Saturday, May 21, 2022
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impact: russian mafia

In Panjimgrad

The lid is blown. CM Rane is forced to act.

In Panjimgrad
In Panjimgrad
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53
An Outlook expose (January 29) on the Russian mafia investing in real estate in Goa rocked the state assembly, with the Opposition demanding an explanation from chief minister Pratapsinh Rane. Caught on the backfoot, the CM could say little in his government’s defence. Said Manohar Parrikar, leader of the Opposition: "We demanded an explanation from Rane." But "he did not have anything to say," the former BJP CM told Outlook. According to Parrikar, the chief minister had tabled a list of 482 properties bought by foreigners in Goa, while the real estate deals involving Russians highlighted by Outlook in its story was not even listed. The CM informed the assembly that the administration failed to notice the deals since they were done under the aegis of a corporate entity. But Parrikar says that’s no excuse. "We plan to take the government to task because this is a grave threat to our national security," he added.

The Goa unit of the BJP is taking up—in a big way—the issue of the Russian mafia virtually invading the tiny tourist state by buying vast plots of land through benami firms. Intelligence agencies pinned the reason for the deals to arms-running and drugs trade, lending a scary twist to matters. The BJP says it will also fight against the implementation of the Regional Plan 2011, which converts 80 per cent of forest land into commercial property. Parrikar and other Opposition leaders plan to go on a mass contact campaign to be launched in February.

In Delhi, BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad asked the UPA government to come clean on the issue. "It is not just about a commercial investment. It’s about mafia money—and that impinges on our national security. The government should promptly address such serious security concerns," he said. In fact, in September last year, a secret report by the National Security Council Secretariat (NSCS) forwarded by the PMO to 12 key ministries had warned of the Russian mafia buying real estate in Goa, largely riddled with poor policing and lax administration.

Sources in the Goa government told Outlook that the CM has asked chief secretary J.P. Singh to look into the issue. Special secretary (home) Dilraj Kaur and secretary (revenue) Raajiv Yaduvanshi have also been asked to probe the deals allegedly backed by hawala money. "I have asked the police and the registrar to look into the matter," Kaur told Outlook. "I will have to wait for their report to be able to comment on the issue."

However, citizens and activists of the Goa Bachao Abhiyan, which has been protesting the implementation of the Master Plan 2011, are furious with the state government. "The 2011 plan is the root of all such evils," says Patricia Pinto, a leading activist of the forum. "Now that the issue about the Russian mafia making investments in Goa has figured in the assembly, we need to ensure the government is answerable." According to her, the news on scrapping the 2011 plan is misleading because "it has been done with prospective effect. Which means that all the violations that have already taken place will not be effected."
The CPI’s D. Raja feels the opening up of the economy for investment in speculative business such as real estate is "doing great damage to our national interests." In fact, the NSCS report had highlighted that placing foreign investment in real estate under the automatic approval route has led to exacerbation of the problem.

Clearly, the protest plans should come as a wake-up call for the Rane regime. It’s not as if he wasn’t aware of the goings-on. Even last year, the issue of foreigners acquiring land had been brought up in the assembly. But the CM chose not to act. This time, public pressure may force him to.

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