‘ Sorrowing Lies My Land’, Lambert Mascarenhas wrote a few decades ago. Our land continues to lie sorrowing because there is no one around to save it from the clutches of land sharks, real estate agents and the swelling tribe of politicians and bureaucrats out to make a fast buck. Large sections of Goans fought against the merger of Goa with Maharashtra
and succeeded. Their battle cry was “ Amchem Goem Amka Zai ” ( We want Goa for Goans). Statehood was the culmination of the demand for a separate existence within the framework of the Constitution.
The battle cry ‘ Goa for Goans’ still reverberates. Goans now want special status for their State. They want amendments to the Constitution to ensure that Goan land stays in the lands of the locals. They want institutional curbs on outsiders ( bhaile) buying land in Goa.
Special status for Goa is not an easily achievable dream in the context of the political, regional and ethnic complexities of the country. While everyone has been crying hoarse over large scale immigration and acquisition of vast tracts of real estate here by non- Goans, including foreigners, no one had given a thought to what the Legislature should have done to save at least agricultural land from falling into the hands of outsiders.
The Legislative Assembly of Goa, Daman and Diu enacted the Land Revenue Code in 1968. It is a verbatim copy of the Revenue Codes of Maharashtra, Karnataka and Gujarat in all respects but one: the section that deals with the sale, purchase and holding of agricultural lands. You may recall the case of the veteran actor Amitabh Bachchan, who was hauled up for acquiring farmland in Uttar Pradesh. The media feasted on this ‘ scam’ which ultimately compelled the actor to relinquish his rights to that land. And rightly so, because the Land Revenue Code of Uttar Pradesh stipulates that no agricultural land can be sold to a non- agriculturist. There are penal provisions against transgressions of the statutory embargo on the sale of such land to those who are not farmers.
Similar provisions exist in the Land Revenue Codes of Maharashtra, Karnataka, Gujarat and perhaps every other State in the country.
The Land Revenue Code of Goa, Daman and Diu was an exception.
This has resulted in non- agriculturists as well as outsiders buying large tracts of fertile farmland in Goa. A cursory look at the records of the sub- registrars at taluka headquar ters is sufficient to gauge the extent of sale of agricultural properties to outsiders since the Liberation of Goa.
I know of a sale deed registered at Pernem under which one half of the entire village of Hassapur has been bought by a party from Tamil Nadu.
Those who have raised the battle cry of ‘ Goa for Goans’ need only put to gether data from the offices of subregistrars to figure out if there is any land left in Goa for them to cry and fight over.
Huge budgetary provisions have been made over the years by the State Government for irrigation facilities.
Major, minor and tiny irrigation schemes have been constructed, creating the irrigation potential for more than 30,000 hectares of land.
Subsidies for farm machinery and implements, seeds and fertilizers as well as support price for all kinds of agricultural products are given year after year. The minister for agriculture religiously makes tall announcements of huge budgetary allocations and paints a rosy picture of agricultural growth. But we continue to import farm products including milk, poultry, meat, fruits, vegetables, rice and grains from the rest of the country.
Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar said recently that he would request the Law Commission to draft a law on contract farming.
Goa is a glorious tourist destination.
It has also become a prime destination for leisure, pleasure, and of course drugs and casinos.
Non- Goans and foreigners aspire as a matter of status to own a second home in Goa. The absence of statutory provisions on the sale, purchase and holding of agricultural land up to now allowed speculative investors to grab low priced farmland and wait for more favourable times to convert such property into prime real estate for housing and commercial purposes. The Regional Plan 2011, which was later scrapped, is a classic example of the manipulative prowess of the triumvirate of land dealers, bureaucrats and politicians.
One hopes the Goa Land Use ( Reg ulation) ( amendment) Bill 2012 intro duced in the state assembly on Tuesday will prevent more agricultural land from falling into the hands of real estate sharks. The Second Law Commission’s Report No. 18 called “ Conservation and Management of Agricultural Land and Water Bodies, Saving Goan Agricultural Land for Goans” had dealt with this and the issue of ‘ contract farming’ in detail.•
The writer is a politician and former head of the Goa Law Commission.