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Hundreds Protest Against Goa Highway Expansion; CM Dr. Pramod Sawant Labels Opposition as ‘Crook Mentality’



Panaji, Aug 27: Amid hundreds of people from village Bhoma in Priol constituency are up in arms against the expansion of national Highway to save temples and houses, Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant on Thursday (without taking name of village) said that there is need to come out of “crooked mentality” opposing the developmental projects in villages.

People of Bhoma are against the expansion of National Highway NH 4A, claiming around 100 houses will be demolished, along with temples if the project comes to reality.

Since last one year villagers of Bhoma have protested more than ten times and addressed many meetings, to which opposition political parties, including the Congress, Goa Forward and the Revolutionary Goans Party, have supported.

They have demanded that the Public Works Department should not disturb the village, instead should think of constructing a bypass.

Speaking to Reporters, Bhoma villager Sanjay Naik, who is losing his house for the highway expansion, said that around 100 houses will have to be demolished for the distance of around 500 meters.

“Not only houses, but our temples in the village, which are very close to the existing road will be affected. We can’t allow the government to bulldoze our tradition and culture, where thousands of people gather during festivals and come to seek blessings of deities,” Naik said.

“Decade ago, we had objected to the move of the highway expansion from our village. Later the government had stopped the process. Year ago, suddenly we were asked to accept the settlements after the government acquired the land, that too without intimating us.

“Now the whole village is united and we will not allow the construction of highway expansion. Why is the governments trying to spoil our pristine village, when there is scope for bypass from other areas where there is no need to demolish any house or other structures,” Naik said.

Opposition MLA during the monsoon assembly session had raised the issue saying that there is fear and anxiety in the minds of villagers of Bhoma that their traditional residential houses, temples will be demolished, their tradition, culture and livelihood will be affected, due to the land acquisition notice issued under Section 3 (G) (3) of the National Highways Act, 1956.

Replying to it, Public Works Department Minister Nilesh Cabral had said: “Approved alignment, sanctioned land acquisition and the proposal of expansion which is on stilt in Bhoma village was explained to the elected representative of Priol constituency.”

Cabral added: “Accordingly land acquisition proceedings were initiated. The land acquisition proposed and initiated is on the right hand side from the left edge of the existing Highway in Bhoma Village wherein no temples are affected. There are a total 22 structures affected out of which only 4 are residential houses and remaining are temporary kiosks.”

“Government intends to rehabilitate the affected kiosks in Bhoma Village infront of the temple in the vicinity of the temple premises, right extreme edge of the acquisition and plots for the rehabilitation of the affected four houses are proposed near the Panchayat building.

“The proposed Highway in Bhoma village is on stilts whereby all highway traffic will ply on the elevated portion and underneath portion will act as a service road causing least disturbance to the existing business setups beyond the acquisition line.

“In view of the above, there should not be any fear and anxiety in the minds of villagers of Bhoma that their traditional residential houses, Temples will be demolished and their tradition, culture and livelihood will be affected,” Cabral further said.

GFP president Vijai Sardessai had taken the issue of Bhoma expansion to the Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways, Nitin Gadkari and had requested to build a bypass to save the village.

Speaking during the meeting at Bhoma, Sardessai had said that his party will stand by the Bhoma locals in opposition to the highway expansion project.

“I had spoken to Union Minister Nitin Gadkari, he had assured me that the demand of the locals for a bypass would be met. At several places in Goa villages are saved by the way of bypass, then why is the state government so keen to damage Bhoma village, when there is scope for bypass,” Sardesai had said.

Last week, while Chief Minister Pramod Sawant was addressing a gathering on the outskirts of Bhoma village said: “There will be many types of opposition. Some oppose no sooner than they come to know that the project is in the pipeline.”

“In villages there are some crooked mentality persons that oppose any projects… sometimes it is because they dislike MLA. (They feel) it should not happen during his tenure… let it happen later… we need to come out of such thinking. Only then development of village and state can take place,” Sawant said, without taking name of any particular village.