The National Highways Diversion Action Committee gave a clarion call to all Goans to fight against the proposed alignment of the National Highways in Goa and served an ultimatum upon the government to go by their demand or face an intensified agitation.
Leader of Opposition Manohar Parrikar who was also present for the meeting was given the task of voicing the people’s opposition to the present alignment at the House Committee meeting scheduled for 24th November, a task he willingly accepted.
Apart from Manohar, Micky Pacheco was the other sitting MLA to attend the meeting which also saw former MLA Radharao Gracias addressing the crowd along with former minister Matanhy Saldanha who was involved in this movement.
That the people are not opposed to the National Highway, but are opposed to the alignment was the repeated refrain of all the speakers who pointed out how the present alignment would divide villages into East and West like the Mumbai suburbs.
Patricia Pinto while wondering why the government was in a tearing hurry to start the work on the highway while dragging its feet on notifying the Regional Plan 2021 pointed out that the Regional Plan had provided for the future growth of Goa and had even provided for a highway through the midlands of the State instead of the present alignment through the coastland.
While Prajal Sakhardande listed out the heritage and historic monuments that would be demolished, Abhijit Prabhu wondered how the highway could be constructed on wet lands when the Prime Minister had promised in the United States that wetlands in the country would not be disturbed.
The summary of all the speeches was that the National Highway as proposed is not in the interest of Goa or Goans but will only serve as a corridor between Maharashtra and Karnataka.
Matanhy while pointing out that Goa is preparing to celebrate the golden jubilee of its anniversary said that Goa needs another freedom struggle and new freedom fighters to free it from land sharks and wheeler dealers who are destroying Goa and Goans.
Machiavellian Radharao Gracias while asserting that the BOOT model to construct the highway is not acceptable urged PWD Minister Churchill Alemao to quit the Congress and be with the masses given the fact that Churchill is acclaimed to be the man of the masses.
He also took a dig at Manohar by asking him to drop his party ideology because of which the minorities in Goa do not vote for his party and got a befitting repartee from the BJP leader who asked Radharao and his ilk to drop their mentality of perceiving him as communal. “The BJP in Goa is for all Goans irrespective of their religion and we are here to protect the interest of Goa and Goans,” he said.
Manohar while assuring the gathering that he will raise this issue in the House Committee, said that the fight is not only against the highway but against the wrong policies of the government which are aimed at selling Goa.
Micky Pacheco also advised the people to elect the right person and not the same wrong persons they have been electing till now. He asserted that the government should respect the wishes of the people and in a lighter vein quipped that no meaning should be drawn in the fact that he was seated next to Manohar on the dais.
Dr. Oscar Rebello in his inimitable style said the battle was not merely over the alignment but to protect the land and urged the politicians present to take steps to amend the Land Acquisition Act to ensure that the government in future acquires land judiciously.
The meeting ended with a candle light prayer to save Goa and its land and with NHDAC convenor Sunil Dessai reading out the list of demands, which were to drop the present alignment and initiate dialogue with NHDAC, the highway should be away from densely populated areas and cause minimum damage to environment, the present alignment be classified as Major District Road and the proposal in Regional Plan 2021 be studied, discussed and finalized.