Goa Elections: BJP Faces Farmer Anger Over Land Acquisition

Ankush Arondekar, a 70-year-old farmer, looked aimlessly at his sugar plantation. Arondekar, a native of Dhadachiwada in Goa, remembered hopelessly observing as earthmovers rushed in and gunned down his crop days before he can harvest his crop to make way for the Mopa International Airport. Arondekar stated that he postponed the harvesting because he couldn't locate labourers. It was his last sugarcane harvest, he believed. But one day, they appeared out of nowhere and destroyed all of the crops.

The governing Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) touts the new airport among its accomplishments, and it is featured extensively in the party's progress report card.

A sports arena and an AYUSH facility have also taken property from local farmers. They fought the purchase of land for a six-lane motorway connecting the airport to a major highway. Over 300 residents barricaded roads and even threatened arrest to get the surveyors away, but it was in vain.

A Dhargal village inhabitant, Bharat Bagkar who gathered the locals together, stated the residents proposed to Pramod Sawant, the chief minister, that the road be rerouted. One, it is a quicker path; more crucially, it avoids farmers who have already suffered significant losses due to land acquisition for administrative infrastructure initiatives.

Also Read: Ahead Of Polls, Goa’s Green Groups Want Parties To Put The State’s Environment First

They claim they forced this alignment to promote a casino. The area where the airport road is supposed to meet the highway was purchased by a gambling corporation.

The defeat of Bharatiya Janata Party member and minister Rajendra Arlekar in the 2017 polls was attributed to anger about acquiring land in the region for the airport and adjacent growth. Babu Ajgaonkar, who ran on a Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) platform before resigning to the Bharatiya Janata party in 2019, defeated Arlekar, who has now been nominated as the administrator of Himachal Pradesh.

In the face of mounting opposition to the incumbent party, the Bharatiya Janata party has relocated Ajgaonkar and placed him in Margao opposite Digambar Kamat, the opposition leader. A  former MGP leader Pravin Arlekar who crossed sides was handed the ticket by the Bharatiya Janata Party from Pernem.

Besides attempts to contact Pravin Arlekar, who had previously supported the agitating villagers, he was unreachable for remark.

Three ministers are one of four Bharatiya Janata party MPs who have been refused tickets as the portion of the party's attempts to fight anti-incumbency in regions like Pernem, where the province's second international airport is under construction. The airport would be built on roughly 100 lakh square metres of land in the villages of Uguem, Mopa, Poroscodem, Dhadachivada, and Dhargal.

Farmers, particularly cashew farmers, opposed the airport in court for years, claiming that the administration ignored valid scientific evidence that the plateau it is being constructed on is an environmentally sensitive zone.

They said the authorities labelled it as wasteland based solely on the low tree density.

Across Goa, protests have compelled the administration to either cancel or alter unpopular projects. Farmers from Pernem, which is located in one of the state's poorest areas, attempted failed to take their case to the Supreme Court.

At a trial for the program's environmental certification, a group of villagers asked that the project be permitted to continue since it would provide them with work.

According to Bagkar, the villagers have learned that the promise of work was mostly untrue and that they now lack both land and employment, and that they are banding together to battle for their privileges.