On Friday, the Assembly passed the Goa Bhumiputra Adhikarini Bill, 2021 recognising anyone living in the state for 30 years or more as a ‘Bhumiputra (son of the soil)’ and giving such a person the right to own his or her ‘small dwelling unit’ if ownership was undetermined so far. Assembly polls are six moths away and the Bill, along with 10 others, was passed even as 12 Opposition MLAs walked out on the last day of the three-day Assembly session.
Why was the need for such a Bill felt?
The ‘Statement of Objects and Reasons’ of the Bill, introduced on Thursday, states, “The Bill provides for a mechanism to give ownership right to the self-occupied dweller of a small housing unit to enable him to live with dignity and self-respect and exercise his right to life.” Once recognised as a Bhumiputra, an individual can stake claim to ownership of their house of not more than 250 sq m, built before April 1, 2019.
The objective, Chief Minister Pramod Sawant said, was to enable the ‘mool Goenkar (original Goan)’ to live with dignity. Addressing the House on Friday, he said, “In the last so many years there have been cases of homes built by a person or his parents but the land is not in his name. There is always a sword dangling over their head that someone will file a case against them (over ownership). The land is of different kinds like ancestral property, communidade property, panchayat land. Everyone had wished for the house that they lived in, their generations lived in, to be theirs.” He said there were several such cases in rural areas including Sattari, Sanguem and Pernem. “My brothers and sisters have been waiting for this. They built 250-300 sq m homes, built by their parents, but the land could never be theirs.”
The possible number of beneficiaries is yet to be estimated, officials said.
How does one apply?
The Bill provides for the constitution of the Bhumiputra Adhikarini — a committee consisting of the Deputy Collector as its Chairperson, and officials from the departments of Town and Country Planning, Forest and Environment , and Mamlatdars of respective talukas as its members.
The Bhumiputra may apply to the committee if his house has been built before the cut-off date. The committee will invite objections within 30 days, including from the land owner which could also be a local body, and then take a decision of granting ownership to the Bhumiputra.
Once recognised as Bhumiputra, will ownership of the house be free?
The claimant or Bhumiputra, once recognised, does not get the house for free. The Bill states the Bhumiputra Adhikarini may, by an order, “declare a Bhumiputra to be the owner of the dwelling unit occupied by him upon payment of an amount equivalent to the value of land calculated at the market rate”.
An appeal against the Bhumiputra Adhikarini’s decision can be filed before the Administrative Tribunal within 30 days. The four-page Bill states: “No suit, prosecution or any other legal proceedings shall lie against the Government or any officer or employee of the Government or any person authorised by the Government or Bhumiputra Adhikarini or its members for anything which is done, or intended to be done, in a good faith under this Act.” It states that no court shall have jurisdiction “to entertain, decide or deal with any question which is to be decided by the Bhumiputra Adhikarini and Administrative Tribunal under this Act”.
Why is the Opposition objecting?
The Opposition had said there was not enough time in the curtailed Assembly session to study or debate the Bill, and 10 others passed “in a haste”. It called this the ruling BJP’s “election engineering” and flagged concerns over illegal structures being regularised.
On Saturday, Goa Forward Party MLAs submitted a memorandum to Governor P S Shreedharan Pillai not to give his assent to the 11 Bills, which the state government passed “in an utmost hurry, obviously with oblique motives…” The Bhumiputra Bill, the GFP stated, “smacks of malafides” and its provisions would “amount to giving a premium on illegalities and perpetuate further illegalities.” They said that this would recognise encroachments by slum-dwellers that are over 30 years old as Bhumiputras.
Former Revenue Minister Rohan Khaunte said, “This Bill has open the floodgates for the migrant population that has been staying in densely populated areas in Goa and has no legality.”