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Jan 28, 2007
Siege of Goa… defeated!

Most commendably, NDTV aligned itself with the besieged. In a series of exposes. It revealed the nexus between policy makers and developers, covered rallies and gave ordinary citizens a powerful platform. As the campaign continued, the church condemned the plan and slowly politicians ignored party loyalty and joined the struggle. Artists, cartoonists, poets and commentators spoke out. On New Year’s eve 2006, swinging parties as well as orhanised protests made news.

On January 3, 2007 the controversial minister Babush Monserrate resigned. He had personified the plan but everyone knew more than one man was responsible. An NDTV expose showed the Chief Minister Rane’s son was deep in deals that would be benefited by the RP. This was virtually confirmed when Rane rejected Monserrate’s resignation.

Then, after a disquieting lull, suddenly on January 26, the siege lifted. The Regional Plan 2011 was scrapped and all clearances were cancelled retrospectively. People had won. They had asserted that it was their right to price land and decide on selling it. In this case, they determined their environment was priceless and therefore decided:’no sale’. Not since success of the movement to save the Silent Valley in Kerala has there been such a people’s victory in India. The siege of Goa had been broken.
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As we leave the scene of celebrations, let us ponder the contrast with a cause that was lost. In october 2005, GoodNewsIndia had celebrated a landmark judgment by the Bombay High Court in the case of Mumbai’s lands belonging to obsolescent textile mills. The Court ruled that one third of the 600 acres involved had to be set aside for low cost housing and public use such as parks. Suffocating Mumbai had gained valuable lung space. But mill owners went to the Supreme Court which took a literal view of the law and reversed the High Court ruling.

The point to ponder is, had the public sentiment been anything like the one in Goa, could the Supreme Court have ignored it? Kalpana Sharma points out the difference people can make. The bottom line is this: in this sorry land, good news doesn’t happen spontaneously- it has to be wrought by people. While Indians may be full of good intentions, most of the time we are loathe to spare our time and money for causes and instead, wax indignant in our homes and among friends.

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