The government’s decision to permit a Delhi-based hotel group to set up a golf course at Tiracol could not only ruffle many feathers, but have serious consequences for local governance and for the State. Investors need to understand that there have been many agitations against golf courses and their venture could prove diceymany agitations and protests are needed to convince thickheaded governments, irrespective of which party is in power, that the people of Goa have rejected and are seriously against golf courses as seen a decade ago. Yet, once again, golf courses are being proposed forgetting the past. One fails to understand what is fundamentally wrong with governance.
What has attracted the BJP government to cling to the Congress decision, when it has reversed decision and after decision of the previous government, where it suits its political agenda, including reversing recruitment of staff, allotment of plots at Rajiv Gandhi IT habitat etc.
Investors having interest in setting up golf courses must be alerted in advance that they are playing with fire. No body wants investors to burn their fingers as was the case with Metastrips at Sancoale. They should not later seek justification for their continuation of a project at the site citing investment made.
Reportedly, plans are afoot for Goa having its first international PGA (Professional Golfers Association) standard golf course at Tiracol due of its proximity to the proposed Mopa airport.
In 1993, when the Tourism Department sought to lure Japanese tourists by approving such golf courses, it triggered a wave of protest over the “heavy drain” of natural resources, even traditional lifestyle. The Jagrut Goenkaranchi Fouz claimed that the lawns would require round-the-clock watering, and zeolite used on golf turf – would have serious impact on the surroundings due to its carcinogenic content. There are other fears too of drawal of water from unauthorised tube wells to water the lawns, which would eventually affect water levels in villages, and pollution of the water table due to carcinogens of zeolite.
The State government and the promoters should put off the project immediately given the serious protests for years from NGOs and people who feel Goa cannot sustain up-market tourism, due to its small size and limited resources such as land and water and the serious impact it will have on Goa's culture and social fabric.
During the Gram Sabha last year, Tiracol villagers vociferously protested the serious strain the golf course would have on water and other infrastructure in the village and vowed to oppose it tooth and nail. A golf course in the tiny village will have serious repercussions for governance since the hamlet can become the private fiefdom of the company, since it would occupy a large area of the tiny village with potential to buy out the village panchayat. Secondly, Tiracol has serious implications for Goa and its sovereignty since, this part of Goa is delinked from the mainland by the river and is joined to Maharashtra and is of strategic importance.
Reportedly, the proposed project will be spread over 200 acres, with the golf course on 150 acres. Utilisation of alternative energy sources such as wind power and solar farming, preservation, and protection of existing flora and fauna in the area, recycling of all types of waste, and the ability to set-up a desalination plant are some of the pre-requisite conditions laid down before the developers -- perhaps an environment-friendly carrot to vigilante groups. But there are serious doubts if the company will either afford or adhere to these conditions once they get the required permissions.
Even considering that the previous government accepted the proposal, the current BJP government ought to ensure if the project is welcomed by locals, since in a village the gram sabha is supreme as far as local governance is concerned. The villagers have the right to decide what the village should be like in the near and distant future. Supreme court judgements have asserted the rights of the villagers and tribals over land and have asserted their sovereignty over resources and taking them on board is critical to any project.
So what is the government doing? We know that successive governments have been lackeys of the hotel lobby. Indeed, the powers that be can go to any extent to please a section of the hotel lobby as also force golf courses down the throats of locals when it suits their selfish interests at the cost of interests of the State and its people, especially the feeble voices, whose interests they are supposed to protect!
Anna living out of reality
Those that accuse the Team Anna members of resorting to the extreme step, may suggest what is the alternative to this inordinate delay? The complexity of this issue is hanging fire for over a decade, without any hope of being made into a law. They are not forthcoming to state and express clearly that some issues in the Lok Pal Bill are objectionable and may be taken up later in amendments The patience of the people is rightly wearing out, as the political parties are buying time to scuttle the legitimate demand of the people.
How many times and in what strength do they want the populace to demonstrate their resolve? It will be left to the next elections, perhaps to the next government and the party that will win the elections. The Lok Pal Bill is a festering problem that is going to be more troublesome.
The fast no doubt focuses on the issue —- demand faster action in a state —-where everything is postponed and left to germinate. After this inordinate delay of a decade, if the political or social wizards can at least suggest an alternative to bring forth even the semblance of the Lok Pal Bill, it would be welcomed by the people ,who put their life at stake for the betterment of our nation. Parliamentarians have become both deaf and dumb to the realities and aspirations of the nation against corruption.