Monday, March 1, 2010

Back to Square One

By Venita Coelho

Well, here we are back to square one. Fighting one more time to get a
Regional Plan that we are happy with. What a long journey it has been ?
all to end up in the same place all over again. Three years ago Goa
spilled out onto the roads to protest a Regional Plan that was
disastrous. So vociferous were the protests and so many were the
protestors that the Government actually cancelled the RP2012 and
promised that it would include the peoples sentiments in the next plan.
While the next plan ended up making no one entirely happy, there was a
window for villages respond to the plans and to fill in a questionnaire
asking for the development they wished for their own villages. It was
months of hard work for both the GBA and various villages. I got
laryngitis twice after explaining day after day just exactly how to
tackle the RP2012. GBA members ended up exhausted and mentally drained.
With no official training from the government, village regional
committees and concerned citizens struggled with the task set them.
Deadlines were extended time and again, but finally it was done. We
heaved a sigh of relief - too early it now turns out.

All that hard work has gone into limbo along with the Regional Plan.
There are no assurances as to when the Regional Plan will be finalized.
Neither do we know what exactly is going to be finalized in it. Will the
village plans made by the villagers hold importance or be swept aside by
the governments plans? Will what we have asked for clearly as villages
be respected? What kind of development will finally be foisted on us?
There are no answers ? and above all ? there is no Regional Plan. Like
the Holy Grail, it remains lost in the mists of government procedures.
And in the meantime, the doors have been flung open. While we wait
eternally for the RP to be finalized, permissions are being handed out
hand over fist. Amendment 16 an 16A is a nice little loop hole through
which any project can be shoved once it is branded 'government project'.
When the Pilerne Action Committee asked for details of building NOC's
handed out while we wait for the RP to finalized, the terrifying
official reply was that they were 'numerous' and details could not be
given without 'diverting the staff from day to day work'. You can
imagine the volumes of NOC's that have been handed out! While we good
citizens patiently wait for the Government to do the right thing, the
government itself is busy subverting it's own laws by using this window
to pass 'neumerous' projects ? which it refuses to inform us about.

We have been taken for a royal ride. Like children being diverted with a
lollipop we were handed the RP2021 with so called 'peoples
participation'. That participation was never quantified, nor was it made
clear whether it would be respected or included in the final plan. And,
having taken the bait, while we waited around for the RP to be
finalized, it was business as usual behind the scenes. There is no
gentler way to put it ? we have been made absolute fools of. What are
these 'neumerous' projects? What rules do they follow? Do they respect
the areas marked out in the RP2021? Under what guidelines are they being
passed? The government can't inform us ? it would take 'diverting the
staff from day to day work' to give us these answers.

In this context it comes as a relief that the GBA has decided to hand
out an ultimatum, saying it will take to the streets from March 4th if
this passing of projects is not stopped, and a date not set for the RP
to be finalized. We have done our best to co-operate with the
government. We have done our best to be good law abiding citizens and
work within the parameters the government gave us. But enough is enough.
When the government breaks it's own laws, when it creates convenient
loop holes, and when it chooses to keep citizens in the dark about it's
activities ? then that government has lost it's right to civil
obedience. It's time to take to the streets again. That seems to be the
only language this government understands. We have fought this fight
before and we will do it again. Let the government beware! This time we
are wiser. You can't fool all of the people all of the time Mr. Kamat.

Herald, Goa - February 23, 2010

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