PORVORIM: The In a heated session, the Opposition members of the Goa Assembly rushed to the well of the House as the 'Goa Restriction on Transfer of Agricultural Land Bill, 2023' was passed on Friday. The Bill aims to prohibit the sale of agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes without the permission of the Collector.
Revenue Minister Atanasio Monserrate took up the Bill for consideration and explained its salient features. According to the Bill, agricultural land cannot be transferred by sale, gift, exchange, lease, or any other mode of transfer to a person other than an agriculturist without the Collector's permission.
Monserrate allayed the apprehensions expressed by the Opposition and said that the Bill has provisions for industries, cooperative farming societies, and non-agriculturists who intend to buy agricultural land only to pursue farming.
However, the Opposition members alleged that the government was trying to sell agricultural land through ‘the backdoor’ by bringing in this amendment. Aldona MLA Adv Carlos Alvares Ferreira pointed to the culture of farmhouses prevalent in North India where a lot of agricultural lands are acquired, and posh bungalows are built. He cautioned that this culture will be adopted in Goa as well, if the Bill is enacted. He referred to Clause 29 of the Goa Land Revenue Code, 1968, which states that a holder of any land assessed or held for the purpose of agriculture is entitled to erect farm buildings, construct wells or tanks, or make any other improvements thereon for the better cultivation of the land, or its more convenient use for the purpose aforesaid.
While Clause 30 of the Act states that no land used for agriculture shall be used for any non-agricultural purpose without permission from the Collector. But if it is for agriculture, and the erection of a farm building, then the applicant is exempted.
Adv Ferreira said that if the Bill is passed, it will become grounds for acquiring farmhouses, adding that the Bill will not really promote agriculture nor protect paddy fields, but will end up in giving real estate giants a free run over Goa’s farmlands. Fatorda MLA Vijai Sardesai demanded that the government promote the contract farming system in the State. He pointed out that the Assembly, in the past, had passed the Transferable Development Rights (TDR) policy to stop the conversion of agricultural land. By bringing the Bill, the government is trying to punish those who preserved their land under the TDR policy.
St Andre MLA Viresh Borkar said that the Bill is referring to only paddy fields and demanded that all other plantations such as horticulture, coconut, and others under cultivation be brought under the ambit of the Bill. AAP Benaulim Venzy Viegas also opposed the Bill even as he was interrupted by the Chief Minister and the Speaker who put the Bill to the vote of the House.
The Bill was later passed by a voice vote as the Opposition members walked to the Well of the House and shouted slogans.