Friday, October 8, 2010

Goa Monuments in grave danger with new Act -Interview with Prajal Sakhardande (Target Goa) An appeal to Goa Government‏

Governor of Goa -Dr. S.S. Sidhu

Chief Minister of Goa - Digamabar Kamat

Opposition Leader Mr Manohar Parrikar

Mr Narendra Kumar - Secretary to Governor of Goa

Dear Sirs,

We as concerned Goans have a responsibility to highlight to you, our serious concerns, shock, dismay and protest at the highhanded manner that our rich ancient and priceless heritage is being put at great risk and immeasurable damage by the actions of the Government of Goa in making amendments to the original and perfectly comprehensive Goa Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1978, obviously with a vested interest and hidden agenda that is obvious to all.

While our concerns raised to you tend to be consistently ignored, we demand that you take cognizance of our wishes and aspirations. To that effect we stand behind Prajal Sakhardande's demands in this article from Target Goa that is appended for your reference. I also am attaching the news-report from the Times of India for your reference.

Unfortunately the well-being and interests of Goa and Goans are being sacrificed by the governmenmt of Goa to promote it's hidden agenda and vested interests, whether it be in the failure to of the Government to implement a Regional Plan per the demands of the people, protection of our Goan lands, environment, villages, pandering to the wishes of the Hotel Industry, Real Estate, Casinos, Mining Lobbies and now by this latest attempt to even destroy our rich heritage. Unfortunately "the Golden Hand" that our dear Chief Minister alludes to in his Third Year Anniversary self-congratulatory message makes a mockery of the common man and woman in Goa, by the very anti-people stand that the Government of Goa has adopted in all it's wheelings and dealings against the wishes of the people.

We are shocked how the interests of Goa and Goans continues to be crushed and how the Government of Goa seems to be doing it's utmost best in destroying our rich legacy, heritage and priceless monuments.

To that effect we strongly urge you to immediately respond to the communication that has been send by our Heritage Activists namely to you the the Governor, to the Chief Minister, to INTACH and to to every concerned authority. We are shocked that none of you have chosen to reply.

The people of Goa also ask that you de-notify this Act immediately and restore the status-quo failing which we endorse the decision oto file a PIL with the High Court.

Likewise may I request all concerned Goans to voice their opinions irrespective whether the addressed parties above chose to respond to you or not as from one's previous experience as well as that of Prajal Sakhardande's their intentional silence does tend to be deafening. Please share this message with all concerned Goans.

Roger D’Souza


Goa Monuments in grave danger with new Act (From Target Goa)

Prajal Sakhardande is worried that the amended Monuments Act gifts Goa’s monuments to any developer to re-erect or re-construct and no one can approach the courts to stop this robbery of our heritage

What are the amendments that have shocked heritage lovers all over Goa?

Our basic objection is why was the need for the Government of Goa to make any amendments to the original and perfectly comprehensive Goa Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains Act, 1978. That was a good Act where the government was merely the caretaker of the monuments of Goa which belong to the people of Goa. The monuments were to be looked after, i.e. maintained, preserved and conserved by the Archaeological Department in a caretaker capacity. In the new Amendment to the 1978 Act which has been called The Goa Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (Amendment) Act, 2010 the “maintenance” clause has been substituted to include “re-construction” and “re-erection” of the monument. It is also in force retrospectively from March 1, 2007. This means that the monuments – forts, churches, chapels, temples can be pulled down and rebuilt.

What are you specifically objecting to?

This Act is highly unconstitutional. It was made into an Act when the Bill was signed by the Governor of Goa Dr S S Sidhu. We object to a number of clauses in the Act; especially the one which says the Government of Goa can invite any other agency or private party to take over the monument. The private party, let’s say a hotel developer from Delhi or Dubai, or Mumbai, can re-construct or re-erect a monument and turn it into a hotel. It could be a Delhi hotel developer.

But surely you or I can approach the courts to stop the gifting away of our heritage?

You and I or any member of the public will not be able to go to court. This is by far the worst clause which says that the courts cannot take cognizance of any case filed by a member of the public. A suit or application can only be filed by the government or after getting permission of the government. And the Governor of Goa S S Sidhu gave his assent to the Bill seeking to amend the Act of 1978. That is why we have written him a letter expressing our fears and protest, but he has not chosen to reply yet.

Have you made your objections known to other authorities?

We have written to the Governor, to the Chief Minister, to INTACH to every concerned authority, but we have not received a single reply. We have to stop this Act. As a last, a very last resort, we will file a PIL in the High Court. We will give them some more time to reply to us. If they do not then we have to do something about it. This is our heritage they are playing with. This belongs to us and to the generations to come.

Can heritage activists work with the Church to get this Act revoked or restored to what it was in 1978?

Yes we can, because there are many churches and chapels in the list of 51 protected monuments.

What is the significance of the clause “in retrospect from March 1, 2007”?

If a letter of intent was issued to a developer on March 1, 2007, allowing him to re-erect or re-construct a fort, then he can take over the fort today and do pretty much as he pleases. We cannot stop him, because the Act forbids the courts from taking cognizance of any cases filed by the public. Our monuments which bind us to our past will be gone forever from our possession.

There are those who would say, so what, let the monuments be used commercially, at least the government will earn some money from them. Would they be wrong?

Yes, they would be wrong. Take a quiet village. The fort will be turned into a five star luxury resort. What is going to happen? Shops will come up, taxis, rickshaws, motorbikes, housing will be built for the staff of the hotel and all the ancillary industries. The poor will string up hutments in the fields and every vacant piece of land. Water and electricity will be diverted to the newcomers. The demography of the village will change with the number of outsiders pouring in. No sewerage, no waste management. Is that what we want? The villages of Goa will have to decide. And they will have to decide soon.

Can you name some of the monuments and the villages they lie in?

1. The Church & Convent of St Francis Xavier, Old Goa

2. Our Lady of the Mount, Old Goa

3. Santa Monica Convent Chapel of the Growing Cross, Old Goa

4. College of St Populo, Old Goa

5. Church of St Peter, Old Goa

6. Gunpowder Factory wall, Ribandar

7. Casa do Polvora, Panvelim

8. Chapel of St Jeronimo, Chorao

9. British Cemetery at Donapaula

10. Franciscan Church of Reis Magos which was the first church in Bardez.

11. Juvem Fort at St Estevam

12. Chapora Fort

13. Temple of Saptakoteshwar, at Narve.

14. Khorjuvem Fort is in immediate danger of being taken over.

15. Cudnem Jain Temple

16. Namazgah at Bicholim

17. Adilshahi Masjid at Surlapar

18. Alorna Fort

19. Shigao Cave

20. Cabo de Rama, Canacona

21. Gate of Rachol Fortress

22. Mormugao Fort

23. Agapur Madhavdev temple

24. Kundaim Cave

25. Khandepar Cave

26. Rivona Buddhist cave

27. Aquem Cave

28. Mahalsa Tank

29. Chandreshwar Temple Paroda

30. Pansaimal rock art

31. Kajzur rock art

32. Consua math

33. Vichundrem Naryandev temple near Rivona

34. Nagueshi temple

35. Kamakshi temple

36. Jain Bhakti temple Bandode

37. Ancient Site of Shantadurga temple at Kelshi

38. Ancient site of Ramnath Temple at Loutolim

39. Ishwar Bhat at Khandepar

40. Saptakoteshwar temple at Opa Khandepar

41. Tiracol Fort which has already been damaged by a hotelier

42. Our Lady of Saude, Sancoale


New heritage Act is threat to protected Goan monuments - Times of India

TNN, Sep 29, 2010, 03.00am IST

PANAJI: All 51 state-protected monuments are under threat from a new Act passed by the Goa government, heritage lovers have alleged. They pointed out to clauses in the Act for reconstruction of heritage assets which, they warned, may be misused to alter the character of the assets and hand them over to private parties.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, members of the Goa Heritage Action Group (GHAG) raised apprehensions about loopholes in the Goa Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Sites and Remains (amendment) Bill, 2010. The legislation, which was recently passed in the state legislative assembly, seeks to empower the government to carry out re-erection and reconstruction. It also authorizes the government and permits "any other agency" to put any protected monument to re-adaptive use, members pointed out.

"All 51 monuments under the state archives and archaeology department are vulnerable," Poonam Varma-Mascarenhas, a conservation architect and GHAG member, said. She added that the clause about reconstruction may be misinterpreted to alter the character and aesthetics of monuments.

"Reconstruction is carried out in extreme cases of full decay as a last resort. It is the last of the seven degrees of intervention," Varma-Mascarenhas explained. Pointing out that re-erection and reconstruction are broad terms and have been misused in the past to alter the nature of monuments, she added, "The international charters for conservation of historic buildings decree that minimum effective action is always the best."

GHAG executive member Prajal Sakhardande agreed. Pointing out that the Mahadev temple of Curdi had been transplanted stone-by-stone from a site under submergence in the Selaulim dam area to a safer place, he said, "They did not alter a single stone during the process."

Varma-Mascarenhas said reconstruction can be carried out as part of policy in the original Act itself without an amendment. "But an exercise evaluating the historical, architectural, social and cultural values of the monument, to assess the degree of intervention required, is essential," she stressed.

Opposing the handover of monuments to private parties, the heritage lovers said the government's approach to conservation and exclusion of people in these matters increased possibilities of the Act being misused. The fact that Cabo de Rama fort had been omitted from the TCP list and re-included after protests raises suspicions, they added. "The monuments belong to the people and are entrusted to the government, which is considered the caretaker, in good faith," Varma-Mascarenhas said.

GHAG secretary Jack Sukhijia called the implementation of the Act, which was passed during the assembly's monsoon session with retrospective effect from March 2007, as "unconstitutional". "The clause barring courts from taking cognizance of an offence punishable under this Act is objectionable," Sukhijia said.

Sakhardande said GHAG has written to the governor raising apprehensions that the amendment may lead to the destruction of priceless history and heritage. "We are also trying to create awareness and have sought legal opinion. We may file a public interest litigation," he said. He alleged that the disappearance of the 13th century hero stone (Virgal) from Nagvem in Sattari may be part of an antique smuggling racket.

GHAG, which was formed on September 30, 2000, will, meanwhile, observe its tenth anniversary on October 2, with a cultural programme in Panaji, members said.

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