Will convention be a last gasp effort to save Goa Comunidades?
The Comunidades in Goa are in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) and in desperate need of a lifeline. That appears to be the belief of a majority of the components of the Comunidades, especially those who desire that the age-old system prevalent in Goa survives for the future. The question is whether that is possible?
A line in the form of a convention has been thrown to the Comunidades, but whether it can be a lifeline will be seen on Sunday, January 14, 2024. “The objective therefore,” said Savio Correia, moderator of the convention of Comunidades, “is to get the body out of the ICU into the ward and not debate on the DNA.”
Easier said than done, but as Correia says, “We will be wasting our time by reviving the mistakes of the past and that is why the core of the convention centers around the way forward keeping intact whatever is left.”
Comunidades in Goa are in a state of neglect primarily because of ideological splits that have been capitalised upon by certain unscrupulous components and the 12-point agenda for the meeting under Art 652 of Code of Comunidade is a much-needed step.
As the patient in the ICU is diagnosed, 82 components of different Comunidades have signed an online petition stating that three points, which are not incorporated in the agenda but have been submitted by Sadanand Malik, gauncar of Cudnem comunidade, be included for discussion.
The three points are:
1: To discuss and decide on disapproval of unconstitutional and unauthorized amendments to the Code of Comunidades since 1984 and to delete the same from the Code.
2: To discuss the validity of the amendments without official translation of the Code in English language without the approval of the translation by the Comunidades.
3: To discuss and decide to revoke the promulgation of the Record of Rights created in respect of the private villages/Comunidades as Comunidade is ‘grantor’ of land and not the ‘grantee’ and to recognise any holder of land in the village as ‘occupant’ and since the land in these villages are granted by Comunidades and not by government and that these records have caused irreparable loss to Comunidades.
Correia explained thus: “Ninety-eight suggestions were received. Most were incorporated but not in the language received but in the language found suitable to us. A few irrelevant suggestions not connected to Comunidades were ignored.” He added, “The issues raised by Malik are part of the agenda but as explained, indited in a different manner.”
That appears to be fair, but as Correia further explained, matters raised, “relating to High Court judgements were also ignored fearing contempt of court proceedings. The convention is not a forum higher than any court.”
This is the fourth convention of Comunidades. The first convention was called when the late Wilfred Mesquita was Revenue Minister, the second, on directions of the High Court of Bombay at Goa and the last in 2019.
Since the last convention was in 2019 – a convention is expected to be held every five years – the announcement of the convention on the second Sunday of January of the year 2024 should have been received gleefully.
However, ideological differences came to the fore when advocate Andre Pereira, an authority on Comunidades, raised the alarm saying: “The members of the Commission constituted by Revenue Department, should be held responsible for accepting the names from administrator of Comunidades without convening extraordinary general body meeting of each Comunidade.”
“The term Comunidade is not a physical living individual but a body with perpetual entity and bound to be strictly covered by Code of Comunidade and not based on personal opinion of any person or administrator with defunct knowledge of customary law,” stressed Pereira.
There are also some who don’t expect much from the convention. “There have been three conventions held and there is nothing to show that they helped in improving the lot of the comunidades. The agenda for calling this convention is still a mystery,” muses Visitacao Monteiro, author of the book Goan Village Communities.
Tulio D’Souza, chairman of the 2019 convention, which was adjourned, believes that the convention should essentially take up issues connected with Comunidades as a whole and not individual.
“We should all get together to see that the government’s plans of legalising illegal encroachments on comunidade land is stopped forthwith. Our land cannot be somebody else's,” stresses Agnelo Furtado who has successfully brought about a green revolution in the Comunidade of Chinchinim.
“Once the issues of all the Comunidades are received, it is the duty of the commission to segregate them and club them topic wise to be discussed in one of the sessions of the reunion,” explains gauncar Hector Fernandes.
The fourth convention comes at a crucial time, with the future of the Comunidades at stake. It is an opportunity for components to show that they are capable of not just moving out of ICU but also getting discharged speedily after a complete recovery.