Patricia Pinto, General Secretary, People’s Movement of Civic Action (PCMA) had applied on August 21, 2007 to the Assistant Public Information Officer of the Town & Country Planning (TCP)Department under the Right to Information Act for inspection of the file containing TCP approvals, plans and No Objection Certificates (NOC) in respect of the construction project coming up at the site in Bambolim, which is the subject matter of a petition filed by PMCA and Goa Foundation against Goa Real Estate and Construction Limited (GRECL) which is a part of the DB Realty.
However, Pinto was denied access to the information by a letter dated September 18, 2004, (much after the statutory period under the RTI Act) and was informed that the file could not be traced.
Even the effort to get some crucial documents from the Secretary of the Village Panchayat of Curca/ Bambolim under RTI Act didn’t materialize. On October 16, 2007, the petitioner under RTI requested for crucial documents listed so that the file that was told to be not traceable since it was sent to the Block Development Officer’s office in 2003, could be traced. However, on November 14, 2007, she received a formal letter from the Panchayat stating that neither the memorandum for the BDO’s office nor the Panchayat letter sending the file to the BDO’s office can be traced.
Since the controversy surrounding the Shahid Balwa 2G Scam episode broke out; the management of Aldeia de Goa have tried to stay away from the links to DB Realty and even released an advertisement in the local newspapers; the fact remains that hoardings across Goa promoted the ‘Aldeia de Goa’ project as a DB Realty project; Vinod Goenka and Shahid Balwa of DB Realty are also stakeholders in GRECL.
NGOs Demand CBI Probe, No Says Goa Government
In 2008, the People’s Movement for Civic Action (PMCA) and the Goa Foundation approached the High Court for a CBI inquiry into the disappearance of all files containing approvals relating to the construction of the Aldeia de Goa complex coming up at Bambolim, Goa. Their application stated that the files containing the approved plans had disappeared from the offices of the Town and Country Planning Department and the Panchayat of Bambolim in September-October 2007. Though the High Court had directed the PIs of Panjim and Agassaim Police Stations in November 2007 to file reports every two weeks on their investigations in the file disappearances, even six months later the files were not recovered. Unhappy with the state of affairs, the High Court in April 2008 issued notice to the Goa Government to show-cause why the matter should not be handed over to the CBI since the agencies of the Goa Government were obviously unable to satisfactorily conclude the investigations. At that time, the Advocate General had informed the Court that there was no need of the CBI “at this stage” since the investigations are in the “right direction.”
Despite three years having passed since then, nothing had come out of the investigations. The Division Bench, perusing the Court record, observed that the last report was filed in August 2008.
The application filed by the two NGOs states that an updated report of the police investigation is required for the purpose of presenting in the Supreme Court of India where Aldeia de Goa filed its own petition (under Article 32 of the Constitution) seeking Supreme Court approval for the very same plans whose authenticity is being investigated by the High Court.
PMCA and Goa Foundation had effectively shown in the proceedings before the High Court that the plans produced by the company are forgeries and do not have the approval of any of the Government authorities, except the Bambolim Panchayat, who itself has no record of the permissions given to Aldeia de Goa, except Xerox copy of plans supplied to them by the project authorities. Hence the importance of the investigations to locate the missing files.
The Chief Town Planner has filed a detailed report on the status of the project pursuant to directions of the High Court. The report indicates that most of the constructions going on at the Bambolim site of the project do not have approvals from the authorities and there are major deviations from the approved plans. Still the Town Planning has not halted the constructions for deviating from the approved plans. The files dealing with the constructions of the Aldeia de Goa project were also never approved by the PWD. In fact, they were not sent to the PWD at all.
The High Court had stayed the construction of the project in August 2008. However, the Supreme Court permitted it to continue at its own risk and cost. Though the construction under challenge is admittedly within the CRZ (100 meters of the river) it has received the backing of the Ministry of Environment and the State Government.
The owners of Aldeia de Goa filed its writ petition in the Supreme Court in August 2008; copy of the petition was served on PMCA and the Goa Foundation only a year later in August 2009. Aldeia de Goa has also filed a Transfer Petition seeking to transfer the petition filed by the PMCA and Goa Foundation in the High Court to the Supreme Court. Copy of the Transfer Petition, also filed a year ago, in August 2008, has never been served on the two NGOs.
The case of ‘Missing Files’ will come up for hearing before the Goa Bench of the Bombay High Court this week. But since 2008, the Goa government has not been able to locate the files.
Balwa Political Clout
A senior high ranking officer of a Central Intelligence agency revealed to GoaChronicle.com that in the investigations surrounding the assets of Shahid Balwa when the investigation stirred towards the DB Realty assets in Goa, it was learnt that Balwa’s connection with Senior Congress leaders at the Centre was crucial to help facilitate the process of the different Central and State related clearances for the Goa project even though some were in the violations of certain central and state-level laws. Even Chief Minister Digambar Kamat who also controls the Town & Country Planning portfolio came under clout and several clearances were issued, which NGOs have raised up in the High Court for violations.
Though when the news broke out on Shahid Balwa’s involvement in 2G Scam and when BJP Goa asked for a probe into the Aldeia de Goa project of DB Realty, Chief Minister Digambar Kamat very categorically told the media that ‘He never heard of Shahid Balwa’. The Chief Secretary in his media reply to the BJP demand for a probe said that, “If we are instructed by the Enforcement Directorate who are in the know of the case, we will co-operate.”
Goa government conducting a probe into the illegalities surrounding the DB Realty Aldeia de Goa project has not happened and many say it will not happen mainly because it is the government who is responsible for the irregularities in the project and the missing files of a prestigious project from the TCP office and Panchayat Office is shocking and throws serious questions into the probable cover-up surrounding this project.
It also does throw light on the questionable working of the Goa government in particular with mega-real estate companies such as DLF, Emaar MGF, Rahejas to name a few with immense political and money clout.