Panaji, May 5 IANS | 7 months ago

The Congress has smelled a scam in the Goa tourism ministry's decision to lease prime coastal land on one of the beaches in the state to two private developers for what it has called a "throwaway" price.

Addressing a press conference here Monday, Congress spokesperson Vijay Bhike questioned the Goa government's logic of parcelling out prime government land to private parties for paltry sums, even as the tourism ministry has promised more such public-private partnership arrangements in the near future.

The Congress alleged that the tourism industry has leased 53,000 sq metre of land at Vagator beach to private developers.

"The ministry is interested in promoting such land deals at throwaway prices, rather than promoting tourism," Bhike said at the party's state headquarters in Panaji.

The Goa Tourism Development Corporation, which functions under the aegis of the state tourism ministry, has leased the huge chunk of land to two New Delhi-based private companies recently for Rs.70 lakh annually.

According to tourism department officials, the aim was to promote the area, which overlooks the Arabian sea as a picturesque "model tourism and entertainment zone, which could host weddings, parties and entertainment events.

While the manner in which the land was given on lease for a period of 22 years has attracted controversy, a recent order by the National Green Tribunal directing government agencies to demolish illegal structures on the same land has raised further questions about the project at Vagator, one of the most picturesque beaches in Goa located 25 km from Panaji.

"Rs.70 lakh a year is a throwaway price considering that a single big ticket wedding costs nothing below one or two crore rupees. This is an undervalued price, which smells of a scam," Bhike said.

The tourism ministry has consistently denied any hanky-panky in the arrangement.

"We have had the land lying unutilised for several years. Now after the lease we are getting some revenue out of it," an official said.

(Posted on 05-05-2014)

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