While India moves into its 65th Year of Independence and this is the Golden Jubilee Year of Goa’s Liberation, Mayem – a village in Goa of 30,000 villagers continues to stay on land designated as an ‘Evacuee Property’ and its villagers are waiting to be truly liberated. GoaChronicle.com investigates whether it is truly a government deadlock or does the reason have more to do with mining in the area…
In 1816, the colonial rulers confiscated the village from the Mayem Communidade which spanned over 3773 hectares of land. It was handed over to Diogo da Costa Ataide Teive, with a decree to look after it for three generations.
The Count de Mayem, as he was then called, consolidated his position and took over the land, owned by the temple of local deity Shri Maya Kelbai. The third generation died in 1929, but the land was never returned to the Portuguese government.
When a Mayem villager, Atmaram Mayekar, put up a united front in 1945 against the then living ‘heir’ Eurico Noronha da Silva and even managed a court order for handing over the property back to the temple, the struggle was linked to Ram Manohar Lohia’s liberation movement and was suppressed with the arrest of its leaders and ousting of several farmers from their land.
In 1962/63 a petition signed by many Mundkars was forwarded to the Govt. of India, Delhi, reporting that all the landowners of Mayem had abandoned their estate and fled to Portugal and requesting the Govt to take charge of the abandoned properties. The matter was referred to Goa administration by Central Govt. In the meanwhile the first election was held in Goa and the Maharastrawadi Gomantak Party had come to power with late Dayanand Bandodkar the first Chief Minister. He acted and seized Mayem Evacuee Property and proceeded to enact the Goa Daman, and Diu Evacuee Property Administration Act 6 of 1964.
The Govt. then proceeded to seize abandoned lands of Mayem. By notification No. ADM 49 dated 22/7/1965 published in Govt. Gazette series II No 19 dated 5/8/1965 all properties were listed and vested in the Custodian of Evacuee Property.
By notification published in Govt Gazette series II No 15 dated 5/7/1968 further more properties were declared as Evacuee Properties on 4th January 1968 by notification published in Govt Gazette series III No 40, the Custodian declared the legal heirs of late Eurico Noronha de Silva, all heirs and successors in interest of late Eurico and the properties and theirs shares in the Northern half of Mayem Estate are evacuees and their properties were vested in the Custodian.
Mayem Villagers Seek Liberation
People of Mayem have now decided to resort to protests to get their rights. They said many houses were without electricity connection or water supply facility, as they were termed as custodial property, with a descendant of the owner of Portuguese origin refusing to relinquish his rights over them.
Recently, the people of the Mayem village staged a dharna at Bicholim demand reversion of various properties at Mayem which are in the custody of the Custodian of Evacuee Properties, back to the Mayem Gram Saunstha (Comunidade of Mayem, a village land commune) as it originally existed.
The Evacuee Properties Villagers’ Action Committee issued an ultimatum to the Goa government that they might boycott the coming Assembly elections if their woes over the “evacuee property status” were not resolved by Goa Liberation Day on December 19.
“The self-proclaimed heirs of Portuguese national late Diogo Da Costa De Athiade Taiva have been claiming a right over the property for ages now. Even after liberation, they have continued their ownership even though the agreement between them and then Portuguese government was only to collect taxes and nothing to do with owing the land,” expressed Kashinath Mayekar, president of Mayem Nagarik Kriti Samiti, an association formed by the villagers.
The Deadlock on Mayem
The Mayem issue had been raised in the Indian Parliament as early as 1977 by the former north Goa MP Amrut Kansar of the MGP. In fact Home Minister Charan Singh at that time stated on the floor of the house that Centre has no objection to give lands to the Mayem villagers. However, nothing has happened till then and many say the problem actually lies with the government of Goa.
The Mayem evacuee properties have been registered as government land under Goa, Daman, and Diu (erstwhile Union Territory) land reform legislations enacted in 1968. As such there is no exemption provided in the Mundkar Act and Agricultural Tenancy Act to government lands or lands held by government institutions. The Goa Government has to issue a notification and remove the exemption applicable to the Evacuee Properties under these two land legislations so that the Mayem agriculturists could register their houses and lands in their own names.
The office of Custodian of Evacuee Property came into existence in the year 1962. The Evacuee Property Act and Rules were published in the year 1964 &1965 and actual charge of the properties taken over in the year 1968/69.
The Goa, Daman & Diu Administration of Evacuee Property Act, 1964(No .6 of 1964) passed by Legislative Assembly of Goa Daman & Diu, received assent of the President of India on 24th December 1964 and it came into force at once. Although, the Administration of Evacuee Property Act, 1964 and Rules, 1965, were published; the actual charge of properties taken over in the year 1968/69.
Actual charge was taken over in the year 1968/69 by the Custodian. It is therefore assumed that the construction which existed up to 1967 is legal and those which came thereafter are illegal.
Still Waiting For Liberation
In the year 1967 there were 340 legal houses at Mayem. No permissions have been given to construct new houses in the Evacuee property at Mayem after 1967 till date.
However, thereafter from the year 1968 to 30-6- 2000 about 397 illegal houses have been constructed. Vide Notification dated 4/6/2001 the Govt. has carried out an Amendment to Evacuee Properties Act 42 of 2001 by which every person who is in occupation as on 30/6/2000 of any dwelling house situated in Evacuee Property shall be deemed to be a Mundkar of his dwelling house.
Today Mayem has 1500 houses.
The villagers claim that successive governments in Goa have always favored the Portuguese claimants to the land and not worked in the interest of the people of Goa. This they believe is because large tracts of land in and around Mayem that have been leased out to mining companies – Chowgule and Dempo (now Vedanta). Therefore the government is reluctant in taking any firm step to ensure that the land currently under ‘evacuee property’ status is given back to the villagers of Mayem.
However now with the villagers threatening to boycott the assembly elections and with senior ministers such as Pratapsingh Rane (who incidentally holds the record for being the longest serving chief minister of Goa) and Vishwajeet Rane assuring the villagers that they will take the issue at both the state and Centre; it will be left to be seen whether the village of Mayem continues to be as an evacuee property or is given back to the villagers.