Updated: August 4, 2021 12:07:05 pm
The Goa government will drop the word “Bhumiputra (son of the soil)” from the Goa Bhumiputra Adhikarini Bill, 2021 that was passed by the assembly on July 30, Chief Minister Pramod Sawant said on Tuesday.
“The sentiments of many people are attached to the word Bhumiputra and the government is ready to drop this word [from the Bill]. I assure you that we will drop the word Bhumiputra from the Bill. It is possible to name it Goa Bhumi Adhikarini Bill,” Sawant said in an address on social media late Tuesday evening.
The announcement came hours after the BJP ST Morcha handed him a memorandum, taking “strong objection” to the use of the word Bhumiputra in the Bill. The Morcha said this “hurt immensely the sentiments and feelings of almost all tribals of the state and the entire community has come up to agitation against the passing of any such Bill which may have disastrous effect if not attended to with a proper rectification”.
The Goa Bhumiputra Adhikarini Bill gives the status of “Bhumiputra” to a person living in Goa for at least 30 years. Once recognised as Bhumiputra, he or she can stake claim to the ownership of their house of not more than 250 sq m, built before April 1, 2019.
Chief Minister Dr Pramod Sawant’s statement on Bhoomi Adhikarini Bill https://t.co/8UsOipVt3p
— Dr. Pramod Sawant (@DrPramodPSawant) August 3, 2021
Earlier in the day, after meeting Sawant, Goa State Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes Commission Chairman Ramesh Tawadkar said, “The word Bhumiputra has so far been used for the Gauda, Kunbi, Velip communities… so there was some disappointment over this as it can hurt our originality and identity. He [Sawant] has assured us that he will remove this [Bhumiputra] from the name of the Bill.”
While the opposition had accused his government of “bulldozing” democratic processes and passing a Bill without discussion, Sawant said the opposition that chose to walk out of the assembly could have stayed back to discuss the Bill for a few more hours on July 30. He, however, said the government was open to receiving suggestions from the people on its website and after considering the suggestions, the Bill may be re-introduced in the assembly in two months.
Armed with data on the possible number of beneficiaries of the Bill, Sawant said the existing legislation in the state, such as the Goa Mundkars (Protection from Eviction) Act, 1975 and Goa Regularisation of Unauthorised Construction Act, 2016 could not have protected those whose dwellings were on government land. He cited the example of about 500 homes in Cancona, South Goa that faced the prospect of demolition.
Goa Pradesh Congress Committee president Girish Chodankar said earlier on Tuesday that the party will hold ‘Bhumiputra yatras’ to protest the Bill. The AAP also joined the opposition chorus, saying the Bill was an insult to the original sons of the soil.
Independent MLA and former revenue minister Rohan Khaunte had earlier accused the Sawant government of “election engineering”. He said, “Who is a Bhumiputra? We have always been identifying as Goans or locals in our Bills. They’re [BJP government] just saying whoever is staying in Goa for the last 30 years is a Bhumiputra. How do you generalise? Somebody staying in a small rented place will then start claiming ownership [of the house’”.
Sawant clarified on Tuesday that the Bill was in the interest of Goans and not migrants. He said only those who had power and water connections in their name could avail of the Bill’s provisions and not those with lease agreements.
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