14 Apr 2024  |   06:34am IST

The Day of Comunidades of Goa

Visitacao B Monteiro

15 April 1961 marks the Day of Goa’s Liberation, on which day Goans were solemnly declared owners of their own land by enactment of the Portuguese Government Diploma 2070 through which the Code of Comunidades became the Law of Goa’s land and Goans the sovereign rulers of their land.

No doubt Goans were always rulers in their own land from times immemorial- a fact accepted by every ruler or dynasty which ruled over Goa right from the 3rd century BC till the 20th century, to be specific, till 19th December 1961, when the Portuguese rule came to an end over Goa. Although the Portuguese left Goa by the end of 1961, Goans are still ruled by the Code of Comunidades with regard to their land. The number 5 of Goa Daman and Diu [Administration] Act 1962, Act 1 of 1962 [27th March 1962] reads the following:

5. Continuance of existing laws and their adaption.

All laws in force immediately before the appointed day in Goa, Daman and Diu or any part thereof shall continue to be in force therein until amended or repealed by a competent Legislature or other competent authority.

For the purpose of facilitating the application of any such law in relation to the administration of Goa, Daman and Diu as a Union territory and for the purpose of bringing the provisions of any such law into accord with the provisions of the Constitution, the Central Government may, within two years from the appointed day, by order, make such adaptations and modifications, whether by way of repeal or amendment, as may be necessary or expedient, and thereupon, every such law shall have effect subject to the adaptations and modifications so made.

By this act of Parliament, the Code of Comunidades is in full force in Goa. The Article 372 of the Constitution of India reinforces the said act. The Government is only bound to give Administrative Tutelage to the Comunidades as per Article 5 of the said Code. The Comunidades belong to the very ‘essence’ of Goa, since right from times immemorial. The only institution which has ruled and survived in Goa is the Ganvkari or the Village Communities / Comunidades and Goans are today what they have imbibed from the Ganvkari. There is nothing in Goa as old as the Ganvkari or Comunidades.  The Ganvkari System which originated as village housing and agricultural cooperatives gradually evolved themselves into a system of village Administration with judicial powers, thus providing ‘good governance’ to Goan  villages. They were based on the ideology of  ‘brotherhood’.  It is from this spirit of ‘community living as brothers and sisters’ that Goans have absorbed the lofty concepts of loving, caring, and sharing which are still seen in them to a certain extent.

Goans are trustworthy, honest, hard-working, and responsible people respected throughout the world. By this, I do not mean that the Ganvkari System or Institution was perfect. No human institution is perfect in this world, since all have their own drawbacks. What is required is to bring to perfection what is imperfect.

This heritage system of millennia of years which has served the needs of Goans was destroyed after 1962 by successive governments who came to power in Goa by the introduction of: a) Goa Panchayati Raj Act 1962; b) The Agricultural Tenancy Act, 1964; c) The Land Revenue Code, 1968; d) Town and Country Planning Act, 1974 and Various other Indian Acts

The Goa Panchayati Raj Act , 1962 affected the centuries old village administration. The Agricultural Tenancy Act, 1964, destroyed Goa’s  agriculture and the application of Land Revenue Code, 1968, to all lands in Goa affected the Comunidade’s land by which the Comunidades became ‘occupants’ of their own lands instead of owner’s. One is forced to ask a question here: the Code of Comunidades is the constitution of Goa by which Goa’s land is regulated. When one is under one Code or Constitution how can another Code that is Land Revenue Code 1968 be forced upon Goans? It is because of this monumental blunder of application of Land Revenue Code irrespectively  to all lands in Goa that the great Goan land grabbing was promoted by the very Authority which was duty-bound to protect our land.

I have written at least three times in my earlier articles about the issue of preserving Goa’s land for housing for the future generations of Goans. I have even quoted the statement of our late Chief Minister, Mr. Parrikar in the Goa Assembly made on 15 April 2013 in which he had said that out of 3702 sq. Km which comprises the area of Goa only 362 sq. Km are left for future development. From 2013 to 2024 in the period of 11 years has anybody in the Government calculated how much land is still left for Goans? The concept of intergenerational equity rightly propounded by the Supreme Court in the Mining case of Goa is aptly applicable to Goa’s land. 

The question arises here; what is left of Goa’s land for housing only let aside other developments for future generations for a population of 16 lakh [by 2011 census] which might have reached 20 lakh in the last 13 years? All these Acts have sounded the death- knell of the Goan Ganvkari System and nobody is trying to rectify the mistakes.

When one destroys an age old system which has worked very efficiently for Goans for millennia of years and Goans are what they are due to the Ganvkari, a heritage system, a ‘diversity’ in the midst of our mother land India, what was the need to meddle with such a good system? Our destruction was started by the Congress and MG Parties who opened our grave by bringing in the said legislations and this grave is being filled by the present dispensation with all sorts of amendments to the Code of Comunidades and TCP Act.

Although the Portuguese colonialists dominated Goa, they respected the Comunidade identity of Goans. They did not sell an inch of our inalienable land. But our own rulers  allowed the sale of our land  destroying the system and making Goans ‘aliens’ in their own land. Cunha Rivara the then Chief Secretary of the Estado da India in his ‘Brados a Favor das Comunidades das Aldeias do Estado da India’, [1870 ] fought tooth and nail for the preservation of the Comunidades when a few people wanted to abolish them.

 I would like to end this small article by quoting Serra e Moura, a luminary in Comunidade matters: ‘To raze to the ground that centuries- old edifice with a hammer of destruction is easy. But to raise on its ruins a more perfect and better-finished work, a work resulting in greater glory to the architect and greater advantage to the inhabitants of the villages, is a very difficult task.’ [Gomes Pereira, 1981]

(The author is a well–known columnist, author of the book ‘Goan Village Communities’)


Idhar Udhar