Goans opposed to hosting DefExpo, says Congress MP

New Delhi, March 1 (IANS) A campaign against holding the next Defence Expo in Goa found an echo in parliament on Tuesday with Congress M.P. Shantaram Naik raising the issue in the Rajya Sabha.

The biennial event has always been held in New Delhi but is being moved to Goa this time because its usual venue, Pragati Maidan in the national capital. is unavailable.

Naik told the Rajya Sabha that villagers of Betul, specifically the Naqueri plateau, where the temporary structure for hosting the expo is being constructed, were not happy.

“The villagers of Naqueri and Betul are highly agitated over the proposal of defence ministry to hold the defence exposition in their locality against their wishes,” Naik said.

Last week, the Bharatiya Janata Party, the ruling party in Goa, said the opposition to the holding of the event in the state was baseless because the structures would be erected only for a few days and then removed.

“There is no issue of land acquisition. The opposition to the project is baseless,” Goa BJP unit president Vinay Tendulkar was quoted as saying on Saturday in a media report.

The event, called Defexpo India 2016, is scheduled to be held in South Goa from March 28 to 31. It is expected to be attended by over 900 companies from over 44 countries manufacturing defence equipment.

Naik said in the Rajya Sabha that the state government had given the go-ahead to the event despite the fact that the proposed site belonged to the Goa Industrial Development Corporation, where construction of an industrial estate is going on.

“The industrial estate is going to employ a number of locals in various types of jobs. The Goa government has apparently succumbed to the pressures of the central government to allot the land to the DefExpo 2016,” Naik said.

The state government has reportedly assigned to the event six lakh sq metres of land at Betul village in South Goa, about 45 km from capital Panaji.

The project’s critics, including some civil society organisations, claim the decision to shift the event to Goa was not taken transparently.

In reply to an unstarred question, Minister of State for Defence Rao Inderjit Singh said that the central government has not acquired or taken land on lease or licence for the event.

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