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Mainstream, VOL LII, No 13, March 22, 2014

On Special Status

Sunday 23 March 2014, by Eduardo Faleiro

A Resolution of the Goa Legislative Assembly and a Memorandum submitted to the Prime Minister last year seek special status for Goa under Article 371 of the Constitution of India. This special status is sought on two grounds. As a result of large-scale purchase of land by persons from outside Goa, including foreigners, the average Goan cannot afford a house or land in Goa. Furthermore, there is large-scale migra-tion into the State which may destroy Goa’s id-entity.

The special status would require a constitu-tional amendment and this has already been ruled out by the major national parties both within and outside Parliament. I had recently a meeting with members of the Planning Commission in New Delhi. At this meeting it was pointed out that by virtue of the Goa Daman and Diu Reorganisation Act, 1987, Goa became a State and it now enjoys legislative competence on all matters listed in the State List as well as in the Concurrent List of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution.

Land is a State subject vide entry 18 of the State List and the State can also legislate on land vide entry 6 of the Concurrent List. In addition, the 74th Amendment to the Constitution provides that the function of “regulation of land use and construction of buildings” is one of the municipal functions. As a result of these legal provisions a State is competent to enact laws to restrict land transactions so as to protect the interests of the local people. Such protection may involve restrictions on purchase of agricultural land by non-agriculturists as well as restrictions on purchase of land and property by outsiders.

Section 118 of the Himachal Pradesh Tenancy and Land Reforms Act, 1972, interdicts non-agriculturists from procuring or purchasing any agricultural land in the State. In Uttara-khand, the Land Reforms Act 2003 restricts purchase of land by outsiders.

The right to property is no longer a funda-mental right and hence a law by the State Government to protect the interests of the local population is unlikely to be declared null and void by any Court. At the same time, it may be borne in mind that any such legislation that restricts the category of buyers has serious adverse implications for the section of the local population which owns the property.

According to the RBI guidelines, foreigners cannot acquire immovable property in India unless the concerned individual has established a place of business in this country as per FERA or FEMA, the property is necessary to carry such business and all applicable laws, rules, regulations and directions have been duly complied with. It is found that many foreigners evade these requirements.

The National Security Council Secretariat has cautioned that real estate projects by foreigners in Goa might include drug trafficking, gun running and prostitution and that some foreign drug cartels are attempting to turn Goa into a base for their activities. The government must scrutinise all land deals by foreigners and if there is any illegality, confiscate the property and impose punishment on the offender and his local associates, if any.

Another reason for the demand for special status is the large-scale influx of migrants into our State. Goa needs migrant labour. However, uncontrolled migration into the State can upset its demographic composition and lead to social and economic problems. There are several laws to control migration into the State but these laws are not being implemented effectively and remain largely on paper. The Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act of 1979, The Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act of 1970 and the Goa, Daman and Diu Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Rules 1982 are some such laws. The 1979 Act provides for registration of all contractors who employed five or more inter-State migrants on any day of the preceding twelve months. The contractors must furnish details of the workmen, issue a pass book with passport-size photograph to every workman indicating where he is working and other details. The State Government is required to appoint inspec-tors to oversee implementation of the Act. The law directs builders and labour contrac-tors to provide residential accommodation, sanitation and other facilities to the workers engaged by them. Yet, these provisions are ignored and much of the migrant labour lives in slums under the most unhygienic conditions which pose major health hazards to the migrants as well as to the local people. The machinery for implementation of the labour legislation needs to be strengthened urgently and it should not fall prey to inducements from big employers and contractors.

All migrant workers should be registered compulsorily in the Panchayats and Munici-palities. Aadhar cards as well as Public Distribution System (PDS) cards should be issued to them to avoid having to buy foodgrains and kerosene at high prices. The State Government should hold an yearly audit of all contractors who employ migrant workers and submit a report to the State Legislature for its scrutiny. It should also open an Internet portal indicating the contractors and migrant workers in Goa for public information and verification.

The State Government has the required powers. It should fulfil without further delay its responsibility to resolve the twin issues men-tioned in the Resolution of the Legislative Assembly and in the Memorandum to the Prime Minister.