Sao Jose de Areal villagers block railway team from demarcating land

MARGAO: Agitated villagers of Sao Jose de Areal today once again sent back the Indian Railways team that had come to demarcate the area proposed to be acquired from the village for double tracking of the South Western Railway.

Even as angry villagers in one voice objected to the proposal ZP member Moreno Rebello suggested that another meeting be held with representatives of the affected villagers, panch representatives, the collector and railways officials to thrash out the matter.

It may be recalled that the inspection was scheduled to be held earlier on 15th September when the Railways officials did not turn up due to an emergency meeting in Mangalore. Subsequently when they came to the village on 18th September the villagers did not allow them to do any work and sent them away.

At a meeting convened by South Goa MP Narendra Sawaikar on 19th September, it was decided to carry out a joint inspection where the land would be demarcated.

Accordingly four engineers along with two consultants of Rail Vikas Nigam Ltd along with one representative of the Project Management Consultancy arrived at Sao Jose de Areal at around 10:30 am to demarcate the land proposed to be acquired.

However, angry locals numbering around 100 refused to let them do any work. They argued that their ancestral houses were vibrating with the movement of trains on one track and feared that they would crumble if two tracks are permitted.

The villagers kept questioning the RVNL officials to comment on something that the South Western Railways Regional Manager Arun Jain at the meeting on 19th September had stated that the railways were not looking at double tracking beyond Majorda “at the moment”.

Even though the villagers were assured that the work will not start if the villagers are opposed to it, the villagers pointed out that the Collector’s office was compelling them to sign on blank forms without mentioning anything.

After much discussion, ZP member Moreno Rebello’s suggestion to have another meeting with the collector, affected villagers and railways officials was accepted.

However, Moreno cautioned that if the matter was not resolved amicably, the government may as well acquire the land forcibly and people may not even get the compensation that they were looking for.

Sarpanch Perris D’Costa along with eight panchas was present for the inspection. Freddy Travasso led the discussions on behalf of the villagers and asserted that they were totally opposed to the project and there was no scope for any compromise.