The Bombay High Court at Panaji on 21st October issued notice to the state government on a PIL filed by the Bodgeshwar Shetkari Sangh, the Tenants Association of Camarcasanacho Bundh, Goa Bachao Abhiyan and the Goa Foundation challenging the preparation of a Land Use Map and Register for the two cities.

The petitioners have said in their petition that the Goa government on 28.12.2018 had directed the NGPDA to make changes in the Development Plans (ODP) of Panaji and Mapusa. Both plans had been notified earlier on 28.12.2016.

If one is going by the provisions of the Town and Country Planning Act, the NGPDA, after receiving such directions from the Goa government, must carry out the changes/alternations laid down under Sections 34-38 of the Act. However, on 28.12.2018, the Government also directed the PDAs to prepare a fresh Land Use Register and Map. The order, according to the PIL, is illegal, since there is no provision in the Act for such a procedure.

Besides the illegality of the Land Use Register and Map, petitioners, upon making enquiry, also found several major irregularities with the draft Land Use Registers and Maps which were placed for objections.

In the case of the Mapusa Land Use Register, the BSS found that the names of approximately 1300 farmers – mostly tenanted farmers – were missing from the register and had been substituted instead with the names of the landlords who originally owned these lands. BSS, in fact, protested the exclusion by leading a morcha to the Mapusa Municipal Council and also make representations to the NGPDA.

The Camacasan Tenants Association wrote to the NGPDA objecting to the errors in the existing ODP, especially exclusion of forest patches, khazan lands, tenanted fields and illegal re-zoning of plots as C1 in various parts of the city.

The Goa Bachao Abhiyan also submitted a detailed statement of objections to the draft Panaji Land Use Plan on the grounds that several parts of the register were completely wrong, and in fact attempted to import and legitimize changes already challenged in their earlier PIL also pending hearing before the High Court.

According to the petitioners, the impugned orders directing the NGPDA to prepare the Land Use Register are colourable exercise of power and are contrary to public interest and town planning, affecting petitioners’ right to a planned environment under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.

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