Farmers oppose sports city, face police ire


Panaji : Farmers in Goa who have been opposing the sports ministry’s move to acquire their land to build a ‘sports city’ for the 2011 National Games now allege that the government is using the police to coerce them into parting with their ancestral farms.

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On Aug 15, a notice under section 149 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) issued by the local police to more than 30 farmers, who have been in the forefront of the protest, has left the predominant farming community in the two villages of Virnoda and Dhargal seething.

The proposed sports city, which is supposed to be the venue of the National Games 2011, is spread over 1.3 million sq m, cutting across two agriculture-oriented villages in north Goa.

“It is reliably learnt that you are likely to create a law and order problem or commit a cognizable offence in opposing the ‘sports city’ project which is likely to come up in Pernem taluka by the government of Goa,” the notice issued by police inspector Uttam Raut Dessai of Pernem police station states.

“You are therefore, directed to desist from involving in any illegal activity concerning the above project which may result into law and order problems or commission of cognizable offence, else necessary action under the law will be initiated against you,” it adds.

Shripad Parab from Virnoda is one of the farmers who received this notice.

“In Virnoda village alone, we have received 16 notices in Dadchi Wadi and Diwade areas. We are co-owners of this land for generations. The government is using police force to crush legitimate dissent here. We are not going to take this lying down. None of us has a criminal record. So these notices are completely unwarranted,” Parab said.

Virnoda village alone accounts for more than 500,000 sq m of fertile land, which is being acquired for the mega project.

The main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has also alleged a massive scam in the land acquisition for the National Games 2011 sports city.

“The sports minister had said that 23 lakh (2.3 million) sq m land was being acquired for the project. After initial protests, the government said only 13 lakh sq m was enough. If this was the case, why did they want 23 lakh in the first place?” former state BJP president and Mandrem legislator Laxmikant Parsekar told IANS.

He further said that the Congress-led coalition government was bent on acquiring prime agricultural land for the sports city when large chunks of fallow land was available for development in adjoining areas.

Controversy over land acquisition for the National Games 2011 has been a prominent feature in the local media for the last several months with the opposition and civic groups voicing their protest against the acquisition of agricultural land for the project.

Sports Minister Manohar Azgaonkar, however, said that the opposition to the project was not to be taken seriously.

“It is opposition for the sake of opposition. Those whose lands are taken will be compensated adequately,” he said, adding that the project would provide several jobs to the relatively backward region of Dhargal, his constituency.