26 May 2023  |   06:39am IST

Do Goans have to pay for double tracking by facing an ecological disaster?

A double tracking which is unfair and illegal on multiple counts, is what the official body to protect Goa’s coasts has concluded; but the people of Goa have been saying this all along
Do Goans have to pay for double tracking by facing an ecological disaster?

A fundamental question that Goans have been asking all along while battling against the double tracking of the South-Western Railways through fragile eco-sensitive zones in Goa is this. Suppose the Port Bill giving overriding powers to the Mormugao Port Authority created a State within a State. In that case, people can rightly ask, is the double tracking of the SW Railways for the sole purpose of transporting coal, making Goa into a coal hub, destroying forests, and marauding eco-sensitive zones, being done as per a constitution which is different from what we know and follow.

The Goa Coastal Zone Management Authority finally inspected the Velsao stretch in South Goa where there have been weekly if not daily confrontations of some sort in the past few months over what people feel are rough and undignified intrusions into their public spaces and properties, as double tracking work has been carried out by the Railways.

A common Goan cannot lay a brick in his property without permission, so can Railways do it?

The Railways have been saying they are doing work on their property, but breaking boundary walls of people’s homes cannot be included. Moreover, principally, and this applies everywhere, you cannot do any wrongdoing even on your property like breaking environmental and coastal laws.

A common Goan needs permission to make changes in his own house. So can the Railways carries out double-tracking on a stretch it calls its property by saying it does not need any permissions?

Because the GCZMA inspection report clearly mentioned that the Railways did exactly that. “A mail has been received by this office on April 25 from Sashibhusan Sahoo, RVNL General Manager stating that as per the Railway Act, 1989, Railways is empowered to execute such works in railway operational area for which no statutory permissions are required from any authority,” the report stated.

Is the Railways Act above the Constitution of India?

There seems to be a brash assumption that the Railway Act is the only “constitution” that the Railways follow, giving it sweeping powers even if it violated certain fundamentals. When the CRZ rules were implemented, was it mentioned that the Railways Act will be superior to any legislation enacted?

 Damage caused to the fragile ecosystem is irreversible, says GCZMA report

 The damage done to Goa is nothing short of audacity.  These were the words in its inspection report: “The damage caused to the fragile ecosystem is irreversible” and “Trees were cut for the construction of tracks.”

And the Railways showed that it just doesn’t care for any consequences when (according to the report) it showed the court order for Chandor village on the basis of which they were executing the double tracking work in Velsao.

Goans hope that at least the Courts will give justice. Won’t Railways pay for the destruction caused without permission?

The Goa Coastal Zone Management Authority (GCZMA) confirmed that the double tracking work carried out by Rail Vikas Nigam Limited (RVNL) at Velsao Creek was in violation of the CRZ rules. If that is the case, then there is absolutely no case for the Railways to close this chapter by simply “restoring the land”.

The Railways rampantly did the filling of the land which is not a permissible activity in the CRZ III area and it was done without showing any permission for construction work. It also carried out the construction work of the railway bridge/culvert which falls in CRZ III (200-500 metres)

How can GCZMA allow Railways to restore the land, de-clog drains and restore water bodies? And who will pay the price for destruction? Punishment for constitutional wrongdoing is not simply correcting the wrongdoing but paying the consequences of the action. Here there is none.

 It is both unfortunate and hopeful that the doors of the judiciary are still the last refuge for the people when democracy and Constitution are sought to be bent for the rich and the powerful. But Goans who love their land have always stood tall against the destroyers of their children’s future.




Iddhar Udhar