A controversy has erupted in Goa over Chief Minister Pramod Sawant’s comment to NDTV, in which he said a former Chief Minister of the state – the late Manohar Parrikar – had not objected to a contentious infrastructure project that is at the heart of citizens’ protests.
For over a month now Goans have taken to the streets to oppose a clutch of projects that cut through the Mollem National Park and the Bhagwan Mahavir Sanctuary, a biodiversity hotspot in the eastern part of the state that is recognised by UNESCO.
The projects include the double-tracking of a railway line from Goa’s Mormugao Port to northern Karnataka.
In an interview to NDTV on Monday, Mr Sawant claimed Mr Parrikar, who also belonged to the BJP, had not, in fact, objected to the project.
“No he never did. He (Mr Parrikar) only commented on people’s concern but he never rejected (it),” Mr Sawant claimed.
However, official records clearly establish Mr Parrikar rejected the proposal to double-track the railway line in question.
In a note dated November 11, 2013, Goa’s Principle Chief Conservator of Forests, Richard D’Souza, rejected the proposal, stating it would endanger wildlife in the Bhagwan Mahavir National Park, through which the expanded line would pass.
Mr Parrikar, who was then Chief Minister, recorded his assent to the objection on the same note on November 22 (less than two weeks later), saying, “We may not agree since the Government of Goa has so far not agreed to the proposal. We may, therefore, not agree for the proposal before the Forest Department.”
Pushed on the backfoot by the protests, the state government claims the expanded rail and road networks will carry passengers and other cargo in addition to coal. They also say they will cap coal imports.