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The POL-Drums on Dabolim!

Anticipated closure of Dabolim Airport once Mopa Airport get finally constructed has in the past and will in present as well as future be one of key issue that politicians will raise the sounds of political war drums. Mostly, political forces from South Goa will not miss an opportunity to drive a wedge into any political party progressing on the Mopa front. Congress in its previous regime put wool over the eyes of the people of Goa with a commitment that both Dabolim and Mopa will co-exist. And you must give them credit that they did commission International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) to conduct a second feasibility study on two airports existing in Goa. ICAO study categorically stated that if political compulsions warrant it, then it is the second best option. It further noted that the dual-airport system for a passenger size-market of Goa is not feasible. But having got the ICAO report done; Congress decided to brush these facts by commissioning the Amman & Whitney report which did not refer to the ICAO report; it chose to make extremely erroneous assumptions on expected passenger in-flow into Goa (even different International Aviation Watchdogs in their Global Trend reports show a dip in passenger in-flow into India). Congress however, very unknowingly to the people of Goa, quietly progressed on the Mopa Airport.

It is no doubt that the Congress government in particular the former Chief Minister Digambar Kamat, former Revenue Minister Jose Philip D’Souza and Deputy Speaker Mauvin Godinho were the architects and benefactors of the de-notification. scam. Even former Chief Secretary Sanjay Srivastava and other government servants turned a blind-eye and also participated in the scam. All this just so that the prominent builder Anand Chandra Bose (mind you, he is not of Goan origin), whose name now features in the Form I and XIV of Land Records could put up a real estate project on that land. Not one decided to give a thought to the plight of the people of Goa and tourists who come into the state, their comfort and safety. A dedicated parking space would also ease the traffic congestion at the airport.

Congress leaders like Mauvin Godinho and Digambar Kamat went a step ahead to accuse the Central agencies of land-grabbing and also played the Goan card of Bernard Costa, creating the hype that a Goan was losing land by a Central organizations land grab act. Here is the surprising bit, it was the Congress state government under the leadership of Kamat that finalised Bernard Costa’s land in 2007 to hand it over to Airports Authority of India (AAI). At that point of time, was not Bernard Costa a Goan. The only reason the land was de-notified as GoaChronicle.com had exposed appears to be that the politicians in question must have got favorable benefits from the prominent builder.

On March 31, 2011, I remember attending the Assembly Session in which the issue of Dabolim Airport Land was raised by the then Leader of Opposition and now Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, where he stated that the last minute de-notification by the Congress government smacks of corruption. The similar apprehension was raised by other BJP leaders like Francis D’Souza, Damodar Naik and Laxmikant Parsekar.

Today, however, BJP government’s stand on this issue is almost identical to that of the Congress. Parrikar, in fact has gone a step forward and completely ignored the facts and points of concern that he himself had raised when in Opposition. Parrikar now chooses to act as protector of Goan origin Bernard Costa and non-Goan Bose and says I will acquire the land at market rate or AAI needs to take the land the government has to offer. The market rate is Rs 7000, he told me in a telephonic conversation and AAI must buy it at that rate.

Parrikar even challenged Curtorim Congress MLA Alexio Reginald Lourenco to accept that Congress ministers were responsible for the scam. Interestingly, Reginald accepted the allegations and then spun the ball to Parrikar’s court, demanding that having accepted it, now, the government must re-notify the land. Parrikar, of course, stumped by this, resorted to questioning who Reginald is in the government. Reginald along with Fatorda MLA Vijai Sardesai have been striking Parrikar on this issue hard. Parrikar, unfortunately has been falling right into their traps with his senseless defense.

It’s a pity Reginald and Vijai chose to keep quiet when Congress was in power on this very same issue; other than that they have taken the issue head-on. Their selective action now that BJP is in power, raises questions whether it is Dabolim or politics that more the focus.

Nevertheless, now we have a set of protectors of the Goan land banks putting advertisements in local papers spreading out the message that Central agencies are grabbing land in Goa (a part of it is true). The timing is highly suspicious, it was a similar strategy played by Congress when in term. Interestingly, Parrikar himself allowed the Coast Guard to acquire a land mass of approximately 1,40,000 square meters during his previous tenure as CM, but till today that land is lying vacant and not utilized.

Parrikar has also completely turned a blind-eye to the facts stated in the ICAO report or the erroneous assumptions in the A & W report, which when we met, he agreed upon. He has also gone back on his word to conduct another feasibility and viability report on dual-airport strategy.

I can say for certain that the POL-Drums at Dabolim has only began and it is going to get louder. But keeping the politics aside, will the concerned authorities work with common sense and in the interest of the state.

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