Mopa: The anatomy of unfairness

Open Edit / Sujay Gupta | FEBRUARY 02, 2013, 02:15 PM IST

Acquiring land from people whose lives and livelihoods are dependenton it has always been contentious. While their lands are acquired for “publicpurposes”, they wonder if that ever includes them even though they are meant tobe – Legally, morally and democratically. If intentions are simple, then thesimplicity of its solutions too should be. Then why is there a mysterious hazearound the sudden rapid race to sign, seal and deliver around 82 lakh squaremetres of land for the construction of the Mopa airport, because this landacquisition could have been, and still can be, done far more simply.

Once you are ready to know where the bottleneck lies, yourealise how simple it is to remove it. The bottleneck is not giving people ajust replacement for not just their lands but what they will actually lose. Inthe entire land acquisition process, which is for all practical purposescomplete, the “will” of the people has been submerged under just a mereprocedure of listening to them during the Section 5A stage of land acquisition.The fallacy of this manner of consent taking cannot be underlined enough,though we have attempted to in our coverage this week.

In our quest for zeroing in the lowest common denominator thatencompasses unfairness of the land acquisition, this is a quick look at whatthe people of Mopa wanted: Agricultural land for agricultural land and the valueof their trees at current prices for the next two generations. What they havegot instead, is proposed compensation at 2003 land rates at paltry prices of Rs25, 40 and 65 per square meter for different categories of land, while themarket price of land just outside the acquisition line is Rs 800 per squaremeter. THAT is the anatomy of unfairness.

The Goan isn’t interested in the politics of South Goa vs NorthGoa because every political statement bullet is fired from the barrel ofself-interest. It refuses to link the so called “harm” Mopa may cause, so thatDabolim continues without hindrance. If you care to get down and dirty and gothe villages there, the unfairness hits you because unlike in evolved Bardezand Salcette, these aren’t people who can understand the machinations of rulesand its little twists.

So should those in Mopa, many of whom cannot read and writeto understand what the law is, not have a voice? Should they accept their fatesbecause glib speaking activists do not live around them to speak for theirfutures? And should they sink into oblivion as the airport comes up because theirpublic representatives are huge land owners, outside the periphery of theairport?

If land is bought at market rates for any project, it shouldbe so even for a public purpose where there is private interest. And when landis also the source of livelihood, this needs to be assessed and covered.

Currently the government is checking boxes on the ‘to do’ listof land acquisition, even though there is a new bill to be introduced inparliament that will change even the existing ground rules.

Chief Minister Parrikar needs to ask himself if he hasgenuinely passed the test of fairness towards the people of Mopa. Let him be anhonest judge and answer the people of Mopa, because the rest of Goa is simplynot bothered.

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