MARGAO: Describing the government’s attempt to legalize unauthorized houses on Comunidade land as a political ploy, a group of Comunidades in Salcete opposed such attempts and asserted that such a decision could pave the way for increased encroachment on Comunidade lands throughout the State.
The Comunidade representatives of Chinchinim, Deussua, Sirlim, Dramapur, Velim, and Sarzora convened in Chinchinim to deliberate on the government’s recent proposal to legitimize unauthorized houses on Comunidade land. Agnelo Furtado, Chinchinim Comunidade President, informed media persons after the meeting that the government lacks the authority to legalize encroachments on Comunidade land.
He emphasized that there is a clear Supreme Court ruling stating that community land cannot be alienated and that the Chief Secretary of Goa, in response to the SC’s directive on the status of community land, had stated that Goa falls under community land in an affidavit that was filed before the Apex Court. Agnelo expressed concern that this move of the government appeared to be a strategy to win the Lok Sabha election, cautioning that such actions could establish a detrimental precedent with significant implications for existing Comunidade bodies in the future.
Agnelo highlighted the historical significance of Comunidade lands and how their ancestors had strived hard to protect such lands. He also sought to dispel misconceptions that the Comunidade system started after the Portuguese began ruling Goa and clarified that such lands existed well before the Portuguese arrival and were originally known as Gaunkarial land.
Highlighting that Chinchinm Panchayat and the Gram Sabha were the initial dissenters of the Bhumiputra bill, Agnelo asserted that the residents of these villages will once more take a stand against any legislation aiming to legalize unlawful constructions on Comunidade land. Chinchinim villager Cyril Leitao expressed concern, stating that any government effort to regularize illegal constructions on Comunidade land could lead to an influx of migrants encroaching on these lands.
It may be recalled that Chief Minister Pramod Sawant responded to criticism about legalizing illegal houses on Comunidade land by asserting that 70-80% of these houses belong to Goans, emphasizing that the government opposes slums on Comunidade land.
He mentioned the potential demolition of around 500 houses in Canacona and 200 in Saligao, focusing on houses built in the 1970s and 1980s. Sawant pledged to involve Comunidades in decision-making, indicating demolitions in places like Canacona, Pernem, and Saligao. He suggested “rectification” of the Code due to discrepancies in permissions and demolition orders by previous Comunidade committees.