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Private shack owners: Not our fault, won’t allow demolition

Panjim: Panicking private shack owners have warned of a law and order situation if the Goa Coastal Zone Management Authority (GCZMA) decision to dismantle shacks operating illegally in private properties is implemented. They have also questioned the authority’s decision despite applications seeking licences having been submitted prior to the commencement of the tourism season last year. “We had applied for licences from June-August, much ahead of the tourism season but GCZMA sat over it all this while. We waited for an inspection of the sites and approached the Chief Minister (Manohar Parrikar) when there was no move, even after the season started. If there is a delay in granting licence, the blame is on GCZMA. We are not at fault,” Private Shack Owners Association president Dharmesh Saglani said speaking to Herald.The association members, he said, have resolved to neither remove the shacks nor allow the authorities to demolish them. “We will not demolish and not allow demolition of the structures by the authorities. There will be a law and order problem if it happens. We will take to the streets,” he warned, adding they are also contemplating taking legal action, dragging the authority to court.GCZMA has decided that shacks on private properties operating without permission should be demolished by February 28. The tourism season commenced last October but owing to a delay in granting permissions under the coastal regulation zone (CRZ), several private shack operators erected the structures and commenced business.
“We had accepted bookings and advance money. Who will refund the money if the business is delayed? This problem every year is putting us in a tight spot. Licenses are issued at the fag-end of the tourist season. Why this injustice?” Saglani asked.The private shack operators claim that a string of meetings with the government failed to give them relief, but they still hope the decision will be reversed, and urged the intervention of the Chief Minister for a solution.There are over 500 shacks in private premises with nearly 20,000 locals employed, besides hundreds of people from other States employed during the season.
Another private shack operator Milton Marques slammed the decision suspecting this is an attempt to encourage 5-star hotels/resorts and non-Goans into the hospitability business. “After tourist taxis, shacks is the only business left with the locals. I find this decision of GCZMA ridiculous because applicants had applied for licenses well in advance, made the payment and got it sanctioned. The authority had uploaded the forms on the website. We began operations based on this sanction. What do they expect us to do when they do not take steps in a time-bound manner?” he asked, and added, “Are the authorities encouraging 5-star tourism and non-Goans into the business by shunting us out of the business?”
Canca village sarpanch Marcus, echoed the view of the association stating that GCZMA wants a tourist taxi strike-like situation in Goa.The association has found support from the Travel and Tourism Association of Goa (TTAG) that has also expressed disappointment on the decision. “Private shack operators cannot be blamed for starting the business. They have commitments, they take advance bookings. Why does GCZMA take long to issue licenses? The last season also had the same problem. One cannot expect to start a business when the tourism season is almost over,” TTAG president Savio Messias said.The shack operators also lamented that when the beach shack operators were granted an early NOC this season, why were private shack operators sidelined?
Private shack operator Runal Pereira demanded that they should also be given licences simultaneously after the beach carrying capacity and sand dunes survey.The decision has given rise to another question that when the Union Ministry of Environment and Forests – over a year ago – allowed shacks to continue to stand even during the monsoon but banned from operating from June to August, whether these structures can be dismantled. [H]

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