Last week, the State Government constituted a House Committee led by Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar to look into the issues pertaining to traditional inhabitants, who have been issued notices by local panchayat for demolition of houses under CRZ rules 2011. The issue surfaced after legislators, including Environment Minister Alina Saldanha, were unanimous on the issue to provide protection to the traditional dwellings in CRZ after the matter was raised on the floor of the House by Nuvem MLA Francisco Xavier Pacheco through a calling motion.
While it is only right that the traditional dwellings ought to be maintained specially when the Government is in the mood to legalise hundreds of illegal constructions on Communidade land, the trend of legalizing illegalities of voters does not augur well for democracy. In the name of democracy or sons-of-the-soil theory, illegalities cannot be encouraged, but when settlers come down and are seen to gain greater concessions than the locals themselves, this triggers animosity and smacks of plain bias.
Not long ago, the Goa Coastal Zone Management Authority in a watertight land mark order, declared that only locals would be permitted to construct or reconstruct their dwelling units within CRZ areas.
This must have warmed the cockles of heart of those living along the State’s coastline, who have over the years been tormented and even seen extensions of their dwelling units razed for violating the CRZ regulations. Just over a year ago, the State’s coast witnessed an unrest, triggered due to rampant one-sided application of legislations, where dwelling units of locals were demolished, triggering protests and petitions before those in authority. There were allegations of favouritism, where the affluent and the rich had the power to circumvent the law and ensure that their units on the water front remained untouched. This has been the grim reality.
The Minister also told the House that the affected persons who are traditional coastal inhabitants and whose houses or dwelling units have been served demolition order or their dwelling constructed post 1991 do not have approval, can approach GCZMA for consideration of regularization under new CRZ notification 2011, with the GCZMA initiating appropriate action in accordance with law, within a time frame of 120 days of submission of application,
All this can be regarded with some concession, but then where is the limit to extensions and legalizing of illegal constructions, even with a payment of a so-called fine. Today, the State is steeped in illegalities galore, so much so that one is left wondering whether it would have been better not to have the law in the first place because when selectively used, it only unleashes a bout of ill-will. On the other hand, with growing families and land rates puncturing the roof, the locals are placed in a piquant situation, with the Government still sleeping on the concept of Land Bank for locals. It appears that the people as well as the Government to an extent, is caught in a dicey situation.
Now that the House Committee would look into the woes of the traditional occupants, it is hoped that the houses which still do not have proper documentations and have been existing there prior to the CRZ notification ought to be given the legal sanction. Those dwelling in them cannot continue to live under the sword of Damocles all through their lifetime.
But we need to draw a line somewhere. A comprehensive list of traditional dwellers on the West Coast should now be prepared, notified in the gazette, and made the only basis for recognition of any claim for being traditional dwellers. Details of family members of the dwellers should also be listed, so that spurious claims are not put forward by any one later on. It should be mandatory for any such family to notify the concerned authorities of additions and deletions to the family as done for ration cards.
While no one can grudge the traditional dwellers of the coast their right to regularize their occupation of space in the regulated area, it should be made clear to all that this right should not be assumed to be a Right to convert the huts and simple shelters into posh bungalows in violation of the regulation. Types of extensions and re-constructions permissible under the regulation should be notified and violations dealt with strictly as per law. Such properties should also not be permitted to be alienated, except to others similarly entitled.