Minister for Town and Country Planning Vishwajit Rane's reshuffle of PDA areas, including major decisions of scrapping the Greater Panaji PDA and removing Arpora, Nagoa, and Parra from the North Goa PDA, has nothing to do with anti-PDA sentiments of people in these expressed around five years ago. The resizing of PDAs is a clear move to fulfil political obligations and also tighten a grip over political opponents.
By scrapping the Greater Panaji PDA, a planning body which was carved out to keep political commitments to Atanasio Monserrate during the regime of Manohar Parrikar in 2018 after he switched over to the BJP, and bringing the planning areas of Panaji, Taleigao and Bambolim under the NGPDA, Rane has only empowered Jennifer who is now heading the planning body.
The PDAs hold the prime responsibility of planning and development of a particular area but have been mainly used by successive governments to leverage political obligations. Leave alone the creation of an entirely new PDA in the form of GPPDA, areas have been included or excluded only for political considerations. If we may recall, the creation of Greater Panaji PDA or the inclusion of Arpora, Nagoa and Parra in PDA faced stiff opposition from people leading to protests. The government persisted and went ahead despite the odds because it had commitments to meet.
With the recent move, Jennifer Monserrate now has complete control of planning in the areas of Panaji, Taleigao, Calangute, Candolim, Mapusa and Bambolim. By taking away Arpora, Nagoa and Parra out of the PDA, Rane has only tightened his grip over his political opponent.
The decision to develop the Kadamba plateau area as a township is welcome, but the move to junk the 6,000 land-use zone changes under section 16-B of the TCP, and give validity to 1,200 that have already got provisional approvals is surprising. Against the backdrop of the TCP minister going in freeze-and-review mode, giving an okay to the 1,200 approvals pending court clearance is suspicious. Rane had no compulsion here, and either way, was not bound to take such a decision citing it as sub judice.
Ironically, Michael Lobo appears to be unperturbed by the development and claims hills converted in Parra, Nagoa and Arpora needed to be reverted. Indirectly, Lobo has admitted his failure since he was the head of the NGPDA after having forced his way through to include these three areas under the purview of NGPDA. Contrary to his idea which he was selling of protecting the green cover, Lobo was instrumental in increasing the FAR from 60 per cent to 80 per cent in the guise of promoting homestays.
Ever since a sustained campaign has been launched against land illegalities, the TCP Minister has positioned himself as a crusader on a mission to set things right. However, the realignment of NGPDA does not reflect that. If Rane's actions are intended for the greater good of Goa, he has to rise above political friends or enemies and work impartially and fearlessly. For now, there is a lot to prove.