Scrapping of RPG 2011 and genesis of draft RPG – 21. By: Edgar Ribeiro

In retrospect, the small state of Goa, more so than the larger states of the Union, misjudged the impact of the 73rd/74th Constitutional Amendment Act, 1972 (CA ACT 92) to their powers in a restructured federated system. Well before 2001, a central diktat to revamp laws from the state list pertaining to local governance provided for elected and accountable councillors/corporators and panchas across the nation and who could henceforth not be pre-emptively superseded by the state. Constitutionally, a new down-top geographic mosaic of India has since emerged to facilitate growth through this centre-state-local electoral dispensation. Specifically, for Goa we now have fourteen municipalities (including the corporation of the city of Panaji – CCP) and 192 village panchayats (comprising of one or more villages), each emerging through distinct electoral wards as the smallest accountable constitutional unit. These, without geographic overlaps, define the municipalities and village panchayats (VP) that fit into the twelve talukas (including Dharbandora) as development blocks distributed within the two districts that constitute the state.

Thus, from the mid-nineties, a third-tier elected body has been in place with distinct accountable jurisdictions, so as to cover the entire state (excluding ‘operational areas’ like the national port, airport, rail movements, expressways and sensitive areas not maintained by civic infrastructure). In this scenario, VPs through their respective panchas are required to promote and/or regulate twenty-nine items of governance listed in the eleventh schedule of the CA Act 92. Likewise, councillors and corporators in the CCP have eighteen such items allotted to them in the twelfth schedule. With the state government reluctant to devolve powers and related resources for this envisaged down-top participatory partnership, the elected local bodies function, at best, as appendages to the state machinery. Even the largely elected district planning committees (DPC), as in place for the two districts of the state for inter alia coalescing development programmes for orderly growth, publicly lament the lack of clearly defined roles and resources to them.

Thus, despite Goa being high on comparative charts of national social and economic indicators, there is growing disenchantment against the system on this score viewed as being step-motherly including by several corporators, councillors and panchas who are well-versed with their compact jurisdictions. Not unexpectedly, it was this constituency that also helped buttress the GBA movement of 2007 and the resultant hurried commitment by the government for a new spatial directive for the state.

Broadly, this was the genesis of draft RPG- 21 by a task force of non-official members under the chief minister of Goa and which, by November 2008, submitted the draft plan to be statutorily processed for public “comments”. The submission availing of the flexibilities inbuilt in the Goa Town and Country Planning Act (GTCP Act, 74) laid emphasis on sustainable growth through the two districts of the state as the “spatial regions” and on the development blocks of the districts as the “spatial sub – regions”. For this exercise, the base maps were uniquely reformatted by interpolating the authenticated survey of India topographic sheets with the state cadastre data and also satellite imagery, which through the increasing orbital frequency of Google leveraged frequent ground level changes. Even so, mapping distortions emerged, which required correctives through the “public comments” process. Thereafter, by analysing the views as received to the draft from the local body electorate upwards, the final RPG-21 was programmed to be in place as a “participatory plan”. Thus, by December 2009, these plans were required to serve as a guidance document to the fleshed out development plans (ODPs/CDPs/Zonal Maps) for the municipal and panchayat jurisdictions.

(To be continued)

(The writer is the former chief planner, town and country planning, and past president, institute of town planners, India)