Herald: St Jacinto Island has had ‘Special Status’ for years

St Jacinto Island has had ‘Special Status’ for years

06 Aug 2014 07:28pm IST
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06 Aug 2014 07:28pm IST

Even Goans from outside the Island are not allowed to buy property, no houses are let out either, many houses are in ruins but yet no one sells

Elvino Araujo

ST JACINTO ISLAND (Chicalim): At a time when Goa is still smarting over the Centre’s rejection for a Special Status to the State, legislators can learn a lesson or two from a unique form of ‘Special Status’ zealously followed by a community of a ward in Chicalim.

While efforts are being made to protect Goa’s limited landmass, about 70 families from St Jacinto Island in Chicalim have demonstrated admirably that laws are not necessary to enforce a ‘Special Status’, provided the community has the tenacity to protect their land from “outsiders”.

Such has been their resolve to safeguard their island for posterity that the entire community has unanimously agreed on one principle: If you happen to be a non-Goan or even Goan not hailing from St Jacinto Island, you will not be allowed to buy property on the island.

All residents from St Jacinto Island, who hail from the fishing community, have resolutely withstood various lucrative offers from land sharks and the real estate lobby.

“St Jacinto Island comprises around 200 houses and 70 families are presently residing on the Island. The total population is around seven hundred people,” informed a senior resident, Jackris George.

Responding to a query on the many uninhabited houses on the island, George said: “Most inhabitants of the island have shifted to Khariwada (Vasco) for business purposes, but all of them come together on the feast day of our patron St Jacinto.”

Defending the community’s decision to refuse tempting property offers from those not hailing from St Jacinto Island, George said: “Our ancestors had protected the land for their generation and they were advised not to sell the land to anyone, other than their own kin.”

“In fact, many tried to develop the island by way of constructing a hotel, but the residents opposed all such moves. We are all united and we oppose any such move because our ancestors protected the land for us and we, in turn, will protect the land for our future generations.”

Added another resident, Peter D’Souza added, “Residents have not only refused to sell the land, they do not even rent out their houses to anyone from outside the island.”

Admitting that some houses on the island are in ruins, D’Souza explained: “The area of many houses is very small and families have expanded over the years. Hence, it is difficult to divide the small piece of land among extended family members.”

“Most of the younger generation has migrated to the UK and other foreign places in search of jobs, but they make it a point to visit St Jacinto Island whenever they come down to Goa.”

What makes the determination of the St Jacinto islanders remarkable is that the principle is applicable to one and all, even if the inhabitant happens to be a prominent politician.

Former minister Jose Philip D’Souza is also a native of St Jacinto Island, but presently resides in Vasco.

“We still have our ancestral house on the island and we visit it during the church feast,” says D’Souza.

Asked if the early inhabitants of St Jacinto Island had arrived at the unusual decision to refuse any land deal with “outsiders” through any document or by word of mouth, D’souza replied: “There is some written document from our ancestors which states that the land should not be sold to anyone except for close family members. So even if my children or grandchildren want to sell off the land, they cannot do so as the land is governed by the written document of our ancestors.”

Roque Vaz, who has shifted his residence to Dabolim due to a growing family, also confirmed that the land cannot be sold to those not hailing from St Jacinto Island, as there is a written document which is kept with the church authority.

According to another resident, A D’Cruz, St Jacinto Island is the only place in Goa where land is zealously protected by natives of the island.

“Though the island is very small and very few families stay there, we are closely associated with each other. The land has been gifted to us by our ancestors and we have lived up to their expectations by not selling the land as per their wishes. We now hope that our children and grandchildren will do the same,” said D’Cruz.

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