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Mainstream, VOL LV No 23 New Delhi May 27, 2017

On the Present State Government in Goa

Saturday 27 May 2017, by Eduardo Faleiro

The present government in Goa is the most unrepresentative ever in this State and possibly in the whole country. Most Ministers in this government were elected on an anti-BJP platform and they defeated the BJP candidates. The present government is in violation of every canon of constitutional propriety. The people of Goa elected the Congress as the single largest party, crushed the outgoing government, including the Chief Minister and most of his Ministers, and brought down the BJP tally from twentysix MLAs in the last Assembly to thirteen in the present one. The Sarkaria Committee as well as the Punchhi Committee recommended that the party with the largest mandate should be invited to form the government but this was not done in Goa.

Manohar Parrikar, whilst he was the Leader of the Opposition, had initiated the demand for Special Status under Article 371 of the Constitution. He told the Legislative Assembly on several occasions that Goa’s demand for Special Status was to protect Goa’s identity and that it was not for any financial package. He further stated that the Special Status was required to protect Goa’s limited land mass and to resolve problems created by migration. He also declared in the Assembly that the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) fully supported this demand for grant of Special Status to Goa.

Prime Ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, at a large rally in Panaji in January 2014, promised Special Status to Goa under Article 371 if the BJP came to power at the Centre. He said: “I was impressed and overwhelmed that people are demanding Special Status not for money but to preserve the identity of Goa.” He said that a memorandum on Special Status was submitted to him by a delegation as he landed at the Goa airport.

Parrikar now declares that Special Status is not needed for Goa. At a press conference held last February, he stated: “The Central Govern-ment has sanctioned projects of Rupees twenty thousand crores to Goa. When so much money is coming why do you need Special Status?”

Special Status was sought for Goa 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 migration into the State which may destroy Goa’s identity.

The State Government has the required powers to resolve these two issues. Land is a State subject vide entry 18 of the State List in the Constitution of India 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. This protection may involve restrictions on purchase of agricultural land by non-agriculturists as well as restrictions on purchase of land and property by outsiders. Such legal provisions exist in several States. For instance, under the Bombay Tenancy and Agricultural Lands Act, no person can purchase agricultural land in Maharashtra if he is not an agriculturist. Similar provision also operates in Uttar Pradesh. Film star Amitabh Bachchan purchased properties in both these States. He had to surrender them as it was held that he was not an agriculturist. Such a provision should be enacted in Goa.The right to property is no longer a fundamental 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.

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, and 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 should immediately 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.

There is a genuine concern in Goa about the non-availability of housing to the sons of the soil, particularly those belonging to the lower and middle income groups. The Supreme Court has held in several cases that the State has a duty to provide adequate shelter to every citizen so that the fundamental right to life is meaningful. Several State Governments assume as their primary responsibility, the provision of affordable housing to the local people. In Rajasthan, the previous State Government had made available thousands of houses as well as plots to people belonging to different income groups. The former Chief Minister of Rajasthan, Ashok Gehlot, had proposed that the statutory right to shelter be included in the Five Year Plan. Affordable housing requires an efficient Housing Board, planning mandates, interest rate subsidies and other financial devices to make housing affordable to all.

Another reason for the demand of 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 inspectors to oversee implementation of the Act. The law directs builders and labour contractors 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.

All migrant workers should be registered compulsorily in the Panchayats and Municipalities. 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 a 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 machinery for implementation of the labour legislation needs to be strengthened urgently.

The author is a former Union Minister. He is now based in Goa.

ISSN : 0542-1462 / RNI No. : 7064/62