Land on which MPT’s coal handling operations held still doesn’t have survey numbers

In February 2019, the move of the MPT to regularise 6.5 lakh square metres of land it has reclaimed from the Zuari River had come to light. Over a year later, the Revenue Department of the Government of Goa, in spite of admitting in the Assembly that the land belongs to the Goa government hasn’t shown evidence of responding strongly to ensure that the matter, pending in the SDM Mormugao’s Court is closed and the MPT attempt to regularise this land as theirs is stalled.

MPT’s move

The MPT relied on the jurisdiction of the port limits and claimed  the ownership of the land reclaimed from the Zuari under Section 113 of Goa Land Revenue Code to survey/re-survey the land admeasuring about 5,78,464 sq metres reclaimed from River Zuari water area and insert the name of “Mormugao Port Trust”.

The first report on this use in its report dated February 21, 2019, headlined “MPT criticised over attempt to regularise reclaimed land”.  The report had stated “sources suggest 50% of this very land is now under the South West Port and is occupied and leased by the MPT to coal handling operations. It further stated that “the MPT has gone ahead and leased out this land to private parties without any title to the property.”

The Chief Engineer of the Port had applied to the Sub-Divisional Magistrate for a survey number to be allotted to the reclaimed land. The application was made to the Deputy Collector of Mormugao who then wrote to the Captain of Ports for his opinion.

In the court of the SDM Mormugao this case was listed as Chief Engineer MPT versus   Inspector of Survey and Land Records and the Captain of Ports. (Case no: SDO/LRC/RES/04/2017).

Captain of Ports puts his foot down, says land belongs to Goa govt

The Captain of Ports was clear in his reply. “Newly created land/land reclaimed from River Zuari is the property of the Government of Goa, as declared under S. 14 (1) of Goa Land Revenue Code 1968. Hence, the name of “Government of Goa” ought to appear in the holder’s column of property card of the to-be-created holdings, if any. The port limits only indicate the regulatory jurisdiction of a port for its administration, control and management, and do not, ipso facto, confer ownership rights to the concerned port over the area within its limits, except in cases where the property is specifically owned by the port”, the Captain of Ports averred.

The Captain of Ports, also importantly pointed out that the river area that was reclaimed by the applicant belonged to the Government of Goa, which in turn granted the same to the applicant/MPT. The said Government order dated 09.07.2001, which permitted the grant did not allow or grant any area or rights over the water area of River Zuari to the applicant, other than that set out in the schedule of the grant. The reply also stated that no permission was taken by MPT from the Captain of Ports before the reclaiming exercise commenced.

Govt admits huge tracts of river area leased to private parties by MPT

Interestingly, there is no ambiguity on the part of the Goa government that the land claimed by the MPT belongs to the Government of Goa. What is surprising is the apparent lack of urgency to ensure its rights, in the face of an existing claim which is sub-judice. In a Legislatively Assembly question asked by Curtorim MLA ALeixo Reginaldo Lourenco “whether the Government is aware that Mormugao Port Trust (MPT) is claiming to be the owner of River Zuari area within its port limits and has leased huge tracts of river area at Nauxim, Sancoale to private parties; the Revenue Minister replied “Yes.”

Revenue Minister states that the land is the property of the Government

In another LAQ, in July 2020 ( a year later), the same MLA asks, ‘whether the River Zuari water area belongs to Government of Goa in terms of Sec 14 of Goa Land Revenue Code”. To which the Revenue Minister replied “Yes Sir. As per section 14 of the Goa Land Revenue Code, all bed of sea, and of harbours and creeks below high water mark and of rivers, streams etc. which are not the property of any person are hereby declared to be the property of the Government”.

Govt says “no consent” given to MPT for signing lease deeds with private players

With regard to the MPT signing lease deeds with private parties leasing out the same land, the 2019 LAQ of the Curtorim MLA questioned of the government is aware that MPT has leased 1 lakh sq metres of River Zuari area at Nauxim to one M/s Kargwal Constructions by executing a lease deed dated 12.10.2010 registered in office of Sub-Registrar of Ilhas. The Revenue Minister replied “Yes”. Further in this issue, the government maintained both in its 2019 and 2020 replies that it has not given any consent for the signing of the lease deeds

In reply to the same question in the Assembly in 2020, the Revenue Minister’s reply was “The Mormugao Port Trust (MPT) is claiming to be the owner of River Zuari area within its port limits on the basis of the Notification GSR No. 1127(E) dated 31-08-2017 issued by the Ministry of Shipping under section 4 of the Indian Ports Act, 1908 read with clause (q) of Section 2 of Major Port Trust Act, 1963 and in supersession of the Notification of the Government of India, Ministry of Shipping dated 14/12/2016 notifying the extent of the limits of the Port of Mormugao.

When contacted, Curtorim MLA Aleixo Reginaldo Lourenco said, “There are no visible steps taken by the government to protect its interest and to assert its ownership over the Zuari River area. “I am shocked to see why there is no much attention and seriousness being given to such a sensitive issue by the State government.”

The Deputy Collector of Mormugao Sachin Dessai wasn’t really top of the issue. All he managed to say was, “There are no hearings happening these days and may be by next 15 days the regular hearings on the matters will resume.”

Under Secretary Revenue Sudin Natu’s response did not inspire confidence that the government was proactive in defending its land. He said that the matter is with the SDO Mormugao and last year he had appeared for the hearing. When pressed for the government’s plan of action on the issue he declined to furnish any more details stating that “he cannot recollect the details of this matter.”

Let’s now check out what his predecessor Mahadev Araundekar had said a year ago, on this issue. “The survey and land records office is doing its process on this application. We have received the application for allotment of survey number and since the matter is sub judice my office cannot reveal any more details,” said Deputy Collector.

From one Deputy Collector to the other, from one year to the next year, there appears to be inertia bordering on disinterest, on the serious issue of protecting the land of the government which in turn is the land of the people of Goa.

A prominent member of the ‘Goa Against Coal’ movement Savio Correia, said, “Three hearings have taken place. The government must prevent an ex-parte order in favour of MPT. Why is the State government dragging its feet over this issue and not acting proactively”.

Source: Herald Goa