Its is 25 years since Goa attained Statehood. The demand for Statehood arose after it was realized that the Union Territory status was emboldening vested interests from New Delhi and other parts of India to meddle in Goa’s matters. Such a demand perhaps would not have been even made in the first place, if the assurance from India’s first Prime Minister Jawarharlal Nehru was kept.
Whatever may be the circumstances which followed, Nehru’s promise was blown away in the winds. Indira Gandhi tried to salvage the situation by holding the Opinion Poll and then honouring the people’s verdict to retain separate status of the Union Territory, instead of merging the areas with neighbouring States. After Liberation, the influx of deputationists and others into Goa raised the first alarm over the possible loss of Goan identity.
The trend of Goans in authority in the union territory to promote the merger ideology did no small damage to this identity. Instead of enriching Konkani, these persons glorified Marathi and sought to merge with Maharashtra. Even after the people decisively rejected the merger idea, they had the audacity to continue with the mergerist label of their political party. They tried to play the communal card and kept control over the Administration. It took another 15 years to unseat the mergerists.
The grant of Statehood to an extent helped maintain separate
identity – at least on paper, but it failed to meet people’s aspirations for which it was primarily demanded. Our mother tongue was used as a ploy by vested interests to advance their personal interests, rather than Goan identity. True, Konkani gained hallowed entry into the 9th Sechedule of the Constitution, but today it holds little pride amongst Goans because of the politics involved in its script.
Due to Statehood, the debt of Goa has gone beyond Rs 6000 crore. Now, people have realized that their identity is being eroded, what with the influx of moneybags out to buy Goa, and politicians in cahoots with bureaucrats playing the role of land brokers. The situation of identity has reached such dimensions that the new mantra is Special Status – as if it will retrieve all our lost identity.
Of course, Statehood has cheered politicians and their kin, who can now virtually ensure their progeny thrive by being elected every year. It is not that there were no positive sides to Statehood. The micro-entrepreneurs and traditional occupations have survived due to government schemes. Of course, we do not want to claim that Statehood alone was responsible for development, because development would have taken place any way, as a Union Territory ( Compare the progress Daman and Diu have made during the same period.).
What Statehood has primarily failed in, is to maintain Goa’s
separate culture. And, what has upset the populace is the joint collaboration by elected representatives to dilute this dream
because the ultimate goal of Statehood was to preserve and promote Goan identity. Though autonomy allowed the State to pass legislation which was beneficial to the State, those in power also passed laws that were beneficial exclusively to the political class and was determental to the State, specially with regard to natural resources.