Goa CM says will act on Old Goa bungalow

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Goa CM says will act on Old Goa bungalow
© Provided by The Indian Express

Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant Saturday said his government will act on the allegedly illegal structure in Old Goa that has sparked protests and fasts.

Activists and residents demanding the demolition of the structure in the Old Goa heritage precinct, meanwhile, continued their fast on its fourth day on Saturday seeking the structure’s demolition.

He said that the permissions for the construction of the bungalow — built on the land that was partly bought by Manish Munot, husband of BJP Spokesperson Shaina NC and party by Survarna Lotlikar, wife of former Goa Forward Party (GFP) treasurer Suraj Lotlikar — was granted prior to the term of his government.

“From what I have understood he had obtained a construction license and permission at the time…. But now since everyone is protesting against it, our government will act on it. I have told the departments concerned — the Town and Country Planning (TCP), the Panchayat department — to check the documents thoroughly and if they are not in order then stop it (the construction),” Sawant said.

He said that there was no question of his government allowing or promoting an illegal structure. “In my whole tenure, I have never allowed anyone to erect an illegal structure. Secondly, whoever has built the illegal structure and whoever wants it razed needs to correspond officially. They should not just speak through newspapers. If it is illegal then let it be demolished. I have no objection,” Sawant told reporters.

Also Read |Goa Dy CM says issued instructions to withdraw permission for bungalow in heritage precinct

Sawant said that the government will take action as per the law and since the matter is pending in Supreme Court in an SLP filed by the Save Old Goa Action Committee, the government will also have to factor in the legal bearing of its action and this may take some time.

The CM, however, said his government was not responsible for granting permission for this construction. The focus soon shifted to passing the buck as Sawant pointed a finger at a “former minister” who had “sinned”. GFP President Vijai Sardesai, meanwhile, wrote to Deputy Chief Minister and TCP minister Chandrakant Kavlekar that the permissions were granted in 2016 before he was made TCP minister and the construction took place in 2019 after he was dropped from the BJP government.

In a jibe at Sardesai, former deputy chief minister and TCP minister, Sawant said: “From what I have understood, it is a private plot, a third party has purchased it, a person who was close to a political party, a former minister who is now throwing his hands up. I don’t want to get into the details. Someone has given him a license, a number, someone who was in power… from what I have understood he had obtained a construction license and permission at the time.”

“There is no need to burden me with this sin. Those who have sinned have been seen in photos and videos with the persons related to this. I am connected in no way and neither is my party,” Sawant said.

In a letter to Kavlekar on Saturday, Sardesai wrote, “I was inducted as TCP minister and Deputy Chief Minister on March 14, 2017 – five months since the permissions have been granted. Interstingly enough, the construction of this structure took place under your leadership of the TCP.” He stated that the permission for the structure was granted on October 7, 2016 by the Conservation Committee overseen by the late Francis D’souza, then TCP minister in the BJP government led by then chief minister Laxmikant Parsekar. The technical clearance, he stated was given on October 18, 2016.

“It seems that the BJP by hook or by crook is trying to insensitively develop the Old Goa area – which is directly against the will of the people. Contrary, the GFP and I have always stood firm in defence of our heritage and our track record is proof that we will always be defenders of Goa’s unique history, way of life , heritage and its people.”

The ground-plus-one structure with a tiled roof stands between the Mandovi River on one side, the St Cajetan Church on the other and is a stone’s throw away from the Viceroy’s Arch in Old Goa’s heritage precinct.

Both Munot and Shaina had earlier said that they had no part to play in the allegedly illegal construction. Munot had also said that he had pulled out of the project. Sardesai had earlier said that Lotlikar is no longer in a member of the GFP and he was removed from the post of treasurer as soon as this issue was brought to his notice.

Protestors continued to fast outside the Basilica of Bom Jesus on Saturday and they maintained that the government should demolish the structure by December 3, the feast of St Francis Xavier, the patron saint also called ‘Goencho Sahib’ by worshippers across Goa.

Meanwhile, Trinamool Congress MP and Goa state incharge Mahua Moitra said that she would raise the issue over the allegedly illegal construction in the Parliament next week. “We don’t raise issues to look good. We raise issues and continue to raise them until we put pressure on the BJP to answer us and act. Why have the two Goa MPs never raised a single Goa specific issue in Parliament? I am going to do that next week,” Moitra said.

She raised two other issues of the alleged corruption in the renovation of the Kala Academy and the permissions for the linear projects cutting through the Mollem national park, both of which, she said, would also be raised in Parliament.

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