Congress, NGOs protest at Goa defence expo site

Panaji, Feb 15 (IANS) Over 200 Congress workers and civil society activists on Monday protested at the proposed site for the relocated Defence Expo 2016 in Goa, blocking a team of revenue department officials from conducting site inspection.

Protesters at Naqueri plateau in Betul village in South Goa led by state Congress president Luizinho Faleiro, Roman Catholic Church-backed Council for Social Justice and Peace executive secretary Fr. Maverick Fernandes, as well as Congress legislator Babu Kavlekar said they were opposed to handing over of land meant for setting up an industrial estate to the defence ministry for creating infrastructure for the expo.

“This area is meant for an industrial estate so that jobs can be created. A defence expo will take place only for some days a year. How will that help in job creation? Why are these large chunks of land being given away to the armed forces, when Goa is facing a land crunch?” Faleiro said.

The team of government officials, who had arrived to carry out a survey, were blocked by the protesters for a few minutes. The survey was later carried out under police escort.

Traditionally held in the national capital, the Defence Expo is scheduled to be held in Goa this year because a new convention centre is being built at Pragati Maidan in Delhi.

However, the Defence Expo 2016, which is the ninth in the series of biennial Land, Naval and Internal Homeland Security Systems Exhibitions organised by the defence ministry, has attracted opposition from the BJP-led coalition government’s political opponents as well as a section of the civil society over the allocation of six lakh square metres of land at the coastal village in Betul, 45 km from Panaji, to the ministry for the project.

While Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar and Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar have insisted that the Defence Expo 2016 is only a temporary project, the Opposition has claimed otherwise.

Parrikar has said the expo would help residents earn revenue by setting up tea and refreshment stalls at the event and local taxis as well as hotels would benefit because of the visitors.

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