13 Nov 2022  |   05:33am IST

Is the MOPA name game overshadowing some of the larger concerns that affect land losers?

An intense and animated controversy has broken out over the naming of Mopa International Airport as it nears completion. But is the naming controversy shifting the focus away from Goenkars whose several generations have been cultivating the land and are rendered land losers? While the official figures of the government state that a little over Rs 15.78 crore have been paid to land losers under the old Compensation Act, it appears only about 15 to 20 families out of nearly 250 families have been compensated. Another Rs 45 crore which is to be paid under the market rate compensation is sitting in the coffers of the Economic Development Corporation (EDC) and has not reached the land losers. Rs 15.78 crore (the government claims there’s another Rs 28.18 crore) is sitting with the fast track court which land losers allege is anything but fast track. In this backdrop, SUJAY GUPTA in the weekly Herald TV debate Point-Counterpoint digs deep into the issue to find out whether or not the Mopa airport naming controversy will become a smokescreen that would hide the real issues of the project affected people.
Is the MOPA name game overshadowing some of the larger concerns that affect land losers?

A major controversy has erupted over the naming of the Mopa International Airport. Two names are being proposed –that of Goa’s first chief minister Dayanand Bandodkar and BJP Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar. Villagers of Pernem held a dharna to demand that the airport be named after the Maker of modern Goa and leader of the masses late Dayanand Bandodkar.  Bandodkar contested the second 1967 Goa Daman and Diu assembly election from the Mandrem constituency.      

While slugfest over the naming of Mopa International Airport hogs the limelight, the real issue of compensation to the local villagers who have given away their prized land to the government for the project remains unanswered.

Some land losers say that they have not received a single paise by way of compensation and the entire compensation claims are a sham and hogwash. While claims are made that 90% of the Mopa airport work is ready, no amount has been paid under the enhanced market rate compensation act, to the affected families.

Third, while with the enhanced market rate compensation will add up to only Rs 240 per square metre for the Mopa airport area, will land sharks make 41 times more money per square metre and sell the land outside the airport boundary for Rs 10000 per square metre?

Villagers from Chandel, Warkhand, Kasarwane have virtually not received any compensation. Physical positioning of the airport is in Warkhand.

Have the politicians – both from the ruling party and the Opposition, have totally forgotten the issue of compensation? Are we losing sight of this critical issue?

“Naming of the airport is not connected with the issue of compensation. The naming of the facility will be done by the Ministry of Civil Aviation in the course of time. As far as the issue of compensation is concerned, 2131 acre of land has been acquired for this project. This acquisition was done as per the old Act. Later on, when the compensation was being finalised, new fair compensation was notified on January 1, 2014 with one clause that the acquisition can go on as per the old Act but the compensation will be given as per the new Act,” Premanand Mahambare, BJP Spokesman said.

He informed that so far the government has given compensation of Rs 15,78,80,945 (Rs 15.78 crore). Another provision of Rs 45 crore has been made under the new Act, which has also been paid to the project affected people.

“What happens is, compensation should go to those who are the actual owners of the land tracts given for the project. Naturally, there is a compensation settlement of Rs 28 crore which is still to be paid. This is in addition to the figures already quoted. So, to fasten this process, Fast-Track Court has been established so that the people who have lost their lands get the compensation at the fastest possible time,” he said.

“This compensation is yet to be paid due to reasons like they have to produce relevant documents to prove their ownership. There is a due process to be followed. After completing them, all the pending compensation will be paid to the rightful claimants,” Mahambre said.

Fourteen families opted for rehabilitation and they have been given 800 sq m of land, 100 sq m house, 50 sq m cattle shed for each family, a community hall for 100 persons and a crematorium. Total Rs 1 crore has been spent on each family for their rehabilitation.

Sanjay Barde, President, Bodgeshwar Shetkari Sanghatna said the Fair Compensation and Transparency Act was passed before Parrikar was in the government.

“When government acquires land for some project, a letter goes to each affected family. If there is an unemployed person in such families then as per the Act, it's the government's duty to send a monthly salary for that person till that person is re-employed. Parrikar didn't do that,” Barde said.

“I don't think the government is poor. For any infrastructure project, the government is required to have the amount first. Parrikar didn't reveal any budget for this purpose. As per my colleague here, the government is paying over Rs 90 cr to the land losers. If the government is capable of paying such a huge amount to the land losers then why did they allow a private company such as GMR to build the airport? Government will be getting hardly Rs 40 lakh revenue from GMR,” he said

“The government should have organised large job fairs. Around 500 youths from Pernem would have got government jobs at the airport. The government has cheated the farmers as well. They should have got the certificates when the government had sent them the notices,” he said.

According to him, they're giving several excuses now saying that the families have cases going on in courts over the ownership of the lands and hence there has been delay in giving compensation.

“Pramod Sawant is saying that the airport’s name will be approved by Delhi. He is staying in Goa not in Delhi. Bhausaheb Bandodkar was the first chief minister of Goa who was elected from Mandrem constituency. The Mopa airport should bear his name,” Barde said.

Vasudev Deshprabhu, Ex-chairperson Pernem Municipal Council said that figures of compensation apart, there has been inordinate delay from the process of conception, visualisation to the execution of the project.

“It started in 1989. The land acquisition process lapsed twice. Third time also it was notified under the old Act and the compensation that was to be paid under the old Act, was awarded,” Deshprabhu said.

Thereafter the government said it was compassionate and a revised compensation would be paid, which would be three times the original amount.

“But the truth is that amount was never paid to any land loser. That entire amount (Rs 45 cr) is lying with EDC. I am the biggest land loser in this project and have not received a single rupee as compensation. It is very easy to quote figures from a piece of paper. But reality is something else,” Vaudev Deshprahu said.

According to him, the awarded money was Rs 15.78 crore. Out of that nearly 5 cr had to be paid to him. But he hadn’t received a single penny.

“This is a total hogwash from the government by not making any concerted effort to pay the land losers. Not only myself, but also all the 250 odd affected families are crying. In fast-track court, there are thick files having information about 300-500 respondents. Not a single notice is issued by the clerk. No hearing takes place. I don’t know when the case will be heard and when the judge will make a decision. The case is adjourned as soon as the judge sees a Mopa case file,” he said.

Expressing his anguish, he said that two generations have died awaiting their rightful compensation. In the third generation, 10-15 members are there per family.

“Recently there was a case involving 516 respondents. Can the case stand up? That’s impossible. The government has failed in its responsibility and the second most important thing is, the compensation amount is unpaid and goes back to the EDC. The amount gathers interest, which is paid to the government in the form of a dividend. It is absolutely illegal and unconstitutional,” he said.

He demanded a thorough probe into the issue and sought immediate action.

“Land Loser Certificates have not been issued. Maximum 10 certificates have been issued in Mopa and Uguem out of around 250 families. Not a single certificate has been issued in Warkhand. I have not been issued a land losers certificate. What is the meaning of it?” he asked.

Premanand Mhambre said the government has notified land rates for every village. The government compensation amount is calculated on the basis of two considerations – the official land rate and the type of land.  

“If it is a settlement area, you get 100 per cent of the notified rate. Whereas, if it is an agricultural land you get 40% and if it is a barren land the rate is 30%. That percentage is multiplied by three and on that basis the final amount is decided,” he said.

Sanjay Barde said that the title of Fair Compensation is clear.

“Deshprabhu, a land owner and land loser himself, is here. Land owners as well as tenants are claiming that they have not been compensated. More than 1.25 cr sq meter land has been acquired by the government. Cashew trees were felled four years back, which was the main occupation for people. Now Mhambre sir said that the rate of the land is given as per the categories such as residential area, agriculture land and so on. But this land has been provisioned as commercial and given to businessmen from outside Goa for casinos and other commercial activities,” he said.

“If the government wanted the land for themselves then why did they make these categories? The farmers should have gotten the commercial rate for their land even if it was an agricultural area before,” he said.

Citing an example he said that the families of Suresh Talkatkar and Salgaokar had their houses on that land.

“Those houses were demolished and till date they haven't been provided shelter. The land losers themselves are stating on the record that they haven't received a single paisa, then how is the government going ahead with making the airport operational? Are they planning to bring Ram Rajya by stepping on people's stomachs?” questioned the agitated leader of farmers in Bodgeshwar.

 “I personally feel the airport deserves to be named after either Bhausaheb Bandodkar or Jack Sequeira who were pivotal in shaping Goa after the liberation. They didn't even use government vehicles. I strongly object to Parrikar's name, whose government cheated the locals and farmers and even banned mining,” he added.

Bharat Bagkar, President, Mopa Vimantal Peedit Panchkroshi Janasanghatana who was associated with the protests against Mopa link road, said that the government had been saying that it had paid three times the original amount as compensation. But did not reveal how much money exactly had been given.

 “The boundary within which the land has been acquired, people are getting Rs 240 per sq m of land. Outside the boundary, people are getting Rs 10,000. Hence there will be uproar from people. Outside the acquired area, the land rate is increasing rapidly. There are people who have already started purchasing land in those areas. But what will happen to the farmers? They were paid Rs 240 for the land in the beginning, on which the airport has been built. Rs 1,200 per sq m is the cost for the land along the link road. Regarding the link road also, there is a lot of confusion,” he said.

The land ownership title is not clear. The surviving third generation of the original land owners are asked to prove the relation.

“The name of the grandfather is mentioned as the original landowner, who is deceased. The authorities ask the grandson to prove his relation with the grandfather. We have to go to court, pay for lawyer’s fees. We are losing more money than what we are actually supposed to get,” said Bagkar, who is also one of the land losers.

According to him, not more than 20 per cent people might have received compensation. His family hasn’t received any compensation yet even though they have lost their land for Mopa link road.

To help landowners access their land details, the Goa government has digitised the land records, making it easier for new buyers to check the veracity of land documents and make an informed decision. Apart from the land records, owners can also search Form I, Form XIV and Form D in Goa which are other essential documents required during property registration.

The issue of compensation still lingers and remains as an unsolved issue at this point of time. While we are preparing for the aircrafts to land and debating over the name for the airport, the biggest losers are the farmers.

Let us look at the nature of compensations given by subsequent governments. Does Goa have a compensation policy, which is modern and up to the time? Which is akin to what other BJP-ruled States are doing? The whole narrative of the policy should move from pre-determined rates to negotiated settlement with the actual land owners.

“I will give an example of the Kashi-Vishwanath Corridor. The Uttar Pradesh government has offered mooh maangi rakam (whatever amount asked for) to the affected families to clear the quadrangle, which you are seeing today. Whatever amount that was asked by the affected families was actually given. But this process has not been implemented by any of the Goa governments in the last 60 years – whether the MG government, Congress or BJP government,” Vasudev Deshprabhu said.

He alleged that the governments have been dictated by the IAS officers from UP and Bihar cadre who “come for a holiday” in Goa.

“These bureaucrats don’t know the actual ground reality. In 1984, some of my land was acquired for National Highway 17, which is now NH 66. At that time the compensation amount for paddy fields was Rs 20 per sq m. After some years again land was acquired. This time the compensation amount was Rs 12. How does this make sense? It does reflect that ours is a social welfare State. This is an issue Dr Pramod Sawant has to look into. This is not just restricted to Pernem. You have to be compassionate in compensating land losers,” he said.

He said that no land loser ever had a smile on his face from the 1960s till today with the compensation that was given.

Premanand Mhambre said that the situation at present is far better than the time when the old law was there. The Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act 2013 replaced the Land Acquisition Act, 1894

“Under the old compensation act, the land prices were fixed by the government as per the type of the land. But with the new law, compensation was enhanced by two to three times. Many governments came out with different types of models, like negotiation with the land owners. In Andhra Pradesh, land losers were made partners for making the new capital,” he said.

Speaking about the situation in Goa, he said that the Goa government came up with a procurement policy. Under this, instead of forced acquisition, it was consent acquisition where the land owner could give his or her consent to sell the land to the government.

“The compensation amount was three times the value notified by the government and not market value. In all parts of Goa, the notified value is different from the market value. The government is revising the notified rates every year. It is different for different areas. This increases government revenue,” Mahambre said.

If the notified rate is Rs 3,500 and is a settlement area, the compensation amount would be three times of Rs 3,500. In case of delay, the government also pays the interest, the BJP spokesperson said.

Bharat Bagkar said that Goa being a very small State having very less land mass, the State government should propose to the Centre to make a special policy for Goa where fair compensation should be given for land acquisition.

“Once a farmer loses his land, he also loses his permanent and only source of income. We had given some suggestions to the State government. We had demanded land for land. We don’t want compensation in terms of money. Give us land in exchange for land so that our future generations can survive. Provide some percentage of profit from airport revenue as royalty to farmers. Both the proposals were rejected,” Bagkar said.

“Government is making false promises. In the beginning, when all the farmers began their agitation, no one was asked as to why they were on the streets. Secondly, there should be some public meetings with the local population where every aspect of the project is discussed and shared threadbare. Even at panchayat level no one knows what is going to happen,” he said.

On the issue of rehabilitation, Sanjay Barde said that there are 25 categories under which the government is supposed to provide compensation to the land losers, especially the Dhangar community.

“Provision for the crematorium is the only best thing which the government has done. So whenever someone dies, that issue is taken care of. There are 25 elements such as building schools, anganwadis, health centers for the affected people. But all the government has done is to build a crematorium. Even the 14 houses which have been built for them are still not in their names, but on GMR's. And the materials used to build those houses are of poor quality,” Barde said.

It is clearly evident that the State government has a long way to go before it can claim that the compensation issues of the Mopa airport affected farmers have been duly settled. Instead of losing sleep over naming the airport, it would be appropriate for the government to focus on this critical issue.


IDhar UDHAR

Idhar Udhar