Comunidades of Goa

The Comunidades of Goa were a form of land association developed in Goa, India, where land-ownership was collectively held, but controlled by the male descendants of those who claimed to be the founders of the village, who in turn mostly belonged to upper caste groups.[1] Documented by the Portuguese as of 1526, it was the predominant form of landholding in Goa prior to 1961.[2][3] In form, it is similar to many other rural agricultural peoples' form of landholding,[4] such as that of pre-Spanish Bolivia[5] and the Puebloan peoples now in the Southwestern United States,[6] identified by Karl Marx as the dualism of rural communities: the existence of collective land ownership together with private production on the land.[7]

Codified by the PortugueseEdit

Comunidades were a variant of the system of gaunkari system called gramasanstha (ग्रामसंस्था)) that pre-existed the arrival of the Portuguese, but was codified by them.[8][9] The first of these codifications was contained in the Foral of Afonso Mexia in 1526. The term gram in gramasanstha refers to the village. Comunidades is the Portuguese word for "communities". The khazan system of managed wetlands in Goa is an offshoot of the gaunkari system, but now quite distinct from the comunidades.[10]

Members and dividendsEdit

Members of the comunidades were called gaonkars, or zonnkars (in Portuguese, jonoeiros). The former were the members of the village, the latter were entitled to zonn, or jono, which is a dividend paid by the comunidade to gaunkars and accionistas, the holders of acções (sing. acção), or shares. The system applied equally to agricultural land and to village housing.

Changes over timeEdit

Over time and subject to conflicting land ownership and administration systems, the old institutions lost their original characteristics and comunidades are now mere societies of rights-holders who are members by birth.

After Portuguese rule ended in Goa in 1961, the village development activities, which were once the preserve of the comunidades or more specifically the gaunkaris, became entrusted to the gram panchayat, rendering the gaunkaris non-functional.

The emergence of private property in land created a new set of socio-economic relationships at the village level, especially the comunidades and the ghar-bhaatt, the two principal forms of land tenure that came to characterise Portuguese Goa.[11]

The working of the comunidades is now tightly controlled by the Goa state government, which supporters of the comunidade movement say leaves little scope for them to act as self-governing units.[12]

Limited roleEdit

The sole official function of the comunidades, currently, is to parcel out their land at government-approved rates. However, supporters of the comunidade movement, have been waging a determined, if small, campaign to safeguard what they see as their rights, and continue to fight against the erosion of the comunidade system in Goa, by, for example, bringing land ownership lawsuits.[13] In 2004, the Goa Su-Ray Party issued a polemic supporting the comunidades.[14]

The Goa Daman and Diu Agricultural Tenancy Act,1964, passed in the 1964 by the then Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party government, extended the tenancy rights of the tenants to lands from the comunidade, for the payment of a quit-rent called the comunidade foro. This has resulted in most field property of the comunidades passing into private hands, and erosion of the comunidades as a whole.

Thus at present most of comunidade land is in the hills, which is either uncultivated or given over to cashew plantations, to tenants. uncultivated comunidade land draws squatters who develop shanty towns.[13]

In the populous and well-developed central coastal parts of the state, almost all the land that once belonged to the comunidades has been allotted to tenants or taken over for industrial purpose by the government.

there are provisions under Code of Comunidade (a Legislative Enactment No. 2070 dated 15 April 1961) to take action against illegal encroachments, however the actions are usually not taken against such encroacher as the encroacher are also the voters in the elections and hence taking action against them is not in interest of politician whether ruling or otherwise


  1. ^ Pereira, Rui Gomes (1978). Goa: Hindu temples and deities. Volume 1 of Goa. (translated from the original in Portuguese by Antonio Victor Couto). Panaji, Goa, India: Pereira. p. 1. OCLC 6862661.
  2. ^ Vanjari, Shrikrishna (1968). "Feudal Land Tenure System in Goa". Economic and Political Weekly. New Delhi. 3 (22): 843–844.
  3. ^ Mascarenhas, Nascimento (25 April 2010). "Comunidades de Goa". Saligao Serenade.
  4. ^ Agrawal, A. (2001). "Common property institutions and sustainable governance of resources". World Development. 29 (10): 1649–1672. doi:10.1016/s0305-750x(01)00063-8.
  5. ^ Weeks, David (1947). "Land tenure in Bolivia". The Journal of Land & Public Utility Economics. 23 (3): 321–336. doi:10.2307/3158806. JSTOR 3158806.(subscription required)
  6. ^ Beaglehole, Ernest (1934). "Ownership and inheritance in an American Indian tribe". Iowa Law Review. 20: 304–316.(subscription required)
  7. ^ Potekhin, Ivan I. (1963). "Land relations in African countries". The Journal of Modern African Studies. 1 (1): 39–59. doi:10.1017/s0022278x00000707. JSTOR 158783.(subscription required)
  8. ^ Menezes, Maximo (1961). Breves Notas sobre a Historia das Comunidades de Goa com Diversos Mapas Anexes (A Short Note concerning the History of the Comunidades of Goa with Several Maps Attached (in Portuguese). Goa: Tipografia Nacional.
  9. ^ Pereira, Rui Gomes (1978). Goa: Gaunkari. Volume 2 of Goa. (translated from the original in Portuguese by Antonio Victor Couto). Panaji, Goa, India: Pereira. OCLC 6862661.
  10. ^ Sonak, Sangeeta; Kazi, Saltanat; Sonak, Mahesh; Abraham, Mary (2006). "Factors affecting land-use and land-cover changes in the coastal wetlands of Goa". In Sonak, Sangeeta (ed.). Multiple dimensions of global environmental change (PDF). New Delhi: TERI Press, The Energy and Resources Institute. pp. 44–61, page 46. ISBN 978-81-7993-091-5.
  11. ^ Kamat, Pratima (2000), "Peasantry and the Colonial State in Goa 1946-1961", in Borges, Charles J.; Pereira, Oscar Guilherme; Stubbe, Hannes (eds.), Goa and Portugal: History and Development, New Delhi: Concept Publishing Company, pp. 133–159, ISBN 978-81-7022-867-7
  12. ^ today the 223 comunidades of Goa are moribund at best Goswami, Rahul (2008). "The Konkan Packaging Company of Goa". Economic and Political Weekly. 43 (6): 10–12, page 11. JSTOR 40277093.(subscription required)
  13. ^ a b "In Agonda, rain makes life a nightmare". The Times of India. 31 July 2001. Archived from the original on 15 March 2006. Retrieved 9 November 2005.
  14. ^ "Comunidades of Goa". Goa Su-Ray Party. 12 November 2004. Archived from the original on 9 April 2009. Retrieved 4 March 2009.


  • Report of the Goa Land Reforms Commission. Panaji: Government of Goa, Daman & Diu. 1964. OCLC 5535970.
  • Mazarelo, S. (1966). Report of the Committee of the Problems of Mundkars in the Union Territory of Goa, Daman and Diu. Panaji, Goa: Government Printing Press. OCLC 7903841. Note: a mundkar is a tenant or landbound peon.
  • "III Comunidades". Annual administration report [Goa, Daman and Diu (India)]. Panaji: Government of Goa, Daman & Diu. 1969. pp. 56–57. OCLC 2335071.

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