Panaji: Objecting to a comment made by a top Indian Navy officer on Friday about security risk posed by islands off Goa’s coast, the Congress MP Shantaram Naik on Saturday accused the navy of trying to raise the security bogey as a pretext to “take control over the precious land”.
Naik also alleged that the Indian Navy has in the past, had eyed islands off Goa, in order to create recreational facility for navy officers.
“The defence ministry had obtained Anjadiv Islands off the coast of Goa, on grounds of security, many years back, and despite the written agreement, the ministry made a U-turn on the agreement, and stopped permitting members of Christian community to offer prays there twice a year, as agreed,” he said.
In the past, the navy had been eyeing Grande and St George islands to build holiday homes for navy personnel, he added.
On Friday, during Navy Day celebrations Flag Officer for Goa Naval area Rear Admiral Puneet Bhal said the islands off Goa were critical for security purposes.
“Time and again, the navy has been talking about maintaining security at all three islands – St George Island, Small Grande and Large Grande – located off Baina’s coast…. Today, aircrafts are flying out of INS Hansa at Dabolim, and the take-off and landing path of these aircrafts is just over these islands,” he said.
Small Grande is with us, while the other two islands are not. Also, these days, threat perception has increased many-fold. Anybody can come with shoulder-launch missiles or surveillance and can know our movements by sitting on the island, added Bhal.
However Naik does not buy Bhal’s argument.
“If the apprehension is that terrorist can fire shoulder missiles from these islands, such missiles can be fired from any part of the coastal area of the State. In fact, it is easier to detect any such terrorists operating on any of these island, where there is no population at all, then the places in Goa which are thickly populated,” Naik said.
The issue of land-hogging by the armed forces has been a prickly one since 1961, when Goa was liberated thanks to India’s clinical military action, from Portuguese rule. Critical installations and land tracts captured by the Indian army from the Portuguese forces during the action were then taken over during the brief spell of military administration of the newly liberated state.
The state government has also maintained that the Indian Navy has been illegally occupying 1,840 acres of land on which the Dabolim airport is located, ever since the Indian armed forces marched into Goa in 1961 to liberate it from Portuguese rule.
Two years before taking charge as the defence minister, Manohar Parrikar as Goa chief minister in 2012 told the Goa legislative assembly, during a discussion on requesting the armed forces to relinquish a tract of land in Panaji: “It is earlier to get the army to vacate from Lahore, but not from even an inch of land in Panaji.”