12 Nov 2018  |   04:53am IST

Another ban, another opportunity! Will Goa get it right this time?

And so it begins today. A six-month long ban on fish imports from outside Goa that has been enforced by a tough-talking Health/FDA Minister who did sound out four months ago to the fish importers, wholesalers and retailers to get their act together. Now that the ban has happened it is time to get our house in order. Question is   a Goa that has banned so many malpractices in the past and failed miserably to course correct, will it be able to get it right this one time?

On October 5, 2012, Supreme Court of India banned all mining activities in Goa. On March 15, 2018 mining was again banned by the Apex Court in the State. The reasons for banning were conceptually not very different in 2012 and 2018 yet the State of Goa or rather the BJP Government that runs the State never followed up the ban by bringing in systemic changes such that future generations in Goa live in a sustainable and green environment. The ban on mining was never used as a period of transformation and course correction. Rather it was used as a timeout to explore newer ways to beat the ban and circumvent the Law. When a Government that should be putting in law and order in place itself resorts to crony capitalism and tries to facilitate wrongdoing, why would the citizens care to obey and respect the Law? The whole effort to bring in an Ordinance or even to amend the MMDR Act to restart mining does not make Goa ‘special’. Rather it institutionalises criminality because the people know that their Government does not want to follow the very law that it wants to enforce.

The other ban (but not in so many words) that we have seen in the recent past is that on Regional Plan 2021 which was first kept in abeyance then enforced selectively and one day, lo behold… it was in force. The Act became the powerful, the builders’, the rich man’s toy that could circumvent any effort to keep Goa from turning into a concrete jungle. The Act had no place for a large section of people who wanted Goa to retain its pristine and virgin landscapes. Did any restrictions and abeyance work then? No. It didn’t. Elements within the Government enabled the Law to be made a joke and the whole purpose of course correction didn’t work.

Though Goa’s best wishes do go out to FDA Minister Vishwajit Rane’s bold initiative, let us not forget that it is in the enforcement that lies the success of the ban. And Goa is going to be watching all this very carefully. The audacity with which the Kingpin of the Formalin Fish Scandal once rubbished the first damning report that exposed formalin in fish goes about, leaves one wondering whether Law is scared to punish this man who endangered lakhs of Goan lives lacing our daily dose of nustem with the carcinogenic formalin. The man now spends time threatening Goa’s FDA Minister, spends time inciting the fish traders and bullying our fishermen to undersell their catch. Who bells the cat?

As fish import is banned, conspicuous by his silence is Fishing Minister Vinod Palyekar. In fact, the Minister’s silence in this entire scandal that has affected all sectors ranging from fishing to tourism to the poisoning of a common man’s plate; seems sinister. The ban is his opportunity to mobilise and harness Goa’s fragmented fishing fraternity and help them emerge as a monolith capable enough to not only help Goa tide over the fish import ban but also make the state self-sufficient and independent of the needs of fish import. As Irish musician Damien Rice would say, “A kite needs to be tied down in order to fly”, Goa’s fishing industry could benefit to serve Goa and serve itself independent of the political and commercial mafia as FDA enforces strict food quality practices and protocols.


Idhar Udhar