Over 50 civic rights groups and a section of the clergy in Goa on Friday filed a criminal complaint against Chief Minister Digambar Kamat and eight other members of a high-level committee for illegally creating “eco tourism zones” in concert with land sharks.
Members of the Pilerne Citizens Forum (PCF), Ganv Ghor Rakhon Manch (GGRM), Goenche Xetkarancho Ekvott, Colva Citizens Forums (CCF) accuse Kamat, top government officials and architects who were part of a state level committee (SLC) formed to chart out a futuristic land use document called the Regional Plan 2021, of ‘cheating, misrepresentation, mischief and criminal conspiracy’.
“Kamat and the SLC have created and approved eco tourism zones where land has already been purchased by real estate companies,” said Father Bismark Dias, whose Goenche Xetkarancho Ekvott is backed by the Catholic Church in Goa.
“The eco-tourism zones are carved out in such a way that they will benefit some hotel developers. It’s clear that eco tourism zones are created in the regional plan in the spaces which are already purchased by hoteliers” Yatish Naik, convenor of Pilerne Citizens Forum leading the conglomeration of NGOs, said at a press conference on Friday.
‘Eco Tourism’ was never mentioned in the Draft Regional Plan 2021 that was much circulated and even sent to all the villages in Goa for their suggestions and recommendations.
Goa’s civic society activists have been protesting against the rampant concretization of the state, especially under Kamat whose Congress-led coalition government has been the subject of unending controversies and corruption, especially relating to mega land intensive projects.
The complaint was filed at the Panaji police station after a large group of civic rights activists marched to the police station in a show of strength against what they claimed were ‘abusive and anti-people land use policies’ of the Congress-led coalition government in Goa.
Besides Chief Minister Digambar Kamat, others against whom the complaint is filed are: Padma Vibhushan Architect Charles Correa, Town and Country Planning Department Secretary T M Balakrishnan, Industries Director Sanjit Rodrigues, Director of Municipal Administration Daulat Hawaldar, Chief Town Planner Morad Ahmad, Senior Town Planner S T Putturaju, Director of Panchayat Menino D’Souza and task force members – Rahul Deshpande, Dean D’Cruz and Bryan Soares.
A police officer at the Panaji police station said that the complaint by the civic rights groups had been received, but said a first information report (FIR) had not yet been filed against the chief minister and further added that directions from senior officials will be sought.
Goa’s civic society, especially the Goa Church, over the last few years has actively resisted the rampant concretization of the state, especially the coastal areas.
It may be recalled that Digambar Kamat had justified the creation of eco-zones on grounds that they would generate employment opportunities in the villages and assured that only 10 per cent of the total area designated as eco-zone would be used for construction while the rest would be developed to promote tourism.