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Goa seeks to restrict land sales to outsiders

Faced with a rising tide of newcomers, the state of Goa is seeking to restrict the sale of land to outsiders who flock to its coastal belt to set up retirement and holiday homes.

PANAJI // Faced with a rising tide of newcomers, the state of Goa is seeking to restrict the sale of land to outsiders who flock to its coastal belt to set up retirement and holiday homes.

Legislators fear the local ethnic population will become a minority by the year 2021, pointing to the number of migrants moving to the former Portuguese colony.

The head of the state government, chief minister Manohar Parrikar, led a delegation from the state to New Delhi on Wednesday to express its concerns to the central government and request special powers to restrict land sales.

A memorandum submitted by Mr Parrikar to the prime minister Manmohan Singh, and seen by Agence France-Presse, said that "the unrestricted immigration and whole-scale transfer of land is beginning to submerge the unique Goan identity".

"Though we have been noticing this trend in the last decade or so, it has now reached menacing proportions. The apprehension is that by 2021 the migrant population will outnumber the local Goans," it said.

Goa, with its long sandy beaches and laid-back atmosphere, has been a haven for tourists since the days of the hippie trail in the 1960s and 1970s.

In recent years the south-western state has stopped signing sale deeds for foreigners seeking properties, although it is technically allowed if they have business visas and the sale involves non-agricultural land.

But the area has also become an increasingly popular spot for retirement and holiday homes for Indians from outside Goa.

"This has led to a huge boom in building activities in the state in the last 10 years or so," Mr Parrikar said, pointing out that more than 20 per cent of Goa's houses are vacant and are most likely second homes.

Citing the latest census data, Mr Parrikar said one-third of Goa's 1.6 million residents are migrants from elsewhere, with only 51 per cent of the population speaking Konkani, the state's official language.