Mayem (Goa): Even 50
years after liberation from Portuguese rule, the shadow of
colonialism still looms over this little village in Goa about 30
km from state capital Panaji.
The ownership of over 3,770 hectares of prime land, much of it
sitting on iron ore deposits, is in limbo thanks to decades of
wrangling over the property between the government, the legal
heirs of the original Portuguese owners and the villagers living
on the land.
The government had declared the area "evacuee property" in the
1960s, citing that the legal heirs of the owners had left Goa and
were Portuguese citizens. The property was thus given the evacuee
tag and entrusted to a custodian appointed by the government.
The property in Mayem earlier belonged to D. Jose Joaquim Noronha,
who was given the title Conde de Maem (Count of Mayem) and the
property declared the Condado de Maem (Countship of Mayem).
Over the years during the Portuguese era, the original owners had
leased out part of their land to reformed prisoners, who then
become residents of the land. Subsequently, in addition to those
who were already staying there, several others built illegal
structures on the land and today claim to be residents, tenants
and the like "for generations".
In 2011, the state government-appointed Law Commission proposed a
solution to the problem, which has vexed generations of legal
experts and politicians, by asking the government to acquire the
land and parcel it out to those who stay there.
"We had suggested that the state abolish the title and
proprietorship rights of the Count, become the owner of the land
and prepare a scheme for to allot it to the villagers under the
Town and Country Planning Act," former Law Commission chairman and
former union minister of state for law Ramakant Khalap told IANS.
A draft bill on this had also been submitted to the government,
which was not acted upon by the then chief minister Digambar Kamat
and the problem continued to linger.
The move had been welcomed by the villagers, who have bandied
under the Mayem Bhoo Vimochan Nagrik Kruti Samitee and had
demanded that the government expedite the Law Commission's
proposal and move a bill called the Condado de Maem (Abolition of
Title and Proprietorship of Lands in Mayem) Bill 2011 with certain
changes as urged by them.
The leaders of the agitation have been propagating the view that
they are still under the "bondage" of Portuguese decisions and
laws since they have no rights to their own land.
"For us, it is like still living in the Portuguese era. We have
been living on the land for generations but we do not own the
land. If we want electricity and water connections, we cannot get
permissions easily. We cannot even sell the land if we want to
because the ownership is not in our name," Kashinath Mayenkar, one
of the leaders of the group and a longtime resident of Mayem said.
There are around 895 structures, 34 temples and 15 schools located
on the disputed property.
A claimant to the property and title, Antonio S.C. Pereira, has
now says that the proposed law, if legal, should not be applied
only to Mayem but to entire state of Goa whereever there are
"If any such proposal is made specifically for Mayem, the same law
should also be made applicable to Poriem, Sattari, Pernem and
other talukas in Goa," Pereira, an Indian national, said in a
(Mayabhushan Nagvenkar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)