What the FAQ: What is Goa's controversial Bhumiputra Bill that is drawing flak all over?

In today's What the FAQ, we explain in detail the Bhumiputra Adhikarini Bill 2021, what it entails and why there was widespread discontent about it
Pic: Edex Live
Pic: Edex Live

The Goa government on Tuesday agreed to reintroduce a controversial bill on sons of the soil in the next assembly session after the legislation in its present form drew flak from various quarters, including the Opposition. Chief Minister Pramod Sawant, in his address to the people of Goa, said considering the public sentiments, the Bhumiputra Adhikarini Bill would be renamed as the Bhumi Adhikarini Bill and it would be reintroduced during the next assembly session to be held in the next two months.
Here, we delve into what the bill is all about and why it has been receiving backlash from various sectors.

What does the Bill entail?
The Goa Bhumiputra Adhikarini Bill, 2021, was tabled and hurriedly passed on July 30. According to the proposed law, "any person who is a resident of Goa for more than 30 years qualifies as a bhumiputra (son of the soil) and can apply for ownership of a house (up to a plinth area of 250 square metres) s/he has been living in even if the land on which it stands is owned by the government, a private person or commonly owned. Any structure built before April 1, 2019, qualifies for ownership".

Why was such a Bill introduced now?
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, comunidade 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,” Sawant said.

How can 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 landowner which could also be a local body, and then take a decision of granting ownership to the Bhumiputra.

What does the Opposition have to say?
The Bill has been receiving backlash and a few opposition parties have also called it a 'mockery' of Goans. The Congress party demanded that the Bill be withdrawn. “Why this unusual move to rename the Bill and invite suggestions after bulldozing it in the assembly? Is it hurting the BJP across Goa, across India and overseas too? The Bill has to be tabled back in House. Also, is this not strange to invite suggestions after the Bill has been passed? What mockery! He should withdraw the Bill in toto and restore the faith and confidence of the Goans,” Congress spokesperson Carlos Alvares Ferreria said.

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