Silencing agitating Bhoma residents with notices undemocratic

| JANUARY 24, 2024, 11:56 PM IST

Executing projects under a veil of secrecy continues to be the trend. If the draft Margao Master Plan 2041 has not been opened to the common citizens, so have other projects like the eco-tourism project cleared by the Investment Promotion Board and several other infrastructural development plans. Keeping the blueprint a closely guarded secret appears to be the mantra against the fear of opposition.

In the recent case, the Ponda Sub Divisional Magistrate has sent notices to 22 Bhoma residents in what is believed to be a pre-emptive measure against the road-widening agitation. The SDM has cited the incident of December 20 where locals blocked survey officials who descended to enumerate trees. Through the notices, residents are asked to remain present at the SDM’s court on February 2 to explain why they should not be required to execute a bond of Rs 10,000 and give a security of the same amount assuring that they will maintain peace for six months.

Cut into Velsao, and locals fear that the double track that is being laid is going to ravage traditional houses and change the topography of the land. The recent change in the land level to install the second track has thrown open crucial questions, but unfortunately, officials from Railways have not been forthcoming and explaining. In fact, a scheduled meeting on Tuesday failed because the RVNL official did not turn up on site leaving people disappointed.

People have been kept in the dark on several projects, the recent ones being the Film City proposal at Loliem and the IIT plan at Rivona. Transparency is the keyword in any public project that trespasses on local interests and properties because there is a great sense of insecurity and fear in the minds of people. Experiences of the past have scarred minds because the development of such a scale is irreversible and can cause collateral damage.

Also, there is an increasing fear that authorities are not considering the impact of mega-projects on the environment, ecology, heritage and habitats at the planning stage, triggering a defensive reaction from people and activists, let alone the fears of reneging on promises. The failure to meet the commitments made to Mopa locals stands as a classic case. A year on, villagers are still bitter over compensation, jobs and fulfilling the dream of better living that was sold to them then.

At Bhoma, the concern remains that the road widening project will affect houses and shops. Locals are not ready to buy the government’s argument that only four houses are coming in line for demolition. Chief Minister Pramod Sawant and former PWD Minister Nilesh Cabral have failed to cut ice with agitating citizens.

Goans are still standing at crossroads, fighting their daily battles, seeking clarity on projects and issues, and above all wanting security of living. Stifling voices of dissent is not the solution, rather it is an undemocratic way to push through agendas that will widen the fissures of distrust. When the slogan is about inclusive growth, the government of the day must factor in the local sentiment to get people along. There can’t be bigger success than winning the confidence of people.

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