need to be earmarked as Eco-I Zone.  Some houses have already been constructed and no permission for further development should be considered at the foothills or the slopes as there are high chances of landslides which can lead to loss of property and life.

This is just one example where the government has let the respective MLAs in their villages make changes to suit their needs and fill their pockets. What the RP21 and ODP have to offer as it is put up is unfair as it threatens every Goan.

This government is hollow and selfish. One must remember that the BJP government was voted into power, because during the 2012 elections, they had promised that they would scrap the existing RP21 and new one would be drawn up in a transparent manner with people’s participation. Empty promises.

Imposing RP21 and ODP on locals will only transform the once tranquil villages of Goa into crowded, messy unplanned garbage filled towns. As an activist said, ” RP21 shows crores of square meters of land across the state marked for change in use for short-term profits. Many villages have five to ten lakh square meter of land added to settlement zones. Roads have been added to RP21 to facilitate access to agricultural land, CRZ and forests.” It is not fair that Goa and her villages, should suffer because the mistakes in trying to please the MLAs.

The government must have a different approach to the RP21 and ODP, one that brings communities into the planning at the start of the process rather than when it’s already a political done deal.