HCN spoke to Goa Assembly Speaker Rajendra Arlekar on the vexed Greenfield International Airport at Mopa, especially given that he had maintained a silence on the issue since he became the Speaker and on whether the locals who sacrificed their lands would be given jobs.
HCN: How come you suddenly decided to talk on the Mopa issue?
Arlekar: Everybody knows what our stand (including that of Mandrem MLA Laxmikant Parsekar) is on the issue. I have not spoken on the issue since I have become the Speaker. However, now especially after the RFQ has been floated, some sections from South Goa are suddenly making statements on the issue. We don’t want this and we don’t want that, they keep on saying. Because of this workers had requested me to make a statement. But as I am a speaker I did not speak. However, I have spoken on this during the elections and have asked for votes on this too.
HCN: The Chief Minister has said that the airport will come up. But there are various sections that are saying that Mopa will not come up too. Is this why you decided to speak up?
A: I am not speaking out because of these reactions. The reason I was quiet is because I am the Speaker. However, it is also not true that I have not spoken on this issue. In fact when I went to Colva for a function, the press had asked me about the issue. I had told them that Mopa will happen. I had not made a statement, but was reacting to a question. However, just to be clear, I am not speaking on this as a political issue, but am making a statement as it is a developmental issue.
HCN: What is the reason for you to come out and make the statement?
A: The people will realise that both (MLAs --he and Parsekar) are united on this and both will take this issue forward. We wanted this message to go out. The message had to go to the opposite party that we are united on this. Earlier, there was an impression that only Parsekar was talking on this issue. Now the message has gone out.
HCN: Do you feel that opponents of Mopa fear a cultural dilution of the State, so they are opposing it?
A: I don’t feel that there will be a cultural dilution. What dilution are they talking about? Those coming in will be Indians and their culture is Indian. Even prior to the Konkan Railway project they spoke about cultural dilution. I strongly believe that there is an anti-development lobby in Goa. Any development you bring to Goa, these same faces are opposing it. But to take advantage of the development, the same people are there. I have no problem, let them take advantage, but they should not make these ‘natkam.’
HCN: What about jobs for locals?
A: At the Steering Committee meeting held recently, I had brought up the issue. There, it was decided that locals will be given priority. We will accommodate them at Mopa. Definitely they will get jobs.