Goa Church’s U-turn on ‘Monument Mitra’ scheme questioned

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Panaji, May 8 (IANS) The AAP on Tuesday questioned Goa’s influential Roman Catholic Church’s U-turn on the proposed adoption of the 17th century Basilica of Bom Jesus by a private company under the central government’s ‘Monument Mitra’ scheme.

Goa Archives and Archaeology minister Vijay Sardesai, who had earlier said that the state government was not consulted by the central tourism authority which shortlisted the private companies for the ‘adopt a heritage’ scheme, on Monday met representatives of the Goa Church along with other government officials, after which the Church officials agreed to offer the heritage Church for adoption.

Basilica of Bom Jesus is one of Goa’s most iconic churches. The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Goa sought to know the reason behind the overnight U-turn.

AAP convenor for Goa, Elvis Gomes on Tuesday said the Church representatives should explain to the people of Goa the exact nature of the scheme and the reasons why the Church, after initial criticism of the adoption scheme, overnight agreed to participate in the ‘adopt a heritage’ scheme.

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“Church representatives who have agreed, should first explain to the people the exact nature of the scheme and how beneficial it is to the Church in particular and the people in general,” Gomes said.

“They must also disclose the reasons told to them for not taking them into confidence at the initial stage itself when the whole thing was cooking up behind a veil of secrecy, between the interested corporates, Union Ministry and the Goa government,” the AAP leader said.

Controversy erupted in Goa last week, after two companies, namely Drishti Marine and V-Resorts were shortlisted for participation in the ‘Monument Mitra’ scheme, which is aimed at developing monuments and heritage sites with the help of private participation for five years.

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Drishti Marine is set to adopt key heritage areas like the Old Goa Church complex, Aguada, Cabo de Rama and Chapora fort, a lighthouse and Morjim beach, famous for Olive Ridley turtle nesting sites.

V-Resorts will be adopting the Basilica of Bom Jesus church, a 17th century structure housing the sacred relics of St Francis Xavier, a 16th century missionary saint and hosts the annual feast of the state’s patron saint Francis Xavier, which is attended by hundreds and thousands of devotees.

The Opposition as well as minority leaders had critised the state government for “mortgaging” Goa’s heritage without taking the Church into confidence.

Sardesai said that the “misunderstanding” had been cleared and that the corporate entity adopting the heritage structure would only have a peripheral role in maintaining the edifice, along with creation of public use facilities onsite.

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Gomes said he was surprised at the manner in which Church officials agreed “in one single meeting” to participate in a scheme, which Sardesai had initially said, even the state government was ignorant about.

“It’s all about the incompetence of this government, as it has now admitted that it is not capable to take care of even monuments and is offering them to adoption,” Gomes said.

“AAP suggests that instead of allowing corporates to run businesses under the garb of adoption of monuments, the people should claim the first right to engage local people to do the same job sought to be done by corporates and the church could just be the right institution to do that,” Gomes said.

–IANS

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