There is no record of complaints or desperate inquiries. There is no RTI reply if you made a query too but truth is stranger than fiction. There is no governance in Goa on the weekends. From brazen levelling of sand dunes in Colva, to blatant illegal hill cutting adjacent NH 366 in Matve, Dabolim to cutting and burning of hundreds of trees in Issorcim, Goa sees a familiar pattern in government-sanctioned violations of the statutes. RCC structures come up, building foundations get cast, bulldozers raze down hills, low-lying areas get filled – everything happens on a weekend. More precisely, the second half of Friday, when all government officials are busy packing their bags and planning their weekend.
There is a systematic systemic rot in Goa which the government either chooses to ignore or is an accomplice in. A large number of illegal structures and developments happen on a weekend when government officials and government offices are closed. The flying squads either don’t take up the calls of anxious citizens who want to point at illegal developments being carried out in their neighbourhood or feign ignorance of the very location and fail to turn up giving the violators a free run to finish off their developments. There is no central control room that could monitor such illegalities just like the way the Police Control Room or the 108 emergency ambulance service does. What is worse is in an age where even a normal smart phone in your hand is fitted with a global positioning system, these flying squads don’t have devices that have the relevant data by which they can identify and rush to a location just by simple leads. Clearly, the government neither has the will nor the plans to stop these illegalities.
While Goa’s Revenue Department and Town & Country Planning Department are the designated authorities empowered with the explicit responsibility of ensuring that no land laws nor development laws are violated and every development in the State is as per statute, the fact is that ‘build now, regularise later’ is one of the major mantras that drive democracy in Goa. Goa’s famous bill seeking regularisation of unauthorised illegal structures is in stark contravention to the Town and Country Planning Act, yet all Members of the Legislative Assembly, cutting across party lines, sought to have the idea become a law. Why? Because it suits the political purpose, it creates ghettoes of influence, it creates vote banks, it ensures continuity of an MLA in his seat for ages. Clearly, whether it is BJP or Congress or MGP, the party in power – the system has been kept non-functional and weak on weekends to appease either political funders or loyal electorates.
Goans not noticing the changing landscape in their neighbourhood which went from shanty slums to concrete structures may soon find their open spaces, the once green covers turning into a concrete jungle. This is an unfair system where law-abiding citizens with their hard-earned money have to apply for permissions under Section 17A of the TCP Act to do a minor hill cutting to lay the foundation of their dream home or seek forest clearance to cut a small ageing tree in their property but the violators need no such permission. They can build now and legalise it later. Law turns an ass as every government agency keeps on passing the buck from one to another. The flying squad has no clue where the illegality is being committed, the Forest Department has no vehicle to reach, the coastal zone management and pollution control board authorities have no mandate to work on weekends and the police do not have a jurisdiction to operate.
There exists two Goas. One, that dutifully elects a government and is law-abiding and believes in governance while there is the other that fruitfully benefits from the government and knows that it can walk away with murder. The government sleeps for the law abiding but enables illegalities for the violators, every weekend.