Panaji, Mar 31 (PTI) Ten villages in Goa, which were brought under the ambit of the Greater Panaji Planning and Development Authority (GPPDA), will no longer be part of the recently-constituted body, the state government said today.

Town and Country Planning Minister Vijai Sardesai, while announcing the decision to drop the villages from the GPPDA’s purview, said this was an “Easter gift” to people on behalf of the BJP-led government.

Residents of several villages around Panaji had been objecting to their inclusion in the GPPDA, formed under the chairmanship of former minister Atanasio Monserratte.

“The cry of the people is `the voice of God’ and there’s no better time to heed to it than this holy weekend.

“Therefore, taking the wishes of people as their command and standing by the age old adage that humility is the foundation for all other virtues, I declare that all villages included in the GPPDA will be dropped with an immediate effect,” Sardesai said at a press conference here.

“Like any Goemkar (Goan), there’s nothing I desire more than seeing Goa retain its unique identity not just in our way of life but also in the way Goa looks and feels.” The decision has been taken in the interest of people, said Sardesai, who heads the Goa Forward Party (GFP), a key member of the BJP-led ruling coalition.

“My sole objective as an elected representative of people is to listen to the voice of people and act in their interests.”

The GPPDA was constituted and villages were brought under it after their elected representatives (MLAs and local panchayats) made written requests to this effect to the town and country planning depatment, he said.

“Subsequently, these elected representatives retracted their views after people protested. I had expressed my readiness to engage with people if they came to me with their grievances,” he said.

The villages had been opposing their inclusion in the GPPDA on the ground that the move will dilute the rights of panchayats and lead to massive land conversion.

“After engaging with the protesting villagers, I realised their elected representatives had misread their voice and also misled me and my department,” Sardesai said.

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.