Goa is at the crossroads, as the terms “development” and “progress” are increasingly getting blurred. In the name of progress, the quality of Goan life is getting poorer by the day. Virtually rationed piped water supply has become a norm. Congestion all around -- the air we breathe. traffic snarls and garbage mounds -- has become the hallmark of daily living. Even as citizens enter the State capital, a whiff of strong stench greets them. Indiscriminate tourism activity has resulted in chaos for locals. Is this the price of “development” or “progress”?
The BJP government, which perennially boasted of being a party with a difference, is now showing signs that in reality it is a political entity with little difference to the corrupt Congress. The BJP rode to power, converting to votes the disillusionment of the people about the Congress. People, therefore, expected great things from the new regime. Has only the label changed?
In the wake of this haphazard “progress”, the State government is moving to acquire the remaining 74, 99,490 sq m of land at Mopa for the proposed green filed airport. This follows the disposal of court petition by the affected land owners of the area.
It was the Congress brainchild to plan for the airport at Mopa following the government’s new policy of liberalization/privatization. Some Congressmen actually went to USA scouting for investors. Cynics would say that the airport plan was primarily because of potential commissions/payoffs which accompany when such ventures are set up. Therefore, it may be that the project was not envisaged for the greater good of the State, rather for personal aggrandizement. That it later took tourism dimensions is another matter.
It is therefore surprising that the BJP government is pursuing a project which had no support from the locals of the region. The argument that Dabolim airport will not be closed for civilian traffics is no argument, because in any case no pilot would like to land on an airport devoid of plush modern facilities. Therefore, automatically, Dabolim will fall in disuse.
The main issue however pertains to the 15,000-odd farmers whose livelihood will be affected if the airport becomes a reality. Mopa today is a farmers’ paradise, endowed with several water bodies and fertile land. How can the government ride roughshod over the livelihood of these farmers? Is the State expected to be always dependent on neighboring states for import of fruits/ vegetables? There is little logic in allowing this trend to continue because products imported from Belgaum are sold overpriced , so much so that Goans visiting Belgaum tend to bring in these commodities during their sojourn there. Vegetable price in Goan markets are unrealistic. Are we waiting for this trend to be perennial, on par with fish and meat?
There’s need to transform Mopa into Goa’s farming heartland, equipped with government funding and support for setting up of modern agricultural facilities like drip irrigation, scientific cultivation, setting up of processing plants, ripening chambers, loading points and a fine network for truckers to cart off the yield to various destinations within and outside the State, even export. Goa has for instance one of the best mango varieties in the world, which needs to be exploited with proper management and planning, but the owners of mango orchards today are stranded due to bottlenecks of inadequate facilities, while Ratnagiri Aphoos mangoes, which ironically, taste-wise, are of a lower grade but are a local adaption of Goa’s Afonso,, have managed to attract global markets.
Mopa ought to be transformed into Goa’s agricultural epicenter. For the moment the State has witnessed enough of “development”, with locals paying the price of this “progress.” Any dramatic exploitation can upset the applecart of social and natural checks and balances. It is time our planners do a re-think on Mopa and considering building the State’s food resources because once the airport is a reality, the fertile land would be irreversible and therefore lost forever. Give the farmers their right to live!