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Church in solidarity with those protesting ‘obnoxious activities’ in Old Goa: Archbishop

🔴 With CM Pramod Sawant in attendance at the mass, Ferrao said, “We are all gathered not only in a holy precinct but also in a world-renowned heritage area recognised as such by our central government, by that I mean the ASI and also by UNESCO..."

Written by MAYURA JANWALKAR | Panaji |
Updated: December 3, 2021 4:07:32 pm
The Archbishop’s firm backing to the activists and residents of Old Goa protesting against the structure for months came as their fast in protest entered its tenth day and is expected to continue. (Express photos)

Archbishop of Goa and Daman Filipe Neri Ferrao Friday said the Church in Goa stands in solidarity with those protesting against “obnoxious activities” carried out in the heritage precinct of Old Goa.

“I would like to express the solidarity of the Church in Goa with several of our brothers and sisters…who have undertaken various demonstrations for many days now in protest against some obnoxious activities in this heritage site. I strongly appeal to all those in authority to refrain from any acts and decisions which are illegal and detrimental to the preservation of the religious and heritage sanctity of Old Goa,” Ferrao said while addressing thousands who had gathered to attend the mass on the occasion of the feast of St Francis Xavier at the Basilica of Bom Jesus in Old Goa.

Across the road from the Basilica of Bom Jesus, protestors continued their fast demanding the demolition of the allegedly illegal bungalow in Ella village in Old Goa.

Protestors continued their fast demanding the demolition of the allegedly illegal bungalow in Ella village in Old Goa. (Express Photo by Mayura Janwalkar)

With Chief Minister Pramod Sawant in attendance at the mass, Ferrao said, “We are all gathered not only in a holy precinct but also in a world-renowned heritage area recognised as such by our central government, by that I mean the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) and also by UNESCO. We should know that any undue or offensive interventions even by legitimate stakeholders in and around these monuments can have grave consequences and even attract derecognition of their world heritage status which would be a tremendous and severe loss to Goa.”

After attending the mass and the celebration of the feast, Sawant said that his government had taken action that was permissible under the law. “Our TCP department has already issued an order and the panchayat has also initiated action. They have stayed it (construction of the bungalow), they have withdrawn (clearance) and whatever is the next step under the law, we will take it. Whether it is the central government, the ASI or the state government, they have always maintained the heritage of Old Goa and they will continue to do so,” Sawant said.

The Archbishop’s firm backing to the activists and residents of Old Goa protesting against the structure for months came as their fast in protest entered its tenth day and is expected to continue. At a protest against the construction that saw at least 3,000 people in attendance on November 21, activists had said that the church had been instrumental in giving a clarion call for the protest.

Goa Ports and Science and Technology Minister Michael Lobo, who also attended the mass Friday morning, said, “Let the CM take the final call. He said that the Town and Country Planning department had revoked the technical clearance granted to the structure but further action will have to be taken. The next procedure has to be followed, you can expedite the procedure, you have to stand by it and demolish it,” said Lobo, a cabinet minister who was first to support the protestors. He had said lakhs would gather in protest if the government did not act against the alleged illegal structure.

The Town and Country Planning (TCP) department on November 30 issued a revocation order taking back a technical clearance granted to Jose Maria de Gouveia de Pinto, the erstwhile owner of the land, on October 18, 2016 and ordered that the construction on the plot in Ella village of Old Goa be stopped.

The technical clearance was sought in the name of Pinto, who sold 2,400 sq m of the land to Survarna Lotlikar, wife of former Goa Forward Party treasurer Suraj Lotlikar and 9,500 sq m to Manish Munot, husband of BJP spokesperson Shaina N C in 2015. Subsequently, Munot had said that he had pulled out of the project and had sold his part.

On the same day, the village panchayat of Se Old Goa issued a stop work order to the alleged illegal construction. The order was issued to Pinto, Lotlikar and Sumerlal Jain of Corus Urban Infrastructure, a Mumbai-based real estate company that has now bought the property.

Thursday, the TCP department also asked the panchayat to initiate action against the construction under the Village Panchayat Raj Act since it’s technical clearance had been revoked. The panchayat issued a show cause notice to Pinto, the original owner of the land and others, asking why their reconstruction and renewal licence should not be revoked.

Architect Tahir Noronha, one of the many protestors, said, “We will continue our protest and decide on our next step by tomorrow (Saturday).” Activist Anna Gracias, a member of Trinamool Congress, who also has been protesting for the last ten days, said, “We want the structure to be demolished. We don’t want lollipops and assurances. We will continue our peaceful satyagraha against the illegal structure until the government razes it.”

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