Taking cognizance of the large turnout for the meeting at Lohia Maidan on 22nd November to protest against the alignment of the National Highway, the government went into damage control mode on 23rd November using various platforms to assure Goans about this project.
Chief Minister Digambar Kamat while inaugurating the Regional Office of Indian Council for Cultural Relations at Margao, assured those gathered that the government would be totally transparent and all the plans will be kept open for public scrutiny.
He further said that widening of the highways would be a boon to Goa where vehicular traffic is increasing every day. “Widening the highways will give relief from the traffic jams that are witnessed at present,” he said.
Besides, he said the project will give Goa new bridges some of which are much required like the ones at Galgibaga and Talpona.
He also reiterated that the Centre has agreed to consider Goa as a special case and has sanctioned reduction of the width of the highways to only 35 mts in sections where they are passing through densely populated areas and also accepted Goa’s request to exempt people living within a radius of 40 kms from paying the toll.
PWD Minister Churchill Alemao who had also come in for severe criticism over the project, besides using this function to elaborate on how the number of structures to be demolished has been brought down drastically, later in the afternoon addressed a press conference wherein he dismissed the meeting at Lohia Maidan as a political gimmick.
Later in the evening the inauguration of ‘Saras’ an exhibition of handicrafts from not only Goa but other states too, was used by the ministers to support the project and condemn those opposing it. Digambar Kamat and Churchill Alemao repeated what they had said earlier in the day.
Panchayat Minister Babu Azgaonkar, who according to Churchill was satisfied with the solution he had offered over the 6-km stretch of the highway in his constituency, said the highway was required due to the increasing vehicular population in the state.
However, it was Revenue Minister Jose Philip D’Souza who came out strongly in support of the project in an apparent bid to challenge his party colleague but personal rival Micky Pacheco who had addressed the Lohia Maidan meeting.