Vanxim locals formed an association to counter attempts of the taking over of their ancestral tenanted land for commercial purposes, at a token programme to be held on Gandhi Jayanti. They also decided to revive agriculture in their village.
A meeting to this effect was held near the Vanxim church on Sunday in the presence of social and environmental activists from different parts of the state who also endorsed their support to the agitation.
Maggie Silveira, a leader of the new association, said that villagers would start work to clear overgrown fields and grow some crop on October 2.
“Now its time we did some hard work and protected our land,” she said. The names of the new association members to carry the programme forward were also announced at the meeting.
George Fernandes, a farmer from Varca, recalled how people of his generation had cultivated their own fields and sutained themselves. “I still cultivate my fields. They are our wealth. But unfortunately they are being sold for petty considerations,” he lamented.
He urged the Vanxim islanders to pressurize the government for repair of the bunds, which led to the abandonment of agriculture in the first place.
Bismarque Dias said land as a resource had become scarce and expensive. “Our locals are unable to pay the price for it,” he said. “If the Vanxim people’s land has been sold, it should be restored to them. If a mistake has been committed, the matter should be set right,” he pointed out.
Tracing the struggle of other villagers in Siridao, Panchwadid and elsewhere, he said they had succeeded because they were united. He therefore urged the Vanxim islanders to stick together in their own interest.
Heritage activist Prajal Sakardande said that the take over of the state’s islands in Palolem, off the Mormugao harbour, and in this case, Vanxim, indicated a threat to the last of the green and beautiful patches. “All islands with greenery and beautiful land are under grave threat,” he said.
Anthony D Silva, a social activist from Ambelim said that after the end of the Portuguese regime, land in Goa was a legacy for everyone living in the state. “Uprooting people from an area is unthinkable, as they have moral and human rights, which have to be protected,” he said.
Villagers expressed surprise that a total of 4,85,350 sq m of land has been sold to a broker for Rs 55.04 lakh. “This land was further sold to another hotel group for Rs 30 crore,” a villager said.