27 Feb 2024  |   04:24am IST

Amendment to TCP Act should be reconsidered

The State government of Goa introduced Section 39A in Town and Country Planning (TCP) Act during the recently concluded winter Assembly Session amidst strong objections from the Opposition parties and the public alike. Goa Bachao organisation was in the forefront in demanding that the government scrap the amendment and protested in front of TCP office at Patto, Panjim. 

The amendment allows the Chief Town Planner (Planning), upon direction of the government or on receipt of an application in this regard and with the approval of the Board, to alter or modify the Regional Plan and Outline Development Plan. The ones against the amendment have expressed the possibility of the planners misusing this right, which could lead to rise in bribery, corruption and illegal conversion of land parcels. The organisation has also presented its appeal in the TCP office. 

Although it is unclear where the agitations regarding the decision will lead to, one must agree to the fact that it was quite late to oppose the amendment as the amended section is now part of the full-fledged law. The amendment was passed by the Legislative Assembly on February 7, was assented to by the Governor on February 21 and was notified through the official gazette on February 22. The protests happened on the same day when it was already too late. 

Now, if the newly introduced section has to be scrapped then an amendment bill will have to be tabled and passed in the Assembly. It is difficult but not impossible and depends on how much the protestors will be able to pressurise the government in doing so. Ofcourse, the government should never take such crucial decisions in a haphazard manner and even if they do, they should not pass it in a rushed manner to implement it without holding any discussions. The government tabled the respective amendment bill on February 5 and passed it on February 7. There were also few more bills alongside the TCP Act, all of which were also passed without any discussion. It is ironic that the Opposition could not state their opinion on the amendment bill when the amendment bills are introduced to remove the difficulties faced by the people. It should also be thought through whether the amended Act will create new hurdles. 

A similar situation arose during the introduction of controversial Section 16B in October 2018, which was sharply criticised to an extent that the government had to omit it from the Act. The now scrapped section had also given certain powers to the chief planner which, according to the Opposition, would have led to tremendous corruption. This amendment has been challenged in the court where the case is still pending. However, the appeal made by people received a stay, which meant that although on paper the amendment bill was passed, the government could not implement it. On one hand there was opposition and on the other they were caught in a pickle due to legal restriction and so, the government had no other option than to withdraw the amendment by itself. However, the government still seems to be shady about it all. 

Although the government has withdrawn Section 16B, they introduced Section 39A which again has granted some suspicious rights to the Chief Town Planner. There is barely any difference between the two sections when taking into account the whole picture. Since both the sections allow town planners to modify or change the Regional Plan and ODP, it was obvious that the newly introduced bill will receive similar response. 

The government needs to think about people’s outcry as regional plans and ODPs are drafted by experts who take everything into consideration. If there are any faults left in the plans then the government should improve them there and then with the help of the same experts who drafted them. What is the need of altering the drafts after being finalised? When the government thought the need of omitting Section 16B and introducing Section 39A, instead they should have done so after considering the suggestions made by the people. However, the government does not seem to have done so. There should have at least been a sufficient gap between tabling and passing the bill, so that people had enough time to send in their suggestions. The State government should reconsider its decision before it faces a severe backlash like it did the previous time. 


IDhar UDHAR

Idhar Udhar