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FEB. 25, 2007
 Cover Story
 BT Special
 Back of the Book

Trading with ASEAN
In the recent Indo-ASEAN summit, ASEAN was, for the first time, on the defensive. India has agreed to bring down its negative list of imports to 490 items in the free trade agreement with the 10 ASEAN nations. But India’s step towards free trade was not matched by the ASEAN nations, as more than 1,000 items still figure in the negative list of the ASEAN. In 2005-06, India’s total trade with ASEAN was at $22 billion (Rs 99,000 crore), against just $7 billion (Rs 31,500 crore) in 2000-01.

Exchange Deal
Indian markets are on a roll. Global stock exchanges and financial institutions’ interest in the Indian stock exchanges goes to show the long-term growth potential of India Inc. The year has started on a positive note. The NYSE and three global financial institutions have each picked up a 5 per cent stake in the NSE. The deal will open exciting vistas in global co-operation for the NSE, and at the same time could improve the fortune of smaller exchanges in the country.
More Net Specials
Business Today,  February 11, 2007
Want a Piece of Paradise?
Almost everybody-foreigners, non-resident Indians, investors, techies, the nouveau riche middle class-wants an outpost in Goa. Everybody, except the people who already have it-the local populace. A section of politicians appears bent on making the picturesque state a concrete jungle. Many Goan activists are against development of any kind. Is there a middle path?
Sun, sand and sea: There is plenty of the three but not enough land. And with 3.98 lakh migrants and an ever increasing number of tourists, Goa is on a boil
As the sun sets on the golden sands of Baga beach on North Goa's bustling beach belt, business in the shacks, nightclubs and restaurants warms up. One such small but popular European restaurant is managed by a British couple, Karolyn and Leonard. As Karolyn personally chats up with the guests, her husband doubles up as the chef. Originally from Leicester in the UK, the couple's love for sunshine, coupled with weariness with "the rat race back home", compelled them to sell their hairdressing business and move abroad. "We managed a restaurant in Greece for some time. Then, a friend asked us if we would like to manage a restaurant in Goa. And here we are!" says Karolyn who has been in Goa since last October. Karolyn and Leonard have valid business visas. Unlike James Christiansen (name changed).

A UK passport holder, Christiansen has been spending six months a year in Goa for nearly three years in a row. An ex-serviceman with the British army, Christiansen 'co-owns' a small cottage on the Anjuna beach stretch. "I get a disability pension and with that I live a better life in Goa than I would in Durham where I come from," says Christiansen between swigs of beer. He rents out his two-room cottage to other tourists and makes enough to afford "a day away in Bali". The only problem? Christiansen doesn't have a valid visa to do business. He isn't the only one running businesses illegally. "Some 300-plus cases of foreigners owning land have been detected. Wherever there is a problem with illegal ownership, we will refer the cases to the Reserve Bank of India," says Goa State Chief Secretary J.P. Singh.

It's not just languorous Englishmen who are angling for a piece of paradise. Almost everybody, right from the loaded Indian middle class to greedy politicians, is eyeing a piece of the sun-baked soil. Unfortunately, there just isn't enough of it to go around in this tiny state. Inevitably that's leading to corruption (illegal constructions are a dime a dozen), friction (between enthusiastic ministers and belligerent activists) and the fear that Goa will soon resemble a concrete jungle, thereby eroding the state's unique selling proposition itself.

Plan of Mass Destruction?

All you wanted to know about recently scrapped Regional Plan 2011.

What's a regional plan?
It is a decennial study done by the Town and Country Planning Department of the Goa government that maps trends in population, economy and changes in topography of the region. Usually a land use survey is conducted and then a policy is chalked out in conjunction with local bodies like municipalities for the next decade for economic development and use of land. Goa's first regional plan was drafted in 1981 and notified in 1982, and approved by the government in 1985. In short, the regional plan is like a blueprint for regional development-a plan that rolls out land use and development strategy for the future.
What's Regional Plan 2011?
In 1998, the government started working on draft version for a regional plan for the state till 2011. The draft was prepared over a period of three years and circulated at technical conventions organised by the town planning department. It went through several changes between 2000 and 2003. Finally, a draft version of the plan was 'made public' for comments in November 2005 and notified in August 2006.
What's the problem?
Activists allege that the plan would convert Goa into a concrete jungle and deplete its natural resources. There are also allegations that the government has doctored the plan to suit the needs of the builders and construction lobby. The government has also been accused of opening up agricultural, forest and areas close to beaches (in violation of CRZ norms) to convert them into settlement land for construction. These changes, according to the Save Goa movement, might lead to "increase in migrant population along with the accompanying social problems like increased crime". Another bone of contention has been the fact that the government bypassed local bodies like gram panchayats while planning, thereby contravening the directives of the 73rd and 74th amendments to the Constitution of India. In addition, there are also allegations that the subsequent drafts of the regional plan constantly increased the quantum of settlement land in a clandestine manner. Observers have alleged that the draft of the Regional Plan 2011 initially provisioned for 36,994 hectares. The final plan, which was notified a couple of months later, provisioned for 45,901 hectares-a 21 per cent jump in less than a year.
What's happened?
In the aftermath of protests from across the state, Goa's Minister for Town & Country Planning Atanasio 'Babush' Monserrate quit the state cabinet earlier this month. The regional plan has been denotified, with retrospective effect.

Land, Land Everywhere...

"Every environmental law is being violated with scant respect by the politicians, to cater to the builder lobby"
Oscar Felipe Pinto Rebello/Save Goa activist
During the day, it's a cool 25 degrees centigrade in the shade. But Goa, itself, is on the boil. Not a single day passes by without a morcha being taken out, or public interest litigation filed in the court. Tourists-Indian and foreign-crib about the exorbitant hotel rooms and haggle angrily with cabbies. The cabbies are, in turn, angry with tour coach operators for eating into their business. The environmentalists are seeing red because of the vanishing greenery. Almost everybody in this picturesque state with sun-baked sands is fuming, for one reason or the other-except of course, the immaculately stoned (but that's another story).

But if you sit inside Dr Oscar Felipe Pinto Rebello's cool, one-room clinic in Panaji, it's tough to imagine what the strife is all about. "As a doctor, I think there is an invasion on what we Goans call as Sussegado-our laidback attitude," muses 39-year-old Rebello, who sports a 'Livestrong' style wrist-band which has the words 'Save Goa' emblazoned on it. A self-confessed 'first time protestor', he has been the convener of the high decibel Save Goa campaign over the last couple of months. What goaded this physician to reach out for the flag and microphone is something called the Regional Plan 2011 (see Plan of Mass Destruction?). In fact, this plan has raised the hackles of citizenry in the sleepy villages of Goa. The bone of contention is the surface utilisation portion of the regional plan, which deals with Goa's most precious asset-land.

Karolyn (R) came to Goa to escape the rat race back home. She runs a restaurant on Baga beach. While she has a valid business visa, there are many without one. Some 300 cases of foreigners owning land have been detected
Only 2.9 per cent of Goa's land is settlement land, where people can stay and construction is permitted. The rest of the land is covered by forests, agricultural land, mines, and plantations where construction is not allowed. In addition, Goa has a coastal line of about 105 km and as per coastal regulation zone (CRZ) laws, construction is not allowed within a distance of 500 metres from where high tide waters kiss the shores. That effectively takes away another 52 sq. km. As Nitin Kunkolienker, President, Goa Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI), says: "More than 85 per cent of land in Goa is undevelopable. For Goa to develop and grow, we need more land for settlement."

Among other things, the Regional Plan 2011 proposed to free up around 6,802 hectares of land. The land up for conversion included 1,847 hectares of cultivated land, 1,153 hectares of natural cover, 960 hectares of social forest, 22 hectares of mangroves and 75 hectares of an export promotion zone. It was this apparent intrusion that spurred Robello to spearhead the Save Goa movement. "With that regional plan, the government would have killed the greenery in Goa and turned it into a concrete jungle. There is no respect for law of the land. Every environmental law, CRZ rule is being violated with scant respect by the politicians, to cater to the builder and construction lobby," says Rebello.

Not picture perfect: The scarcity of land has put real estate prices out of the reach of middle class Goans
Activists also accuse the government of keeping local bodies like Gram Panchayats in the dark while drawing up such plans. And there is some truth in these allegations. Documents available with BT show that despite repeated requests for copies of the regional plan from the Calangute Panchayat village over a period of four years, not many details were provided. Calangute has a population of approximately 15,000 people and has beach stretches which are popular among foreign tourists. Says Calangute village Sarpanch Joseph Sequeira: "The regional plan would have been a terrible disaster for my village. The planners wanted to build on one of the most beautiful cliffs in Goa, which attracts lakhs of tourists." Last fortnight, the government scrapped the regional plan because of widespread opposition to the plan.

But is dust-binning the plan the best that could have done? Fact is that there is a shortage of land, to which a solution needs to be found. The regional plan was ridiculous but it could have been salvaged instead of being shredded. The shortage of land has ironically been exacerbated by one of Goa's greatest success stories-tourism, which has not only drawn in lakhs of foreign tourists but also migrant labourers from across the country. "About 35 per cent of the population is migrants today. About a decade ago, the immigrant population was one-and-a-half lakh, today it's doubled almost to 3.98 lakh," says Kunkolienker. This influx of immigrants, who compete with the local populace for jobs and living space, is increasingly becoming a source of tension.

"Wherever there is a problem with illegal ownership, we will refer the cases to RBI"
J.P. Singh, Goa State Chief Secretary
To top it off, the scarcity of land has created a real estate boom. A square metre in capital Panaji costs as much as Rs 30,000, while in Calangute, a square metre can cost a little over Rs 22,000. With rates like these, buying land is becoming unfeasible for the middle class Goan. "Today, Goa has 270,000 houses for a population of 14 lakh people, which will increase to 18 lakh in 10 years. We need 4.5 more lakh houses by 2015. Where are they going to come from?" asks Kunkolienker. "The common Goan is hardly able to buy any property. As a result, the people who are buying land in Goa are nris, real estate developers and rich non-Goans," he adds. Kunkolienker also believes that unless the government opens up more land, industries in Goa are likely to suffer.

Killing the Golden Goose

"More than 85 per cent of land in Goa is undevelopable. We need more land for settlement"
Nitin Kunkolienker, President, Goa Chamber of Commerce and Industry
What's even more foreboding is the fact that hotel room rates have almost doubled, if not tripled, in Goa over the past five years. And that's affecting Goa's USP as a low-cost tourist destination. Currently, according to government estimates, there is a shortage of 5,000 hotel rooms in Goa and that's driving up room tariffs. "Today, a four or five-star hotel room in Goa is as costly, if not costlier, than a room in most South East Asian holiday destinations like Bangkok and Singapore. That's starting to drive away tourists from Goa," says a hotelier, who runs a three-star hotel in South Goa. Some 35 per cent of the state's revenues come from tourism and allied services.

At the time of writing, despite being mid-season, most shacks that dot the North Goa coastline were deserted. Many shut down as early as 10:30 p.m. on weekdays. Even government officials concede that tourism has been hit this year. "Because of the terrorist attack warning by Israel, there has been a slight drop in tourism. Even the hotel industry has reported some cancellations," says Singh. The state government, for some time now, has been trying to attract the more affluent kind of tourist

instead of the backpacker variety. But that's easier said than done. Hoteliers feel that Goa lacks basic infrastructure needed to graduate into a high-end tourist centre. A walk into Goa's ramshackle, congested Dambolim airport is proof enough. "We will not be able to pitch for a top class international medical conference in Goa without something as basic as a convention centre," says Ananya Sinha, Director (Sales), Taj Exotica.

And be it carving out a golf course or building a convention centre, its back to the same old question- where will the land come from? The Regional Plan 2011 tried to offer a solution, albeit a flawed one. With the scrapping of the plan, it's back to square one. Activists with the Save Goa movement point out that they are not against non-Goans or development. But neither do they have solutions to offer for the future. With state legislative elections scheduled for May, not much is going to happen in the state other than political hyperbole and a lot more rancour. The development agenda in Goa, for the time being, at least, is like the visiting tourist-on its back and half asleep.

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