Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Diwali in Goa

I was in Goa for a specific reason, to meet my relatives and celebrate Diwali and Secondly to actively contribute to the protection of Goa from illegal real estate projects.

While in Goa, watched 2 movies, Sawariya and Om Shanti Om. Each film had some essence which touched me, and gave more energy for the bigger reason I was in Goa.

In Sawariya, Ranbir Kapoor, explains how to fight unhappiness as if its a boxing match, and how every round if you dont fight back, unhappiness starts entering your mind, your family, your work.....

In Om Shanti Om, SRK explains that any film is incomplete without an happy ending, and hence the movie is not over. And stealer was inspired words of Paul Coelho in the movie, that when you desire something pure coming from deep within the heart, the whole universe comes together for your to achieve it.

After spending time with family, pals and movies, it was action time on 11 November, With the meeting call from Divya Iyer (CNN IBN Reporter-Delhi). I had been in touch with Divya, to cover the story of how citizens were fighting the project Aldei De Goa, a clear violation case study.
The concept was to build on the storyline of Citizen Journalist reporting violations of the project and struggles of citizens against Aldei De Goa.

The cameraman was Chintamani from Mumbai branch, with amazing photography skills. We first went to the through the whole story along with the activists involved. Followed by visit to the site, where I was shocked to see the sights of the massive construction under progress.

There 3 sites in this project, one where occupancy has already started and there is a weak case of illegality. Second site is violation of CRZ norms as construction is within 100 metres of High Tide Line. And third site is violation of Illegal Hill Cutting under Sec 17 A of Town and Country Planning Act. We visited both the controversial sites and identified places where to take the video and interviews such that the stringent security would not be aware of.

In the afternoon, we brainstormed the template for the report, which would explain how and why I got into this activism, As is Scenario, Interviews of locals and other activists, Closure.
But the destiny changed the template and content to great extent. Post noon I was ready with my report script, and after chai at my place, 3 of us- Divya, Chintamani and myself along with our Vehicle incharge Vincent we went to the site to take the first cut of the report.

Divya suggested that the photoshoot must have in background some of my pals, as i would be talking about nostalgia of the beach. Much to my surprise none of my friends turned up, nevertheless destiny had its own participants. There were many locals and villagers playing cricket and soccer over the beautiful sunset which gave a wonderful natural background. I spoke about the memories of my childhood and youth and how everything is now at stake.

Using the contacts of Albertina, we had 3 locals one of them belonging to the Panch, who spoke of the hurdles faced by the locals, the threats issued against them by the real estate lobby, she spoke with helplessness that someday they would never get to the sea due to the boom in the real estate. One local named Moti, talked of seeing Gauri Khan visiting the site and in the same week looking at Sharad Pawar. One of the elderly locals Mrs. Kamal mentioned that fisher folk were unable to access the beach and when they do visit the beach the water is not worthy of fishing as the 400 laborers use the beach for their natures call. As well as mud is dumped into the sea, making the sea water visibly muddy.

On Sunday night, We viewed all the photoshots of the day, this acted as feedback for self improvement. The next day would start at 6am, I was told by Divya.

12 November, would be a day difficult to forget. 7 am we were at the site 2 of Aldei De Goa, were I spoke of the violations of CRZ, explaining how the Aldei De Goa identified a loop hole in the laws and how they cooked up a story to legitimize their case, which is still in court.
This was followed by re interviewing on the locals-Panch, who was very much vociferous and aggressive about how they were targeted by Developers and that they would fight if the promise given are not met, with or without anyones support. It was an emotional interview for me, while i interrogated her, there were many moments when i had tears in my eyes, listening to the loss of the locals and their innocence abused.

After risky photography which was not permitted by the security, we then moved to a place where the site 3, where illegal hill cutting had occurred was in background. I spoke of how the Town and Country Planning over the last week had legalised hill cutting by Aldei De Goa, overlooking the clear violation under Sec 17 of their own laws.

As decided over the weekend, all activists fighting for the cause, were to meet the Chief Minister at noon after meeting the bureaucrats of Town and Country Planning Department. But to everyones surprise, the entire staff of Town and Country Planning had been called to the CMs residence. So all of us chased them. We stormed inside the residence of CM asking for justice and logic. After some argumentative discussion our demand for joint meeting with CM and bureaucrats of Town and Country Planning Department was agreed.

Since I was wired with wireless microphone, most of the discussion was hopefully expected to be recorded. In round table meeting the CM along with Mr. Morad and Mr. Ashok Kumar from TCP and citizens such as Dr. Oscar, Patricia Pinto, Claude Alvares, Rebina, Ritu, eminent journalists etc were present.

The discussion started by first showing that TCP had passed 2 plans for same plot on same day.
Showing google images as recent as 2003, which showed no activity of construction done on site 3-where illegal hill cutting was done. Showcasing documents of site inspection done by the same staff of TCP some years ago which clearly mentioned the illegality. The discussion then became argumentative with questions as to why the police complaint had been withdrawn against Aldei de Goa. The Chief Minister was very co-operative in listening to the entire case. I requested the CM to visit the site and see personally the extent of damage of the project, i also urged him that the police which was giving security protection to the developers from the villagers, would do bias inquiry about the illegal hill cutting.

He unanimously said that he would immediately issue an order to stop the construction on site 3.
We urged the bureaucrats of Town and Country Planning Department that they should do their job properly and honestly, as it would results in more such scenes. I mentioned to the CM that for the last 3-4 months, i have been asking for the files that have cleared this project (RTI) and as per TCP these files are missing. On which the CM asked Mr. Morad Ahmed about the files, to which he said they are searching. CM informed him on priority basis to get the files and submit all documents to him in a chronological order.

One of the citizens, an eminent photographer and journalist asked the CM to sack the TCP officials for their negligent work and corruption. This resulted in scuffle as TCP officials said it was a direct accusations on their integrity without evidence.

After the decision by CM to issue the stop order on construction. We all citizens marched outside with some ray of hope that at least some of Goa would be saved.

All of us then went to Cafe Tato, the CNN IBN team along with social activists team had a warm meal discussing about the bigger picture and hopes of the citizens for a better Goa with sustainable development.

The last shots of story were taken on banks of Mandovi, where i talked of how fragile Goa is and my message to buyers, sellers, bureaucracy and politicians as a Citizen Journalist.

Since site 2 of Aldei de Goa is in court, any press story with pictures or content relating to CRZ Violations is considered as matter sub judice, it would not be accepted by the Court as it could change the nature of the court case. Hence, this story might be laying in the hands of the CNN IBN management and their lawyers for clearance. It might be never shown on the channel, but when i boarded the bus back for Bangalore on 12 November, with my relatives saying farewell to me, with complaints that I dont spend time with them, and every time i promise to, at that moment, to some extent i felt content with the trip to Goa.

And i thought about the 2 masala films, and my meaning and take away from them.
Dad use to help me write my essays in school, and about topic on Diwali, he would dictate that Diwali is the festival when darkness representing ignorance is removed by light of education and truth.

Jai Hind,

More about this
Pics Gallery

Transcript of the Report

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reshma M said...
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