Thursday 01 June 2023

News Analysed, Opinions Expressed

Set up NIT at Bainguinim


There lies the scam... Though there is a move to drop Bainguinim as a garbage disposal site, the silence from every quarter is deafening. There are no murmurs from any NGO. The opposition parties are quiet.

The Goa government is on a hunt for land for the National Institute of Technology (NIT), recently sanctioned by the Central government. It is only coincidental that the National Institute of Technology would be functioning under the AICTE, which functions under the Union Ministry of Human Resources. Locally, the Directorate of Higher Education would be dealing with the matter.

Why search for land when land at Bainguinim is available to the government? The City Corporation of Panjim is almost on the verge of rejecting the land in its possession. It has been acquired with all objections rejected by the seal of approval put by the Hon'ble High Court of Bombay at Goa, by a judgement passed on 15th January 2010.

It is coincidental because locally the Directorate of Higher Education comes under the education minister and the City Corporation of Panjim functions under his tutelage.

Acquisition of land is ‘right of eminent domain.' It is the right of the state over any part of land and the state may acquire land on account of public exigency and public good even without the owner's consent but by paying just compensation. That power is the attribute of sovereignty of every state and authority. The power is not to be used recklessly, but for public good and in public interest.

For sometime now, the Land Acquisition Act, which is enacted in pursuance of that power of eminent domain, has been misused for personal gains. Of late, the acquisition process has come under severe criticism due to land being acquired and handed over to the Industry, for setting up Special Economic Zones and for making land available for Mining Companies in a big way.

This has made people rise up against the excessive misuse of land acquisition power. In Goa, Land Acquisition Act has been also used as a instrument of oppression to acquire land of owners opposed to persons in power and/or to force the owners land to sell at a throw away price so that powerful persons could act as land dealers and agents of Real Estate Developers.

Land Acquisition Act has been used to oppress opponents because the courts are very slow in questioning the governments over the use of the power to acquire land, which the courts have rightly stated to be the domain of the government.

The land acquisition of Bainguinium is a strange case. There was opposition from the church, local MLA, heritage groups etc. to the acquisition of land for setting up of garbage disposal site at Bainguinim. The government, after being unable to choose a site for decades, zeroed on Bainguinim. It stated that it was the best available site to treat the garbage generated in the city of Panjim.

Despite opposition from various quarters, the government acquired the land and handed over the same to the City Corporation of Panjim. After the acquisition, a number of petitions came to be filed before the Hon'ble High Court of Bombay at Goa, taking various contentions on behalf of those whose land was acquired. The State of Goa took a bold stand despite political opposition and succeeded in the challenge posed by the petitioners. The Goa State Pollution Control Board as well as the Directorate of Archives and Archaeology have given its approval. According to the government, the land is far away from historical, cultural, religious monuments, churches etc. and that there is absolutely no violation of rules.

After lengthy hearings spread over number of days, the Hon'ble High Court dismissed the petitions finding no merit in the challenge posed by the landowners. After the success before the Hon'ble High Court and after the land finally vesting in the government, moves are made to cancel the garbage site at Bainguinim.

One gets an impression that the acquisition of land, despite opposition from the people, local representatives, church etc. was made with a sole purpose of economic bargain. The acquired land and the surrounding land, if acquisitions stand, would certainly loose its market value from the already skyrocketed price to rock bottom level. In case the acquisition is withdrawn and by some ingenious method land is handed over to the owners on the spacious ground that the land is no longer acquired for setting up the garbage disposal site, the price of the land shoots up to  unimaginable heights.

There lies the scam. The booty would be shared !!!

Taking into consideration land is a scare commodity in this tiny state, which is world tourists' destination, the serious debate in a state is over land and development and the scandals around the same. In case of Bainguinim, if the garbage disposal site is cancelled, the State of Goa would be the biggest loser and the Real Estate agents would be the biggest winners. There can be no doubt that people facilitating the same would be ultimate beneficiaries.  

Though there is a move to drop Bainguinim as a garbage disposal site, the silence from every quarter is deafening. There are no murmurs from any NGO. The opposition parties are quiet. It appears the move to cancel the landfill-cum-waste management site is only in pursuance of well-orchestrated move. It appears the land acquisition has again being used as an instrument of personal economic bargain.

The power that be has still an opportunity to acquit itself of the charge of using the land acquisition Act for personal bargain. Now that the land vests in the State, the land acquired for one purpose use can always be utilized for another purpose.

The Goa government is on a hunt for the land to set up the National Institute of Technology. Bainguinim, being centrally located place, is only just proper and imperative. In case the garbage disposal site is not set up, then the land should be handed over for setting up the NIT. All objections raised by all quarters including the church shall pale into insignificance since the land would be used for a high objective. No doubt the landowners shall loose. In case Bainguinim does not play host to NIT, some other landowners shall be the losers.

In any case, NIT has to be set up and land is required. Why not use what is available and at least show that the land acquisition has been used for a proper purpose?

Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author's own.

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Cleofato A Coutinho

Cleofato Almeida Coutinho is a senior lawyer and one of the constitutional expert in Goa. A member of Law Commission of Goa, he also teaches at Kare College of Law in Madgao.


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