15 May 2024  |   07:11am IST

Loutolim villagers livid over lack of transparency on Borim Bridge project

There is still no clarity on whether the PWD will conduct site inspection today, May 15; farmers are particularly worried about the potential impact on their agricultural lands, which are crucial for their livelihood
Loutolim villagers livid over  lack of transparency on  Borim Bridge project

Team Herald

MARGAO: The farmers of Loutolim village are deeply frustrated and angered by the lack of transparency and proper communication from the Public Works Department (PWD) regarding the proposed land acquisition for the new high-level Borim Bridge and bypass road project.

One major point of contention is the mixed information they have received over the past two days about whether PWD will carry out an inspection on Wednesday or not.

It may be recalled that on Monday, the farmers had gathered at the site in anticipation of the scheduled land demarcation process, but no officials showed up, and they were not informed about the cancellation.

On Monday, no timing was provided, and the same situation prevails as there is no confirmation regarding the timings of these inspections, leaving the farmers on standby mode, having to come to the site at the last minute if the inspection does take place.

To offer perspective on what they are facing, fast forward to Tuesday where the farmers were told two different things, which only made things more unclear for them.

Boost for Loutolim 

farmers Pg 2 >>

First, on Tuesday morning, they were told that a police official from the flying squad had visited the Loutolim village panchayat, confirming the demarcation exercise would be done on Wednesday.

However, later on Tuesday evening, the farmers were informed that there is a likelihood that the inspection will not be conducted. Adding to the confusion, it was clarified that the police official was not from the flying squad but from the CID.

More importantly, they got the news that PWD has not yet responded to the crucial letter that was sent by the Loutolim village panchayat to the PWD.

The farmers were also told that the panchayat had not been officially informed by the PWD about the pending inspection or if the PWD would be meeting the conditions the panchayat had put forward, before commencing the survey.

Albert Pinheiro, Chairman of the Loutolim Tenants Association, expressed the farmers’ apprehension that the demarcation process is being attempted without taking the panchayat or the farmers into confidence.

He highlighted that the farmers were not informed when the bridge alignment was being finalised, and that no clarity was being offered to them, regarding the project's plans even though they are the aggrieved party and have been holding protests in the village, and had submitted objections to the Land Acquisition Office at Altinho, Panjim.

The farmers are particularly worried about the potential impact on their agricultural lands, which are crucial for their livelihood.

Pinheiro emphasised that these fields are their only source of survival and questioned why the Mumbai-based consultants engaged by the PWD were not properly educated by the PWD’s Ponda engineers, about the value and identity of the khazan lands the farmers are trying to protect.

Pinheiro said that it would have been more prudent if the authorities had informed the local village panchayat or the farmers’ association first about their plans, which would have in hindsight, ensured a better understanding of the ground issues and the fact that these hazan lands are under continuous cultivation, where no bridge can be moved through.

The farmers also fear that the PWD might take forceful measures whenever they come for the inspection, involving security personnel and making the situation more tensed in light of what had happened in the neighbouring Borim village on Monday, where engineers faced resistance from farmers during the demarcation process.

Pinheiro felt that if force is used against the farmers, then it would be very unfortunate as the farmers have been peaceful in their ‘rightful’ protest and have cooperated with authorities in the past, even providing part of their fields during the construction of the earlier ‘missing link’ road.

He emphasised that the farmers do not deserve to be treated in this manner.

Overall, the farmers seek clear communication, transparency and a considerate approach from the PWD regarding the proposed land acquisition. They want their concerns and objections to be addressed appropriately before any demarcation or acquisition process is initiated.

Finally, Pinheiro expressed disappointment that despite earlier meetings arranged by the Environment Minister, where the farmers had interacted directly with the PWD Chief Engineer and were promised that their grievances would be considered and alternate options for the bridge’s alignment would be explored, no positive outcome seemed to have emerged from those discussions based on the current situation.

The assurances given to find a different solution that addressed the farmers’ concerns appeared to have been disregarded, leaving them feeling ignored and their objections unheeded.


Idhar Udhar