Congress seeks probe into illegal construction at UNESCO-endorsed church

by IANS |

Panaji, Dec 7 (IANS) The Congress on Tuesday demanded a judicial probe or an investigation by an independent agency into alleged illegalities in the construction of a bungalow in the protected area surrounding the 17th century heritage church complex in Old Goa near Panaji.

"Let this enquiry not be conducted by government officials who will be under political pressure. It has to be conducted by an independent professional agency or by a retired judge. Only then will we get to the bottom of the truth in this matter," state Congress leader Tulio D'Souza told a press conference at the state Congress headquarters here.

The controversy surrounding the construction of the allegedly illegal bungalow, located near the St. Cajetan Church in Old Goa erupted some months back and prompted civil society protests ahead of the 2022 Assembly polls.

The bungalow was constructed by BJP national spokesperson Shaina N.C.'s husband Manish Munot in partnership with a local politician's Spouse Suraj Lotlikar, who belonged to the Goa Forward Party (GFP).

In face of sustained protests, Deputy Chief Minister and Town and Country Planning Minister Chandrakant Kavlekar has already said that the permissions and licences for constructing the structure were illegally obtained, even as the local village panchayat has now revoked permissions for the projects and served the original owner of the land where the construction has been carried out, with a show cause notice.

Goa Archbishop Fr. Filipe Neri Ferrao last week also warned politicians against such illegalities, especially at heritage sites endorsed by UNESCO. The Congress also said that the scope of enquiry announced into the illegal structure by Union Tourism and Culture Minister G. Kishen Reddy on December 4 should be widened and not just limited to violations of heritage laws.

"G. Kishen Reddy said that there would be an enquiry. We want to know whether this enquiry is only to bless all the illegalities, or it will be conducted by an independent professional agency to expose and bring to book. He has only talked about ASI (Archaeological Survey of India), because he is a central minister," D'Souza said.

"We want a comprehensive enquiry covering Central as well as state government departments, town planning, CRZ authorities, etc and all departments which had given permission to this structure. All this should be enquired into and the enquiry should be a public one. People not only want the structure demolished, they also do not want such frauds and such illegalities," he added.

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