Back Door Entry: 3700 acres as Goa Tourism Projects

GoaChronicle.com brings to you a shocking expose on how using the Public Private Participation model for the development of tourism-based infrastructure in the state of Goa, the government received Expression of Interest (EoI) for 18 projects spanning over 3700 acres of land across Goa….

If the activists fighting for the de-notification of the Regional Plan 2021 thought that it was enough to stop large-scale projects by scrapping the regional plan. This expose will get them to think again; because the projects GoaChronicle.com is about to mention does not even come under the purview of the regional plan instead it as back-door entry with complete government approval because it forms a part of government initiative towards ‘Public projects, schemes/development works – which includes tourism infrastructure development’; and might end up getting cleared through the PPP route for Toursim Infrastructure.

On November 4, 2011 – a Meeting of the High Power Task Force on Tourism under the Chairmanship of the then Chief Minister Digambar Kamat was held.

The other ministers and MLAs attending the meeting were – the current Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar; former tourism minister Nilkanth Halarnkar, the current Minister for Transport and PWD Sudin Dhavalikar, former finance minister Jose Philip DeSouza.

The bureaucrats at the meeting were B Vijayan (additional chief secretary), RK Verma (principal secretary tourism), Kumaraswamy (secretary finance), ST Putturaju (chief town planner) and Swapnil Naik (director tourism). Other members of the task force Gaurish Dhond (TTAG President) and Ralph DeSouza (president CII-Goa).

Here is the list of projects for which the Government of Goa received the Expression of Interest and for which the then Tourism Minister Nilkanth Halarnkar commented saying that “if these projects are approved today, let’s ensure that no government can revoke the decision we take today” as revealed to us by a task-force member who was present at the meeting.

In fact Halarnkar even gave a small speech according to the Minutes of the Meeting which was circulated on Dec 4, 2011, highlighting the need for calling of EoI for offers in order to create much required Tourism Infrastructure through private participation for attracting high spending tourist.

Please note these were the details presented by the former Tourism Minister. In some cases Survey Numbers were not mentioned and in some cases the total size of the land. And these EoI received from the government from these parties. In one case Wolfago Fernandes – the EoI is not even in the name of company but an individual name.

Director of Tourism, Swapnil Naik, mentioned that the Department received total 18 offers, out which only 13 have been received in time.

Brief details of all the projects were placed before all the members of the committee for their perusal. The current Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar raised certain important queries about the projects. He stated that these projects will put additional burden on the existing infrastructure. He was of the opinion that the legal aspect of the land has to be examined in as much as the land should bear a clear title and it should not be under dispute/litigation and the offer should be properly scrutinized. He further mentioned that proper procedure should be formulated to examine the offer and financial model should be worked out.

It was even decided on that meeting to form a smaller task force under the chairmanship of the Secretary Tourism for scrutinizing offers at a preliminary stage, so that only short-listed proposals could be submitted to the High Power Task Force.

The question that GoaChronicle.com is posing is that there no doubt that political and real estate lobby of the previous government where attempting to pass off nearly 3700 acres of land on the basis of Tourism Infrastructure projects and Section 16 and 16/A of Town and Country Planning Act 1974 allows them to pose them as government based projects or PPP model projects for tourism infrastructures.

More importantly to note is that companies who filed an EoI have claimed to already have these lands under their possessions, such large tracts of land to get cleared without anyone in authority raising a question of doubt is highly questionable.

Thirdly, what will the new government do on the EoI received, will it take the same route of the previous government and start an enquiry into the acquisition of such large tracts of land by the private companies.

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