Citing CWG, Goan farmers oppose National Games
Panaji, Sep 30 (IANS) Farmers in an agrarian sub-district of Goa have found a reason for cynical cheer - the Commonwealth Games! After all, they have been fighting land acquisition for the National Games (NG) to be held here next year.
Around 900,000 sq m of prime agricultural land in Pernem, 25 km from here, is being acquired to create infrastructure for the National Games, but the farmers now cite the example of the controversy-ridden CWG in Delhi to buttress their argument.
The 'farmers' action committee' calls the accusations dogging the CWG 2010 fiasco 'the best thing to have happened' as far as their fight against similar corruption and government-sponsored 'land grabbing' for NG 2011 is concerned.
'The CWG scandal has actually helped us a lot in our fight against corruption. The whole fiasco has sort of given a message to the general public that the people involved use such forums for corruption,' said Shripad Parab, a farmer who has been spearheading the campaign against mismanagement and corruption in setting up infrastructure for NG 2011.
'The way the National Games preparations are going on, it does appear that there are several Suresh Kalmadis in the hiding here,' said Parab, referring to the CWG Organising Committee chairman who has been besieged by allegations of corruption and gross mismanagement.
'People are becoming aware that while there is huge corruption in CWG 2010 in New Delhi, the National Games 2011 in Goa also have a lot of corruption, perhaps on a comparatively smaller scale,' Parab said.
'The CWG are a mirror to the nature of corruption at our Games here. Now people have begun calculating the under-the-table dealings. We need not tell people about it any more. They know it and understand it,' he added.
Raising infrastructure for the NG 2011 has been a subject of major controversy with opposition parties alleging that the infrastructure was oriented more towards hospitality than sports itself.
'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 and then they arrived at the 9.19 lakh sq m figure. If this was the case, why did they want 23 lakh sq m first? This is something fishy,' former state BJP president Laxmikant Parsekar said.
According to Sports Minister Manohar alias Babu Azgaonkar, the proposed acquisition of 9.19 lakh sq m land was to build a sports city in Pernem tehsil in Dhargalim, the legislative assembly constituency of Manohar.
The central government is expected to spend Rs.326 crore, 75 percent of which will be given to the Goa government as a grant, while 25 percent will be in the form of loan, Azgaonkar said.
According to Parab nearly half the land being acquired is rich cultivable soil with scores of families growing agricultural produce there.
'No one is interested in the National Games. The government is interested in issuing tenders for raising the infrastructure. Once that is done, and commissions are pocketed, they leave the Games to Goa,' Parab said.
Azgaonkar, however, told IANS there was 'no question of corruption' as far as the NG 2011 were concerned.
'Who told you there is corruption in Goa? We have already hired a consultant to take a decision. They have given us a deadline to streamline and decide the entire infrastructure exercise,' Azgaonkar said.
'The land acquisition process is being completed fast. Whatever we do will be good for people,' he said.
(Mayabhushan Nagvenkar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)