- The Sunday Roundtable
- MOPA- A 4 LETTER WORD THAT DIVIDES
MOPA- A 4 LETTER WORD THAT DIVIDES
The Chief Minister may feel that any discussion is meaningless among people who have no knowledge of the issue but the debate on the Mopa airport, easily the most contentious of mega projects pushed by this government and backed by sections of the Congress, needs to be debated to keep the people of Goa in the frame. The decision to go ahead with Mopa may be an executive decision but the CM cannot demand immunity from public scrutiny. The Sunday Roundtable brings together stake holders from both sides for a free-wheeling chat on HCN
Herald: The issue has taken the contours of a North South divide and has polarized different groups over an issue which is getting increasingly emotive
Rajendra Kakodkar: Basically, the issue of (Mopa) airport is non existent issue, only because there were two reports which the government had commissioned few years back and both the reports concluded that unless the passenger traffic of the State reaches 24 million per annum, two airports for a small State such as Goa are economically unviable. Currently the State’s traffic is only 4 million per annum which means we are not even near to 24 million and hence two airports are just not feasible for Goa. In such a case, one airport has to be shut down like it happened in Hyderabad and Bangalore.
Herald: But still, Chief Minister has gone ahead with the project, floated the RFQ and will shortly issue tender documents. Don’t you think that now it’s too late for the issue to be discussed
RK: No, I don’t think that we are late. Finally, the money and land will be lost and people will ultimately suffer. Hence, before every step, we can take corrective measures from now.
Radharao Gracias : The issue is being discussed and debated since long and people are opposing the airport. I am not against Mopa, but I feel if the State needs the airport at a centrally located area. The airport has to be located in such a way that it should be convenient to all people. If one looks at the map of Goa, it would be realized that Dabolim is not in the South but in the North and therefore we will be having two airports in North and no airport in the South. The divide of Goa is not on the airport but it is a political North and South divide and religious North and South divide and I feel Chief Minister is talking about religious South and my opposition is to that. The ideal place for having an airport could be Keri, where the land was acquired for Nylon 6.6. The area is centrally located.
Herald: Is There is support to Mopa by people like you only because it is located in Pernem or are there other reasons?
Devendra Prabhudesai: People from Pernem never asked for any airport. It is nature that gifted them with such a beautiful plateau. Government had initially identified five places for the second airport, few in South and few in North. Finally Mopa was selected considering all its aspects. The Civil Aviation Ministry is of the strong view that Goa being a tourist destination needs another airport. Kerala is also a small state with seven airports and now the 8th airport has been granted. Something good is happening, somewhere someone is opposing just because it is happening in Pernem. It will not only benefit Pernem but will bring economic benefits to the entire State.
Herald: If the airport was not in Pernem would you have supported it?
DP: Pernem people have always supported all the projects in the State’s interest. There was never any opposition.
Diana Pinto: I feel when government is putting up such a big project, it should be done with proper facts, findings and after studying the feasibility. As far all this is concerned, it is learnt that two airports are not feasible for Goa. Also people from South are not taken into confidence for this major project. Government has also failed to give proper justification to the worries raised by people from the South.
Herald:So is it that along with the people from the South, people in the North who gave their land for the project were also not taken into confidence?
DP: When the project was planned and its preliminary work started, everything was going very smoothly. At the time of acquisition (of land) people were taken into confidence and there was no opposition but their only concern was that the compensation was minimal. We have been demanding that the compensation should be (increased to) Rs 400 per sq mtrs of land.
Diana: But (Pernem MLA) (Rajendra) Arlekar during a recent meeting said that government cannot promise jobs, as enough compensation is been given.
DP: We have made it clear that 90% of jobs should be reserved for Goans and majority to locals from Pernem. However, the issue is not being addressed by government so far.
Herald:Tell us about the movement against Mopa and will it go in long way.
RK: Our constant effort is to bring people and the administration onto the path of rational thinking. Our opposition is to the second airport. Even if it was planned in Dabolim or Navelim, we would have opposed it. We stand by the fact that Goa is a small state and can sustain only one airport. The existing Dabolim airport can also be developed in a better way. Goa doesn’t require a second airport.
RG: There is no question of the State having two airports. Dabolim is under the control of the Navy and it’s not a civilian airport. The Navy has given us the airport for civilian use considering the State does not have its own airport. The moment you set up a second airport at Mopa, the Navy is bound to ask us to vacate Dabolim stating that the State has got its airport.
Herald:If Mopa comes up and becomes the best international airport and Dabolim shuts down, where is the problem? Goa will have only one airport.
RK: The current economic disposition will get disorganized. There is no study conducted to find out what would be the implications if the disposition gets disorganized. What will happen to the people?
RG: Tourism is a prime economic sector of Goa. In the South, along the coastal belt, huge hotels and restaurants have come up promoting tourism. With the new airport at Mopa, which is on the boarder of Maharashtra, we would be directly or indirectly promoting tourism in Maharashtra at the cost of Goa tourism.
Herald:But Mr Arlekar says, Sindhudurg is not in Pakistan.
RG: In that case Karnataka is also not Pakistan. Why not have airport along the Karnataka boarder?
Herald: It has been observed that government has violated all the procedures and gone ahead with the project. No EIA study has been conducted nor have any public hearings been held.
DP: We also are of the view that government should follow all the procedures. Since the project is on Private Public Partnership, some private party will invest huge amount into the project and it is important that for him all grounds are clear. Also the government is in a hurry, since with tourism on the increase there is no scope for expansion of Dabolim airport.
RK: That is not true that Dabolim cannot be expanded. Dabolim limitations are not limitation up to 20 million passengers. For the next 50 years, there is no problem for Dabolim.
Herald:Do you feel that at some point government and people should be together rather than be on one side? Don’t you think it is the responsibility of both?
RK: The persons who were earlier on the people’s side are now on the government’s side exactly replicating Congress. There is no difference. I would say this is worse than the Congress. Congress was at least listening to the people, now there is no listening.
RG: Post Liberation, people have hardly mattered as far as governance is concerned. It is a certain lobby which decides. More recently it is the lobby of builders and tourism lobby. Interests of the people are always discounted, by the Congress or the BJP. Despite this we keep on electing the same faces at elections.
DP: The BJP-MGP during (assembly) election had strongly supported Mopa. Despite this they gained clean victory in election both in the North and South. The same was in the case of Lok Sabha elections.
RG: No, Mopa was not an issue but people were determined to teach Congress a lesson and hence BJP came to power.
Diana: The problem is that the government is talking to the people. Why can’t the Chief Minister meet us? We are not donkeys and mules who will be led by the government and accept whatever decision it takes.
(The Sundayroundtable will be telecast on HCN)