On May 30 we celebrate the Goa Statehood Day: Goa was liberated from the colonial rule in December 1961. After Liberation a major controversy arose as to whether it should remain a separate territory or should merge into a neighbouring State, Maharashtra or Mysore. In 1967, an Opinion Poll was held, the only such referendum in independent India. It decided that Goa, Daman and Diu should remain a separate entity with the status of an Union Territory. Thereafter all the three major political parties, the United Goans, the Congress, and the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party sought statehood for Goa.
This demand was raised in March 1971 by Shri A. N. Naik of the United Goans Party who moved a private members’ resolution to this effect in the Legislative Assembly of Goa, Daman and Diu. It was approved unanimously. Sometime thereafter, Shri Purushottam Kakodkar of the Congress introduced in the Lok Sabha a Bill demanding statehood for Goa and in October 1976, Shri R. L. Pankar of the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party moved a private members’ resolution in the Legislative Assembly also seeking statehood for Goa. Replying to the debate, Chief Minister Sashikala Kakodkar stated “In the early years after Liberation the M.G. Party stood for merger with Maharashtra and fought for it through the Opinion Poll in a democratic way. The verdict of the Poll went against the merger and the M.G. Party accepted the people’s verdict because it believes in the wisdom of the electorate. Goa, Daman and Diu are and should be what the people of this territory want to make of it.”
When I was elected to Parliament in 1977, the Union Government was led by the Janata Party. Whilst Prime Minister Morarji Desai was opposed to small States, Home Minister Charan Singh supported them. Jayaprakash Narayan, the patron of the Janata Party also supported small States. In 1969, in an article in the Hindustan Times, he called for “breaking up oversized States such as UP, Bihar, MP and a few others... The breaking up of large States, apart from resulting in a more compact, efficient and close to the people administration, should also go far to mitigate linguistic jingoism” he wrote.
My first speech in the Lok Sabha on April 4, 1977 and several of my subsequent speeches in Parliament dealt with the need to provide statehood to Goa. On May 30, 1987, Goa ceased to be an Union Territory and became the twenty fifth State of the Union of India.
In April, 2013 the Goa Legislative Assembly demanded special status for Goa under Art 371 of the Constitution. The resolution was moved by Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar. Special status was sought for Goa on two grounds. As a result of large scale purchase of land by persons from outside Goa, including foreigners, the average Goan cannot afford a house or land in Goa. Furthermore, there is large scale migration into the State which may destroy Goa’s identity.
The demand for Special Status was misconceived. The State Government has the required powers to resolve the two issues. Land is a State subject vide entry 18 of the State List in the Constitution and the State can also legislate on land vide entry 6 of the Concurrent List. In addition, the 74th amendment to the Constitution provides that the function of “regulation of land use and construction of buildings” is one of the municipal functions. As a result of these legal provisions a State is competent to enact laws to restrict land transactions so as to protect the interests of the local people. This protection may involve restrictions on purchase of agricultural land by non-agriculturists as well as restrictions on purchase of land and property by outsiders. Such legal provisions exist in several States. Under the Bombay Tenancy and Agricultural Lands Act, no person can purchase land in Maharashtra if he is not an agriculturist. Similar provision also operates in Uttar Pradesh. Why is such a provision not enacted in Goa? The right to property is no longer a fundamental right and hence a law by the State Government to protect the interests of the local population is unlikely to be declared null and void by any Court.
Another reason for demand of special status was the large scale influx of migrants into our State. Goa needs migrant labour. However, uncontrolled migration into the State can upset its demographic composition and lead to social and economic problems. There are several laws to control migration into the State but these laws are not being implemented effectively and remain largely on paper. The Interstate Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act of 1979, The Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act of 1970 and the Goa Daman and Diu Inter State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Rules 1982 are some such laws. The 1979 Act provides for registration of all contractors who employed five or more interstate migrants on any day of the preceding twelve months. The contractors must furnish details of the workmen, issue a pass book with passport size photograph to every workman indicating where he is working and other details. The State Government is required to appoint inspectors to oversee implementation of the Act. The law directs builders and labour contractors to provide residential accommodation, sanitation and other facilities to the workers engaged by them. Yet, these provisions are ignored and much of the migrant labour lives in slums under the most unhygienic conditions which pose major health hazards to them as well as to the local people.
All migrant workers should be registered compulsorily in the Panchayats and Municipalities. Aadhar cards as well as Public Distribution System (PDS) cards should be issued to them to avoid having to buy food grains and kerosene at high prices. The State Government should hold a yearly audit of all contractors who employ migrant workers and submit a report to the State Legislature for its scrutiny. It should also open an Internet portal indicating the contractors and migrant workers in Goa for public information and verification. The machinery for implementation of the Labour legislation needs to be strengthened urgently.
Goa has achieved remarkable progress over the last five decades particularly in core sectors such as education, healthcare and development of infrastructure though there are obvious deficiencies in all these sectors. We must face the multifarious tasks that confront us today with courage and determination, with a rational outlook and commitment to a value system anchored on work ethics and the quest for excellence.
(The writer is a former Union Minister)