Thursday 08 Dec 2022

Scrapping TCP law changes and killing 2 birds with one stone


The controversial proposals for TCP law amendments may be on their way out. But Town and Country Planning Minister Vishwajit Rane's reconciliatory tone and the about-turn have left open more questions. Has people's power finally prevailed? Or was this Rane's well-timed masterstroke to checkmate a political change looming on the horizon? The announcements proposed in the Goa Building and Land Development Act, 2008 and the change in land-use zoning under the controversial 16B section of the TCP Act got an unexpected burial. The question is, are we missing the larger political plot here?

The twin decisions may have brought a massive sigh of relief to everyday citizens and the political class alike. The 16 amendments proposed to the TCP law had threatened to turn the landscape of Goa upside down by creating more settlement spaces, allowing more built-up areas in eco-sensitive and green zones and giving more elevation to concrete structures. And all this is struck down in a month when the opposition just woke up to the reality.

The TCP minister, who appeared to be in a tearing hurry to bring about a colossal change in Goa's landscape, suddenly has a change of mind. The government of the day is not known to concede at this level of opposition, having endured greater resistance on issues and ridiculing protests labelling them to be the handiwork of a few anti-development individuals. Rane seems to have respected people's apprehension too early this time.

Of course, there were reservations and concerns from people across Goa. The radical changes proposed to land use cannot be in the interest of ordinary citizens in whichever perspective one sees. The TCP Department is the guardian of the State's land resources belonging to the people. Wholesale changes such as these hurt the topography and alter the vibe of the land and hence needed a ''bottom-up'' consultative approach with people's engagement. Democratically elected governments cannot bulldoze their will on such people-centric subjects. Rane's decision to take a different route and ask the expert committee to hold consultations and make recommendations to the TCP board is a welcome move.

However, in one swift action, the TCP minister appears to have accomplished two missions. Firstly, with the decision reversal, he has salvaged his position. The fact that sections from the political class have sent him ''thank-you'' messages is a testimony of this. Secondly, against the winds of change blowing over the political landscape in the background where the TCP ministry is in focus, Rane appears to have timed his decision to perfection, leaving key figures stunned and forcing some on the wrong foot.

On the flip side, while TCP ministers may come and go, there are still questions that the government will have to answer. How are 16B cases going to be settled, given the background that zone change came at a price? What about the cost of development already undertaken by land owners on such properties? Who pays the price, and to whom? The controversial section was inserted in the Goa Town and Country Planning Act in 1974 during the tenure of Vijai Sardesai as the TCP Minister. Subsequently, Chandrakant Babu Kavlekar cleared most of the proposals during his term.

Agitations may have become a norm for people to be heard. Protests and morchas appear to be the order of the day for citizens to find justice, and it is only the intensity that brings governments to the table. Rane has played a masterstroke by not only exiting from a tight situation and winning the goodwill of all but, in the process, has also checkmated colleagues in the larger political script that could unfold soon.

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