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Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Goa Assembly passes Bhumiputra Adhikarini Bill amid Opposition walkout

The opposition MLAs, including those from the Congress, Goa Forward Party, Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party and Independents, called the passing of the Bhumiputra Bill and 10 others “murder of democracy” and “election engineering”.

By: Express News Service | Panaji |
Updated: August 6, 2021 1:38:27 pm
Urging the House to pass it, Chief Minister Pramod Sawant said on Friday that the Bill was in the interest of the “Mool Goenkar (original Goan)” and people who had been living in their homes for generations but did not have ownership of the house.

The Goa Assembly on Friday passed the Goa Bhumiputra Adhikarini Bill, 2021, granting “Bhumiputra [son of the soil]” status to a person residing in Goa at least for 30 years. It was passed along with a host of other Bills, even as opposition MLAs staged a walkout demanding that they be referred to a select committee and not passed “in haste”.

The opposition MLAs, including those from the Congress, Goa Forward Party, Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party and Independents, called the passing of the Bhumiputra Bill and 10 others “murder of democracy” and “election engineering”. The BJP has 27 MLAs in the 40-member legislative assembly.

The Bhumiputra Bill, introduced by Revenue Minister Jennifer Monserrate on Thursday, says in its statement of objects and reasons, “The Bill provides for a mechanism to give ownership right to the self-occupied dweller of a small housing unit to enable him to live with dignity and self-respect and exercise his right to life.”

Urging the House to pass it, Chief Minister Pramod Sawant said on Friday that the Bill was in the interest of the “Mool Goenkar (original Goan)” and people who had been living in their homes for generations but did not have ownership of the house.

“In the last so many years there have been cases of homes built by a person or his parents but the land is not in his name. There is always a sword dangling over their head that someone will file a case against them [over ownership of house]. So many cases have been filed by at different levels and in courts. The land is of different kinds like ancestral property, communidade property, panchayat land. Everyone had wished for the house that they lived in, their generations lived in, should be theirs, in their names.”

Sawant said there were several such cases in rural areas of Goa including Sattari and Pernem. “My brothers and sisters have been waiting for this. They built 250-300 sq m homes, built by their parents but the land could never be theirs.”

The Bill entails constitution of the “Bhumiputra Adhikarini” – a committee comprising the Deputy Collector as its Chairperson and officials from Town and Country Planning Department, Forest department, Environment Department and Mamlatdar of respective Taluka as its members.

According to the Bill, the Bhumiputra, defined as resident of Goa for 30 years or more, may apply to the committee if his dwelling unit is constructed before April 1, 2019. The Bhumiputra Adhikarini may by an order declare a Bhumiputra to be the owner of the dwelling unit occupied by him upon payment of an amount equivalent to the value of land calculated at the market rate.

“No suit, prosecution or any other legal proceedings shall lie against the Government or any officer or employee of the Government or any person authorised by the Government or Bhumiputra Adhikarini or its members for anything which is done, or intended to be done, in a good faith under this Act,” the Bill says. It also says that no court shall have jurisdiction “to entertain, decide or deal with any question which is to be decided by the Bhumiputra Adhikarini and Administrative Tribunal under this Act”.

Oppostion MLAs staged a walkout, saying Bills introduced a day earlier and passed within hours of that was “murder of democracy” and they did not want to be party to it. “We had asked the Speaker to send the Bills to the Select Committee. We need time to study these Bills. These are important Bills. We had suggested that a one-day session be called after 15 days only to discuss the Bills. We asked the Speaker to give us ruling but he did not,” said Leader of Oppostion Digambar Kamat.

“We will take the government to court over these Bills. We will examine our legal options,” said Goa Forward Party president Vijai Sardesai. “He [Sawant] passes Bills overnight. There is no concept of introduction of a Bill at 4 am and considering it for passing at 6-7 pm and passing 20 Bills.”

The Bills which were passed include the Goa Public Gambling (Amendment) Bill, 2021, which enhances the fine specified in the Act and makes the offences punishable either with imprisonment or fine or with both, the Goa Panchayati Raj (Amendment), 2021 that, among other things, hands over the election process, including reservation, to the Goa State Election Commission as mandated by 73rd Constitutional Amendment.

“Today several pro-people Bills were passed in the Assembly. Given the increasing popularity of various schemes and policies implemented by our government, opposition is frustrated,” Sawant tweeted later with a video of opposition MLAs in the Well and Sardesai seen hurling the rule book at the Speaker’s dias. “From lack of winnable candidates to failed alliance talks, they resorted to violence right inside the temple of democracy,” Sawant wrote.

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