The Goa revenue and finance departments had red flagged the controversial bill pertaining to “sons-of-the-soil” and said it was “not administratively approved” and may have “unforeseen wider ramification”, before it was passed by the state Assembly last month, the government’s response to an RTI query has revealed.
The state Assembly last month passed the Goa Bhumiputra Adhikarini Bill, 2021, that provides a mechanism to grant the ownership rights to “bhumiputras” (sons-of-the soil) who are living in small housing units in the state for more than 30 years.
The legislation in its present form drew flak from various quarters, including opposition parties, following which Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant had said it would be renamed as the “Bhumi Adhikarini Bill” and reintroduced during the next Assembly session.
The Chief Minister had also said the bill was beneficial to Goans and rubbished suggestions by the opposition parties that it was aimed at pleasing the migrant vote bank.
However, documents procured under the Right to Information Act by Goa Congress’ RTI cell in-charge Dominic Noronha from the state revenue department last week revealed that Revenue Minister Jeniffer Monserratte and Revenue Secretary Sanjay Kumar had put up a file noting that the bill has “not been administratively approved”.
“The Bill has not been administratively approved by the Revenue Minister (Jeniffer Monserratte). The Bill has not been examined throughout and may have unforeseen wider ramification,” Mr Kumar said, as per the reply received by the opposition Congress.
The revenue secretary had requested that “due to shortage of time, the Bill has not been examined thoroughly and may have unforeseen wider ramification. Hence, considering the impact of the Bill, the same may be published for obtaining public comments,” the revenue secretary said in the noting.
“The issue raised by the Revenue Department and the Revenue Minister needs further examination,” Mr Kumar noted, and added that the file is submitted for the perusal and decision of the revenue minister.
The Congress claimed to have also received in the same RTI reply a noting which indicated the minister had warned that the proposed law was faulty on many counts and would “jeoparadise the interests of private owners, government departments, comunidades, devasthans (temples) and eco-sensitive zones”.
The revenue department had also warned the state government that the bill’s provisions enabled forceful transfer of land, which would violate Article 300A of the Constitution, as per the document received through RTI by the Congress.
In an official note, Monserratte had said there are “many other implications of the Bill which needs to be examined” by having a detailed discussion on each provision.
“After examining the above points, the same may be introduced in the next Assembly session,” the minister had said, as per the RTI reply.
The Congress further said the state finance department’s Under Secretary Pranab Bhat had also noted that “the proposal is not recommended in the form that it is in right now, and requires more detailing as land is a precious resource. Further, the introduction of the Bill is not recommended.”
CM Sawant or state BJP chief Sadanand Tanavade could not be contacted for comments on the matter.