Current Affairs

‘Dabolim Only, No to Mopa!’ resounded at Lohia Maidan

After holding a series of corner meetings across the district, Wednesday’s public meeting at the historic Lohia Maidan at Margao by ‘Goans for Dabolim Only’ drew thousands from North and South Goa, including sarpanchas, panchas, municipal councilors and six Salcete-representing MLAs, including two ministers.

At the meeting, it was unanimously resolved that “the state government should listen to reason and declare Dabolim as the only civilian airport for Goa” and that “the land acquisition and all other related proceedings and processes for Mopa airport should be stopped immediately and the acquired land should be returned to its rightful owners who have lived off it for centuries”.

Speakers at the meeting vowed to continue the agitation right through the upcoming Lok Sabha elections to make the political parties “realize what the people are demanding” and alleged that the parties could use the “revenue generated” by the Mopa airport for the upcoming elections.
The front row of seats at the ground were reserved for the six MLAs. While environment minister and Cortalim MLA Alina Saldanha, fisheries minister and Navelim MLA Avertano Furtado, Benaulim MLA Caitu D’Silva, and Velim MLA Benjamin D’Silva are part of the BJP-led government, the other two were independent Fatorda MLA Vijai Sardesai and Congress spokesperson and Curtorim MLA Aleixo Reginaldo Lourenco.

‘Goans For Dabolim Only’ convener Eremito Rebello, while acknowledging the presence of the elected representatives, said they had “true Goan blood in them”. He then tore into present and previous governments and demanded that both parties clarify to the people of Goa their stance over the years on the Mopa airport.

Using copies of key official communications between the civil aviation ministry, the state government and the Airports Authority of India (AAI), the diocesan priest criticized former chief ministers Pratapsingh Rane, Ravi Naik, Luizinho Faleiro, Francisco Sardinha, Congress state governments for their role in pushing for the Mopa airport and present BJP chief minister Manohar Parrikar for “lying about Dabolim airport to remain if Mopa airport is constructed”.

Rebello using these official documents pointed out that the closure of Dabolim airport as a civilian airport has been considered by the civil aviation ministry and said the public is being misled by successive governments and the two state political parties on the issue.

Claiming to be facing pressure from all sides, Rebello said he would stand and fight for truth and justice. He said he decided to lead the agitation as he is capable of withstanding political pressure. He said that even if he was killed, his spirit would live on and the movement of the people would not end until all their demands are met.

Speaker after speaker then explained to the audience how Dabolim airport could meet Goa’s aviation needs till 2030 if 5,000 sq m of land under the Union ministry of defence was given to the AAI; why Mopa airport is an ecological disaster and a land scam; and how the Navy uses Goa as a holiday destination. Sandeep Kambli, secretary of the Mopa-opposition group in Pernem-Mopa Vimantol Piditt Xettkari Sauntha-highlighted the plight of the farmers and the dhangar community in Mopa.

Alleging that the Dabolim MLA had purchased large chunks of land in Bicholim for 2 per sq m, Kambli accused Parrikar and the BJP government of acting like Hitler and hurrying through the land acquisition process for Mopa.

He pointed out various irregularities, including cheques being given to dead people, and said the group would approach the high court with their grievances.

Earlier, Varun Carvalho enthralled the audience by singing anthems to motivate the crowd to unite.

The speakers included Federation of Small and Medium Hotels and Guest Houses’ Serafino Cotta, Shack Owners Welfare Society’s Cruz Cardozo, Tourist Taxi Association’s Jeorge Fernandes, Goenchea Ramponkaramcho Ekvott’s Agnelo Rodrigues, Cansaulim Villagers Action Committee’s Marconi Correia, activists Sidharth Karapurkar, Rajendra Kakodkar, and Swati Kerkar and advocate Yatish Naik.

After the meeting, the Fatorda MLA, who had convened a similar meeting at Lohia Maidan said Parrikar should “take a U-turn” in this case and listen to the demands of the people. Ministers Furtado and Saldanha promised to convey the demands of the people to the government.

Saldanha further said she had assurances from Parrikar regarding initiating talks with the Navy about their hold on the airport. She claimed her late husband Matanhy had documents signed by a former military major general proving that Dabolim was a civilian airport.

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