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The Konkan Packaging Company of Goa

The state government in Goa reacts to popular anger by scrapping special economic zones. This could signal a renewal, but only if the administration and the citizens' groups link continuing human development deficiencies with the new problem areas.


The Konkan Packaging Company of Goa

Rahul Goswami

coastal talukas. An important difference between these and Goa’s seven other talukas is their rate of population growth: Mormugao taluka records a 1.81 per cent average per year growth rate for the decade 2001-11, Bardez 1.85 per cent, Salcete 1.76 per cent and Tiswadi 0.89 per cent.

The state government in Goa reacts to popular anger by scrapping special economic zones. This could signal a renewal, but only if the administration and the citizens’ groups link continuing human development deficiencies with the new problem areas.

Rahul Goswami ( is a journalist based in Goa.

oa’s government tactically reacted to a diverse set of citizens’ groups and issue-based campaigns when it announced the scrapping of special economic zones (SEZs) in the state. It would be a mistake to treat this as a tangible or moral victory for the new crop of public movements in Goa. This is because the state’s political set – whether incumbents in the current legislative assembly or on its immediate periphery – have often retreated strategically to pursue longterm objectives.

The voluntary sector in Goa can count notable successes, and amongst them the ouster of the real estate-driven state development plan (the Regional Plan 2011, withdrawn in February 2007) ranks very high. The same sector, however, has been hampered by a shortage of people and methodological resources, and by a debilitating inability to collaborate on shared concerns. In late 2006, as part of the campaign against a motivated development plan, there was an urgent need for a systematic education of inner Goa – less urbanised Goa in its ‘ghat’ and midland ‘talukas’ – about the economic future facing the state. Support flowing in for the various local and statewide campaigns showed that alongside the success at mobilising citizens to oppose the Regional Plan 2011, there was a need to publicly examine remedies that Goa’s residents could apply to safeguard livelihoods that do not endanger its distinctive cultural ecologies. Neither of these actions has taken place and therein lies a major failing of Goa’s new agitationist fronts.

No doubt they have felt themselves outflanked by social and political developments in recent years. The record of Goa’s 40-member state assembly is one of extreme instability, a characteristic that is fuelled by the real estate and property-led interest in Goa and particularly, in its State government data now provides

evidence that the government of Goa

during the regime of Pratapsingh Rane,

the chief minister of the former Congress

government, recklessly sanctioned new

building works all over the state – in urban

and rural Goa – paying no attention to

how panchayat areas, towns and talukas

could support the additional populations

and their demand for resources and


In 2005-06 alone, Goa’s authorities

sanctioned plans to develop 1.3 million

square metres of land in Goa’s urban areas.

An informed estimate in the state, given

the blatant disregard for and manipula

tion of floor area ratio (FAR), and using a

conservative property market rate of

mid-2007, is that this bloc of new develop

ment represents new marketable value of

over Rs 4,500 crore. For the two districts

that is Goa, this not a small sum of money.

It is equivalent to just over 40 per cent of

the gross state domestic product for

2005-06, and is almost 13 times the total

fixed investment made in Goa’s 7,095

small scale industries which together

employ 50,000 people.

Public Response

For the new public campaigns struggling to address these dimensions, responding to the rash of proposals for SEZs became a burden. In 2006, an early response to the state’s SEZ policy saw the formation of SEZ watch, an informal grouping of concerned activists and citizens. The year before the Council for Social Justice and Peace, which is a social outreach cell of the church in Goa, held a seminar on the subject in Goa as a first exploration of the issue. In 2007, the People’s Movement Against SEZ (PMAS) was formed as the first village-level opposition to SEZs, with its initial leadership coming from rural Goa, from zones under the threat of industrial expansion like Verna (the site of Goa’s

february 9, 2008

Economic & Political Weekly


biggest industrial estate) and Canaguinim in Quepem taluka. By early 2007, Matanhy Saldanha, a member of the legislative assembly (MLA) whose early background includes agitating for the rights of traditional fisherfolk, took an interest in the issue and the PMAS.

During the October 31, 2007 by-election to the South Goa Lok Sabha seat, Saldanha, who was also a minister in the erstwhile Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government, pushed the issue into prominence for the party at the state level. By that time the PMAS had split, with a faction becoming the People’s Committee Against SEZ (PCAS). This faction focused on local needs in Quepem taluka’s Quitol region while apparently aligning with the state BJP on the issue and therefore, the Goa Movement Against SEZ (GMAS), which is now led by Saldanha and has posed as a popular rival to the SEZ Virodhi Manch. The BJP in the state meanwhile sought to co-opt a potential younger audience by absorbing Youth For Goa, a young people’s association that has attempted one public march in Panaji. Today, the most active statewide front remains the SEZ Virodhi Manch, a federation of village-level movements including the Kerim Nagrik Samitee, PMAS, and the Sancoale Action Committee. It is supported by the Council for Social Justice and Peace, the Goa Bachao Abhiyan (whose efforts overturned the Regional Plan 2011) and issue-based advocacy groups like Jagrut Goem and Lok Shakti.

Political Involvement

Such a mosaic of local, people’s and issuebased responses has not been free of political bias. Most famously, early in the career of the Goa Bachao Abhiyan, its programmatic ideas were sought to be traded into political mileage via the formation of the Save Goa Front party, promoted by MLA Churchill Alemao (a former Lok Sabha member of parliament (MP) and an ex-chief minister). For the June 2, 2007 assembly polls, the Save Goa Front fielded 18 candidates and won two seats by defeating strong Congress candidates in the Navelim and Curtorim constituencies. Thereafter, the Front was quick to extend support to the new Digambar Kamat-led government, which was later withdrawn in favour of a short-lived Goa Democratic

Economic & Political Weekly

february 9, 2008

Alliance, and extended again. Meanwhile, two Front members quit to join the BJP, which has attempted to exploit the public resentment against SEZs and large-scale property development through various means. GMAS rallies in Goa have been supported by not only the north Goa BJP MP but also the Shiv Sena, fringe political groups (such as Goa Su-Raj Party), and issue-based campaigns (such as Utt Goemkara and the Mhadei Bachao Andolan). Expedient political posturing is a common element in most of the new agitationist movements, with even the more ideologically coherent Goa Bachao Abhiyan being affected.

While the long-term trends in Goa were spotted early by property developers, the governance of Goa was abandoned to fate and democracy in the state has thrown up a new class of political entrepreneurs for whom rent-taking now includes many more activities than it did only 10 years ago. This expansion blurred all visible state level distinctions between the two main national parties here – the Congress and BJP – and between national and regional political groupings, such as the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party and the United Goan Democratic Party. None of these, neither national nor local, have ever placed on their manifestos or mission statements for the state the need for assessing Goa’s pseudo-random mode of economic development, nor even evaluating the human development needs of a state all of 11 talukas large.

An early architect of today’s rent-taking is Ravi Naik, the MLA from the constituency of Ponda, and chief minister from 1991 to 1993. Naik is widely seen as the politician responsible for encouraging a reckless spate of land conversions in the early 1990s, which gave rise to the first wave of “real estate developers”, as anyone with access to a couple of acres and a building contractor styled himself.

He has long since been outdone by his peers in the state assembly. Vishwajit Rane, an independent MLA and son of former chief minister Pratapsingh Rane, has been reported as ‘benami’ registering 14 real estate companies through 2006 (concurrent with the releases of the draft and final Goa Regional Plan 2011). The former education minister Luizinho Faleiro, a veteran of several governments, has been reported as owning (with his son) 16 hectares of coastal land surrounded by salt pans and mangroves, all of which has been “converted” to settlement zoning nonetheless.

Wilfred D’Souza (a former chief minister, deputy chief minister and now deputy chairman of the state planning board) and Churchill Alemao are reported to have together acquired – through family members – 100 hectares in south Goa for a luxury resort and villa township promoted by the Britain-based Clairmont group. Atanasio Monserrate, Dayanand Narvekar and Aleixo Sequeira complete the set of such MLAs. Monserrate was the minister for town and country planning when his department commissioned the Goa Regional Plan 2011, Narvekar has championed the cause of promoting infotech parks in Goa (to be operated as SEZs) through the Infotech Corporation of Goa (one such site has been the venue of a struggle between three village communities and the Corporation for the last two years); and Sequeira stands accused by village-based activist groups around Verna for having orchestrated illegal land sales for the SEZ there. This however is only a list of the most blatant.

Who Is Affected?

The common response to such grand plunder has been to find an outlet for the widespread frustration. Thus in 2006, the most visible trespassers were singled out for censure: foreigners who had purchased homes and plots in Goa, some of whom have made their residences here for 10 years and more. The question of foreigners owning Goan land briefly became a cause célèbre in Goa’s state assembly in 2007, with some MLAs asking for the provisions of article 370 of the Constitution to be applied in Goa.

No doubt a collection of historical and cultural curiosities have shaped popular

available at


208, West High Court Road, Dharampeth, Nagpur 440 010, Maharashtra.


ideas of Goa, and one of the dominant ideas currently is that of Goa being easily consumable. What is to blame? Certainly some of the factors include the air travel boom in India (Goa’s Dabolim airport is amongst the 10 busiest in the country) which has helped turn Goa into a weekend agenda for part-time residents and annual holidaymakers. A disturbing under current that has accompanied the entry of new metropolitan money into the Goan landscape has been the identification and vilification of the “outsider”, the non-Goan, as a source of Goa’s new woes.

In the last year, this has emerged as ugly targeting of the most vulnerable segment of such “outsiders”: unskilled labour migrants from neighbouring Karnataka who often find work on construction sites. The panchayat area of Sancoale in the Mormugao taluka is the site for one of the bio-technology SEZs planned in Goa. Its ethnic Goan residents are reported to be concerned by the influx of non-Goan migrants, who have moved into panchayat positions while responding to the jobs available in small-scale industries ancillary to the minor ship repair yards there. In its attempt to report on the growing economic tensions, the daily O Heraldo encouraged the same undercurrent in a December 7, 2007 report, “Apart from the menace of the migrants, the villagers are also under tremendous stress on the garbage, power and water front”.

Declining ‘Comunidades’

Such responses are out of place for Goa. Sustainability has been the touchstone of the Goan approach to living systems for as long as its histories record. Through the rhythms of empires and dynasties ranging from the Kadamb and Vijayanagar to the Bahmani and Portuguese, Goa’s most enduring socio-economic institution – the “comunidades” or “gaunkari”, village governing systems – have survived and prospered. Their coda were first compiled in 1526 but today the 223 comunidades of Goa are moribund at best, and the comunidade of Sancoale was one of Goa’s largest. Most are financially bankrupt; indeed they have been propelled into penury. Those which continue to survive are being systematically weakened by the state, and then raided for their lands, on which industrial estates have been built and on which infotech parks, food parks and similar economic enclaves are planned. Yet once upon a time, the comunidade was supreme, sovereign and self-sustaining. The cynical dismantling of the comunidades has been one of Goa’s unseen tragedies, for it signals the almost complete divorce of a society from its socio-agro-economic fundamentals.

Thus, the proposed entry of an exclusive economic zone in Goa is an adjunct to the carving out of the Goan landscape that has been prosecuted in the guise of luxury tourism, of mass (charter) tourism enclaves, and of property development. The mechanics for turning Goa into a consumable were assembled in the 1990s and today its 11 small talukas are being parcelled out between food parks, old and new mining leases, large hoteliers and a host of unregulated small ones, four-lane highways, retail malls, casinos, enormous luxury villa estates, just as enormous semidetached and row-house gated communities, Goan mining companies that have diversified into real estate and land sharks from New Delhi and Mumbai.

Wherever necessary, the law has been adjusted to encourage the consumption of this landscape. Take Goa’s wildlife sanctuaries. When the union ministry of environment asked the government of Goa to demarcate ecologically sensitive areas on the boundaries of the four principal sanctuaries (Mollem, Cotigao, Madei, Netravalli) as buffer zones, the response of the state government committee was that such buffer zones are unnecessary and that all activities (including open cast iron ore mining) are permissible up to the boundaries of these sanctuaries. It then did away its own recommended threekilometre buffer zone.

Where there is protection, it has been bypassed. The Goa Panchayat Raj Act was enacted in 1993 and the Goa Municipalities Act, 1968, was amended, to ensure that the local bodies were empowered to do their own planning using the provisions of the 73rd and 74th Constitutional Amendments of 1992. Goa’s vintage Town and Country Planning Act of 1974, therefore, found its legal sanction vastly reduced, since planning for areas under panchayat jurisdiction or within the jurisdiction of Goa’s 14 municipal councils or corporations had been removed from its remit. Yet, the Goa government continues to treat planning as a government prerogative, and has constituted a task force for a proposed Regional Plan 2021 which purports to be independent and consultative.

Concluding Remarks

At this stage, neither the state government nor the public movements have displayed competence in linking continuing human development deficiencies with new problem areas. For the Goa government, industrial growth is not cross-referenced with the creation of educational streams consistent with Goa’s long-term social needs. Tourism continues to evolve piecemeal, under political patronage and out of phase with infrastructural availability. Key cross-sectoral themes – natural resource management, energy conservation and renewables, integrated transportation systems and the encouragement of local economies – are missing on both sides. For the government, political survival is its primary excuse, and the latest January 2008 crisis engulfing the Congress-led government was settled with chief minister Digambar Kamat making some changes in his cabinet to accommodate his allies. Goa’s voluntary groups and people’s movements, however, can afford no such excuses.

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Economic & Political Weekly

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