Navy refutes Goa government’s charge of illegal land holding

October 1st, 2008 - 10:19 pm ICT by IANS  

Panaji, Oct 1 (IANS) The Indian Navy has for the first time countered the Goa government’s claim that it was illegally holding land at and around the Dabolim airport. “We are not possessive about the land. But we have a reason to stay in that place. We have been here since the time Goa was liberated,” Commodore Balvinder Singh Parhar, chief staff officer (Air) of INS Hansa, told mediapersons at a function organized by the Goa Chamber of Commerce and Industry to discuss the controversial issue of dual airports for Goa Wednesday evening.

The state government has maintained that the navy has been illegally occupying 1,840 acres of land on which the Dabolim airport is located, ever since the Indian armed forces marched into Goa in 1961 to liberate it from Portugese rule.

The Dabolim international airport in south Goa is a military facility, which allows civilian traffic.

Rajya Sabha MP Shantaram Naik, who was presiding over the discussion, alleged that the navy possessed no title deed that would make them the rightful owners of the land.

“We are willing to lease out the land to the navy, but first they must agree that the land belongs to the Goa government,” said Naik, former president of the Goa unit of the Congress party.

In reply, Commodore Parhar said that after the liberation in 1961 the navy had taken over only 249 acres out of the 1,840 acres of land from the erstwhile Portuguese regime. The rest, he said, had been legally acquired through long-drawn land acquisition procedures till 1992.

This is perhaps for the first time that a senior naval official has categorically defended the position of the armed forces on the controversial issue.

“The navy has received a lot of adverse publicity on this issue. We also want tourism to grow further in Goa and we will not impede it. We have already given several acres of land to the Airports Authority of India keeping in mind the increase in air traffic and passenger in the recent years,” Commodore Parhar claimed, adding that the navy had several plans lined up for the Dabolim airport in the coming years.

“We will be using the facility as a base for MIG-29s and the Light Combat Aircrafts (LCAs) in the near future,” he informed.

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