Chicalim villagers in Goa have their say, their way

on november 26, 2006, nearly 1,000 villagers of Chicalim, a village on the banks of the Zuari river in Goa, gathered for an unprecedented third gram sabha to vote against the Bharati Shipyard Ltd's plan of building a second ship building yard there. The shipyard, however, has the backing of the village sarpanch Raul D'Costa and the panchayat members. The gram sabha meet has forced the shipyard to abandon its plans and has exposed the divide between gram sabha and the sarpanch.

"The 73rd constitution amendment empowers the village and its people, but the panchayat council has tried to conquer power and not allow the gram sabha to percolate it,' says political scientist Aureliano Fernandes.

As a corrective measure, Bharti advertised its intentions claiming it had had a change of mind and now wanted to build a training institute along with the shipbuilding yard.The advertisement also claimed that the rapid environmental impact assessment had given Bharti the green light. The company has paid quite an amount of money for an area of 1,39,170 sq m, out of which, the company says, only 44,000 sq m will be used for the institute and the remaining land will remain as it is. But Fawia Menezes Misquita, the Chicalim Villagers Action Committee (CVAC) legal advisor said she was not impressed by Bharti's sudden midcourse correc-tion and intentions for such a huge piece of land.

"It is sapal and marshy. Thick man-grove vegetation grows on such marshy land. As for Bharti's claim that not an inch is khazan, there is no ambiguity on this. Khazan is land on the riverfront affected by tidal waves, which may or may not be cultivable. This land was however cultivated until two decades ago and then used for pisiculture, resulting in it becoming uncultivable. This was registered in Forms I and XIV.