16 May 2015 | 01:23am IST
Leading Hotels tears into Tiracol village past midnight with 50 bouncers to construct road to hotel project
Bouncers and bulldozers used to intimidate people and defy NGT orders against any construction or tree felling;
Herald reporter stopped by bouncers from inspecting site; angry villagers lodge multiple complaints
TIRACOL: Terror struck Tiracol in the middle of the night on Thursday and continued till the wee hours of Friday as men and machines of Leading Hotels, protected by more than fifty menacing bouncers tore into the village, slaughtered trees and made a clearing for a road leading up to the project site where a hotel and a Golf Course will be built.
Bulldozers razed the path leading to its main construction site along with over 50 bouncers both from Maharashtra and Goa.
It came to the notice of villagers that heavy machinery was being brought into the state from across the border after a villager noticed it on his way home from a tiatr show at 1 am Friday morning. After alerting the rest of the village, panch member and ex-sarpanch Francis Rodrigues reached the scene along with the police and 40 other villagers.
“There were at least a hundred bouncers at the entrance to the site. They stopped work only when the police intervened,” said Rodrigues while another villager added that though there were no fist fights, “their huge figures were intimidating.” The police then conducted a panchanama bringing all work to a halt.
The bulldozers however managed to raze a considerable area of the land.
The parish priest in Keri, Father Teo Fernandes, has been up all night from the time he heard of the bulldozers and bouncers moving in. “In the middle of the night we reached to the spot and challenged them. I asked, if you are doing things legally, why do you have to creep in, in the dead of the night? You should be afraid of anything or anyone”
Local echoed the same sentiments. “Why did they have to bring the machinery in the dark and start work at that time?” asked Francis Rodrigues, a local
The action was pre-meditated and a direct defiance of the order of the National Green Tribunal and the Administrative Tribunal (See box). Leading Hotels, justified the legality of their action by referring to a High Court order, which merely granted an ad interim stay on further proceedings in the National Green Tribunal on the mater. It did not quash or stay the orders in existence.
On Friday morning, Father Fernandes informed, the villagers submitted a memorandum to the panchayat and then went to Pernem to lodge a complaint with the Forest department. “The trees have been slaughtered in such a manner that no trace is left of them”.
The presence of bouncers was still very evident, when Herald reached the spot on Friday afternoon. Twenty of them zeroed in when this reporter approached the area. Some dressed in black while others dressed in plain clothes blocked entrance to the area allowing entry only after Leading Hotels officials granted permission.
Leading Hotels apparently had a justification for their behavior which is nothing short of goondaism.
Gerson Rebello, Head of Corporation Communication at Leading Hotels and incidentally a Goan, said the need for bouncers was felt due to the “villager’s unruly behavior”.
“There have been threats and instances in the past from the villagers so we found the need to have some sort of security,” said Rebello, clearly echoing his masters voice. For the record there have been no threats by villagers, who have been completely victimised in their own land.
The reason for the stealth and terror operation in the dead of the night, was also ready by the dutiful Mr Rebello. “The moment was auspicious to the owner of the Hotel”. A bhat (hindu priest) was also appointed to conduct a ground breaking puja at the appointed hour.
The St. Anthony Tenancy Association has filed a complaint with the Pernem police who are investigating the matter while site inspections from the panchayat and Forest departments have also been conducted.
“From what we have noticed, we can say that there have been ten trees that have been destroyed. Whether they have the permissions and whose property it belongs to will only be curtained after further investigations,” said the forest official.