In the face of sustained protests, Town and Country Planning (TCP) Minister Vishwajit Rane on Monday threw in the towel and announced that all the major amendments proposed in the Goa Building and Land Development Act, 2008, proposed by the TCP department will be scrapped.
Rane, who is out of the country said in a video message: "All the amendments I have brought will be scrapped with immediate effect. These same amendments will be taken up by the expert committee which will hold consultations and make recommendations to the TCP Board and the process will be taken forward."
Rane's climb down comes in the face of a sustained protest by civil society groups, environmental NGOs, several panchayats who have passed gram sabha resolutions demanding scrapping of the proposals and a seemingly State-wide movement that was in the making.
On Monday, several hundred protestors were demonstrating in front of the TCP headquarters at Patto Plaza demanding scrapping of all the amendments.
Both the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLAs -- Venzy Viegas and Cruz Silva -- and the lone Revolutionary Goans Party MLA, Viresh Borkar, joined the protesters in demanding the scrapping of the proposals.
After the protest Viegas contacted Rane telephonically and conveyed to him the demand.
Initially, Rane in an earlier video had acknowledged that Viegas had expressed apprehensions over the amendments, and that he would hold the process in abeyance.
"I will meet the AAP as well as RG representatives in the coming days to understand their concerns,” Rane had said but later on Monday night released the new video message announcing that the amendments will be scrapped.
Around sixteen changes that were proposed in the draft notification issued by Chief Town Planner (Administration) James Mathew, had sought to permit construction of farm houses, film cities, film studios and golf courses in hitherto non-settlement and agricultural zones.
Another amendment had sought to create a new land-use zone 'Commercial Business District" with an astronomically high 400% floor area ratio (FAR). Opponents had flagged it as arbitrary and irrational.
Hospitals and medical institutions with more than 200-beds capacity, yoga and meditation centres, residential schools and educational institutions was another set of constructions that were sought to be permitted to be built in agricultural zones by yet another provision included in the draft-proposals.
Yet another amendment had proposed granting 30% of additional FAR to all existing 3-star, 4-star and 5-star hotels in the State.
Existing unauthorized constructions were also being sought to be regularized by inserting a provision for the same.
The draft notification was issued by Mathew on August 27, inviting objections and suggestions to the amendments and set a 30-day deadline which was ending on Tuesday.
Opposition to these big-ticket changes in the law had been brewing in the State for weeks. Activists, architects, green activists among others were busy travelling across the State creating awareness and building public opinion against them.
They argued that the intent of bringing in the changes was to duck and undermine the Regional Plan 2021.