Today is the day when Goa lost its champion of Goemkarponn, Matanhy Saldanha. These five years have passed with Goa doing very little to live up to his memory with most of the causes he espoused, and based on which he won, becoming mere foot notes in the social consciousness of Goa.
It is perhaps very tempting to blame politicians and the government for the erosion of Goemkarponn without actually realizing that every time there is corruption in the panchayats, or hill cutting, or illegal construction, which is not just allowed but demanded, we are chipping away the roots of Goemkarponn. It has been destroyed by us, and not any political party. As we blame the previous BJP government for going back on its Assembly resolution that the Centre would be moved to pass legislation granting special status, can we pause for a moment to let this sink in. Matanhy Saldanha was the pioneer of the Special Status movement, not because he wanted Goa and its land to be protected only from outside forces. He did so because he painfully realised that Mother Goa needs to protection from some of her not so illustrious sons, who are selling Goa.
While Special Status - if and when the essence of this is truly understood - even by our tallest leaders, will prevent unbridled purchase of land - including tenanted, communidade and forest land by foreign multi-nationals or project developers from outside Goa, this is also about sale of land and the selling is more often either done directly, or facilitated by, locals.
The essence of Goemkarponn is having control over institutions of local self-government and of being able to proudly adhere to the spirit of the 73rd and 74th constitution Amendment Act. When that does not happen, when panchayats do not have control over how the final land use of their village will be, when devolution of powers is only on paper, Goemkarponn is the biggest sufferer. But those who inflict this suffering are not fat cat businessmen with suitcases. They are our own people including those we have elected.
Therefore it’s a word we all like and lobe and revere. But do we all adhere. Goemkarponn, is not just the government’s responsibility. The new Parrikar government has said that this will be a “goemkarvadi sarkar” . But can we promise to ourselves that we will be a Goemkarvadi electorate? Can we honestly say that some of the choices we have made in the Elections of 2017, which have brought so many to power, were all picked for the ability to espouse Goemkarponn?
If we make deliberate choices, which show us turning away from Goemkarponn, then do we even deserve a goemkarvadi sarkar, if that breed actually exists?
On March 21, let us, at the very least look one of Goa’s real Aam Admi untouched by the trappings of power or money, Matanhy Saldanha, whose mere presence would have acted as a balm for those bruised by attacks on Goemkarponn, and as a clenched first for those who are willing to fight for Goan values.
On this day, Mother Goa does not have either Matanhy Saldanha or Father Bismarque. And she is poorer and orphaned without these true Goemkars.