Thursday 01 June 2023

News Analysed, Opinions Expressed

Special Status for Goa - A far Cry


To my mind, the demand to ban sale of property for residence and settlement is almost impossible in view of constitutional guarantee of residence and settlement. It has to be noted that the demand requires a change to the fundamental rights, something that is guaranteed to all the citizens of the country.

Despite our State given a direction as a sea side holiday destination and Goa being a great place for people from all over the globe, there is large scale migration, particularly from the upper middle classes from the Coastal areas to countries like Australia, New Zealand, Canada etc. But the sea side holiday destination has created a problem which we are unable to deal with.

The holiday destination direction have made Goa a haven for a second home (holiday homes) for the rich of North India leading to a high demand for housing. The development activity that started after liberation has also led to large scale influx of lower middle class/labour class into our state due to labour opportunities and small traders, particularly at the lower level.

The net result is we feel that our state is getting overwhelmed. The areas of concern are:
(i)    employment where there is a decreasing employment opportunities with increasing number of qualified people both from inside and those entering the state.  
(ii)    politically it is felt that locals are losing their dominance in electoral politics due to the two-way migration referred to hereinabove.
(iii)    in the area of real estate, demand for housing has led to large construction activity.

The second-home syndrome has led to a huge demand for housing, particularly in the costal belt. This has led to a demand for special status for our State and the special status is not a demand for economic package but basically a demand for non application of central laws for our state in general and a ban of sale of property to those not domiciled in Goa.

It is felt that the villages are losing its character due to huge housing complexes and entry of persons who buy residences in the villages. That is the reason why the demand for special status is made.

The demand has its basis in an argument that being small and already overwhelmed, we need protection and our land/our property cannot be permitted to be sold to those who are not domiciled in Goa. That the landlords sell the property as a part of best bargain for them and since market forces operate, the landlords in Goa obtain the best bargain for their land. It is felt imperative that the trend has to halted by barring sale to those who are not domiciled.

Demand for special status is normally made on the economic ground. But here in Goa, our demand for special status is for barring sale of property to those not domiciled. Can such a demand be met in the teeth of some provisions of the constitution which are of fundamental nature?

Article 19(e) (freedom to reside and settle) of the constitution in the chapter of fundamental rights and removes all internal barriers between India or between any of its parts. It will have to be kept in mind that the provisions of residence and settlement are almost universal in all the countries, including countries like Sri-Lanka and Pakistan. When it comes to residence and settlement, it shall not be possible to discriminate against the persons in matter of civic amenities and the right to reside and settle in any part of the country.

However, certain discrimination in areas of admission to educational institutions on the grounds of domicile to a limited extent is permissible. Restriction on residence and settlement is not possible unless restrictions are imposed on the grounds of ‘public health', ‘public order' and ‘in the interest of scheduled tribes'.
If we examine restrictions based on the ground of public health, it can be noticed that restrictions are brought in "red light areas" and on the ground of public order, criminal elements are prohibited from residing in certain areas.

The area, based on which various states particularly the states from North East, have imposed restrictions in the interest of schedule tribes. Restriction can be brought in the interest of scheduled tribes. Scheduled tribes are considered backward and unsophisticated class, who due their backwardness are exploited by various persons taking advantage of their plight and depriving them of their lands.

Tribal areas need protection of laws. Tribals are gullible people, who fall prey to unscrupulous elements due to their innocence, poverty and backwardness. Hence constitution and the laws treat tribals and tribal areas separately, who need to be taken care of. It is in this context that laws are made to prevent other citizens in settling in tribal areas and/or buying land in tribal areas.

There is no other restriction that could be brought about within the existing provisions of article 19(e) and 19(5). There is a general grievance that we are getting overwhelmed. The sale of property by landlords is a part of best bargain for them in the present situation. The sale of land and houses is seen as creating a problem to the traditional village characteristics and the demand for special status is to halt the trend.

To my mind, the demand to ban sale of property for residence and settlement is almost impossible in view of constitutional guarantee of residence and settlement. It has to be noted that the demand requires a change to the fundamental rights, something that is guaranteed to all the citizens of the country. That we are getting overwhelmed shall not fit in the present scheme of settlement and residence. It makes no sense chasing the unachievable. Solution has to be found within the existing framework of law, land laws and planning laws.   

Some states, it appears, have brought in legislation to impose restriction on sale of agricultural land to persons other than agriculturists. Such provisions exist in Karnataka, Maharashtra etc. Those restrictions are in furtherance of agricultural operations.

Here in Goa, there is a different situation altogether. Despite the agricultural Tenancy Act and the legal fiction of deemed owner, agricultural lands are not cultivated, particularly in coastal areas. The fall in agricultural production and the fields lying fallow is alarming and ought to be taken up with the seriousness it deserves. The natural resources of land have to be put to better productivity.

Steps will have to been taken by legislature to increase agricultural production and areas like contract framing etc. may have to be permitted to give a boost to agricultural production. An embargo on persons other than those of Goan origin entering into contracts may not help that process. In any case, it is nobody's case that agricultural land is exploited by persons from outside Goa. Nobody comes to Goa to exploit our agricultural land for agricultural purpose. Hence ban on sale of agricultural land shall serve no purpose. It may only help the ruling establishment to score brownine points and we may feel that government has responded to the demand. But that shall not help the cause for which the special status is sought. Agricultural land may be brought with ulterior motive. To my mind, ban on sale of agricultural land shall not help the cause for which the demand for special status is made.

A developing economy and/or a developing state shall have to deal with certain demands not to our liking. But that has to be tackled by law and law alone. To what extent land would be used for housing commercial and industrial activity ought to be on the basis of the requirement of the developing state. Once the embargo on use of land for the purposes other than agriculture is made loud and clear and the eco sensitive zones which cannot be touched under any circumstances are marked out, a big solution could be seen to the problem. There is no doubt that the solution shall have its own problems.

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

Cleofatbab, i like your approach to the issue. Goa's unique way of life is already on its way out. I take your point about the difficulty of changing the constitution, but it also needs to be remembered that a culture can be easily overwhelmed (in most cases by other cultures dominant for whatever reasons) but cannot be resurrected on a whim. And is there any provision in the constitution on a right to identity and culture? If getting changes in the constitution is so difficult, it is saddens me as neither do we have the time nor the appropriate leadership, to tackle the various new strains India will go through in the coming decades. The gestures made in the constitution and law towards upholding adivasi rights has not worked in my opinion; how else does one explain naxalism?

Jimmy Devasia |

In the U.S. they say they have dual ciizenship like Federal and State whereas the Indian Constitution guarantees fundamentai right to settle anywhere.

If the latter is so it would rock the boat if most would opt to come here. Already we have burden or health care education system and jobs. What can we do?

Paganini Fernandes |

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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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