An “Interactive Session on Comprehensive Land Water Forest Reforms” was held at the International Centre in Goa. Representatives of Civil Society organizations and social activists from different parts of Goa expressed their concern on the present development process adopted by the government. Shri Rajendra Kelkar spoke on custodial property rights and the struggles going on to abolish custodial rights and to transfer land to the village sanstha. He criticized the state government’s policy of treating the tribals as encroachers. Last year, one tribal was killed by police firing while they were protesting for entitlement right on forest land. Out of the 91 licensed mines 55 are still working. But there are about 375 illegal mines working in the state. The mining company obtain licenses by giving false information.
Mr. Mayekar of Maygoa village said that they are still not independent, in 1939 just before the third generation custodian, the land was distributed among the relatives of the custodian (Portuguese) and they are paying Rs 8080/ year to the government treasury. They demand abolition of the Custodian Act.
According to Fr. Bismark, the small state of Goa accounts for 60% of India’s iron ore export to China. Land is going into the hands of the rich, powerful and the Corporates. The water table is reducing and water gets polluted due to mining. The prices are soaring up to any extent beyond the limit of the common man. The Regional Plan prepared by the government was first rejected and a participatory plan was prepared after 3 years, but again this plan too favours the builders. For example in Moppa, the government has acquired land for sport city and the international airport displacing the Danga community (Shepherds). He says that “we are already ecological refugees in our own land. Land is our religion, heritage, home and culture”. In the speech Rajagopal mentioned that the fast industrialization and infrastructure developments have displaced the poor from their natural resources where land is their dignity, security and identity. Therefore, the struggle is against the powerful lobby and it has to be in a non-violent way and should show the strength of the young and poor. He added that if this continues, it is time to put a board saying “Goa for Sale”. He urged all the organizations and activists to come together to save land, water and forest resources.