Last March, the Government of Goa completed three years of its rule. Yet, the assurances given at the time of the Assembly elections remain unfulfilled to this day. The ruling Party had promised special status for Goa under article 371 of the Constitution. The special status was sought on two grounds. As a result of large scale purchase of land by persons from outside this territory, the average Goan cannot afford a house or land in Goa. Furthermore, there is large scale migration into the State which may destroy Goa’s identity. Shri Manohar Parrikar as the leader of Opposition and then as Chief Minister was the moving force behind the demand for special status. At the time of the Lok Sabha elections, we were told that the BJP prime ministerial candidate was sympathetic to this demand. Did Shri Parrikar speak about it to the Prime Minister or raise this issue at the meetings of the Union Cabinet? If so, with what result? Our present Chief Minister stated sometime ago that it would be difficult to obtain special status for Goa. When and how did Shri Parsekar find this difficulty? The people of Goa have a right to know.
Most of the problems for which special status is sought can be resolved within the powers already available to the State Government. Entry 18, List II (State List) of the Seventh Schedule of the Constitution provides that “land, that is to say, rights in or over land” is a State subject and the State Legislature is competent to make laws in this regard. The State can also legislate on land vide Entry 6 of the Concurrent List. In addition, the 74th amendment to the Constitution provides that the function of “regulation of land use and construction of buildings” is one of the municipal functions. As a result of these legal provisions, a State is competent to enact laws to restrict land transactions and to protect the interests of the local people. In furtherance of these provisions, the Himachal Pradesh Tenancy and Land Reforms Act, 1972 as well as the Maharashtra Tenancy Act prohibit the sale of agricultural land to non-agriculturists. Why is a similar provision not enacted in Goa? The BJP manifesto promised “regulation of sale of agricultural land through legislation”. This commitment has been ignored by the present Government.
There is a genuine concern in Goa about non-availability of land to the sons of the soil, particularly those belonging to the lower and middle income groups. The Supreme Court has held in several cases that the State has a duty to provide adequate shelter to every citizen so that the fundamental right to life is meaningful. Affordable housing is a most important concern all across the world. Planning mandates in the United Kingdom have generated twenty to thirty percent of all affordable units built over the last decade. South Africa distributes free plots for houses to its poor income group. Singapore provides public housing for more than 80 percent of its population. Several State Governments in India assume it as their primary responsibility, the provision of affordable housing to the local people. In Rajasthan, the previous State Government had made available thousands of houses as well as plots to people belonging to different income groups. Former Chief Minister of Rajasthan, Ashok Gehlot had proposed that the statutory right to shelter be included in the Five Year Plan. Affordable housing requires an efficient Housing Board, planning mandates, interest rate subsidies and other financial devices to make housing affordable to all.
The BJP Election Manifesto had assured that rehabilitation of slum dwellers and of unplanned degraded localities would be undertaken by enacting suitable legislation. No such thing has happened. At present, 205 hutments are sought to be demolished in Baina. The slum dwellers to be displaced in Baina who are law abiding and have paid house tax, electricity and water bills for years should be rehabilitated. Vagrants, beggars and others involved in anti-social activities must be dealt with as per law.
There are several laws to control immigration into the State. These laws, however, are not implemented and remain largely on paper. The Interstate Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act of 1979, the Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act of 1970 and the Goa, Daman and Diu Inter State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Rules 1982 are some such laws. The 1979 Act provides for registration of all contractors who employed five or more interstate migrants on any day of the preceding twelve months. The contractors must furnish details of workmen, issue a pass book with passport size photograph to every workman indicating where he is working and other details. The State Government is required to appoint inspectors to oversee implementation of this Act. The law directs builders and labour contractors to provide residential accommodation, sanitation and other facilities to the workers engaged by them. Yet, these provisions are ignored and much of the migrant labour lives in slums under the most unhygienic conditions which pose major health hazards to the migrants as well as to the local people. The machinery for implementation of the Labour legislation ought to be strengthened urgently and it should not fall prey to inducements from big employers and contractors.
All migrant workers should be registered in the Panchayats and Municipalities compulsorily. Aadhar identity cards should also be compulsory for them. The State Government should hold a yearly audit of all contractors who employ migrant workers and submit a report to the State Legislature for its scrutiny. Government should also open an Internet portal indicating the contractors and migrant workers in Goa for public information and verification.
Former Chief Minister Parrikar had assured that off shore casinos would be moved out of the Mandovi River. However, further and bigger casino boats have been parked in the Mandovi River recently and some more are expected to be stationed there. The present Chief Minister asserts that shifting the casinos would affect investment into Goa. What type of investment would be affected? Shri Parrikar had assured that Goans would not be permitted entry into casinos. This has not happened. Casinos continue to receive Goans who gamble in their premises.
The number of tourists visiting our State has declined sharply. As per the annual report of the Union Ministry of Tourism, Goa accounts for less than 10 percent of the foreign tourist traffic into the country. On the other hand, some of the most powerful drug cartels and mafia from the entire world operate in this territory. Goa has turned into an international drug destination. The drug trade has now spread from the costal belt to the hinterland. A crucial priority of the local administration should be the elimination of drugs and narcotics from this State.
(The writer is a former Union Minister)