The assurance by the national president of the Indian National Congress that amendments would be introduced to safeguard the land of Goa will remain merely an assurance until it is acted upon.
Let’s not cheer it yet. Goa has seen many such assurances and promises in the past, including one from the then Prime Ministerial candidate of the Bharatiya Janata Party of special status for Goa if the people want it, during the campaign for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections. Five years later, with special status still merely a promise, it is the president of the opposition party that is making an assurance to safeguard land for Goans. Yes, it is needed, and we hope that it happens, but will it?
What Goa and Goans ultimately desire is protection of the land and it is this protection that has raised the demand for special status, leading even to resolutions being passed in the Assembly and delegations of MLAs meeting the Central leaders, but with no positive outcome. The benefits that were expected to be accrued through special status would primarily be the safeguards in the sale of land to outsiders that would lead to reducing the inflow of migrants, that would in turn create the atmosphere to retain the unique identity and culture of the State, giving the local Goenkar a better quality of life in his homeland.
The fight for special status and for the protection of the land is not new. The main reason that has kept special status from happening is the lack of a political will to take it forward, despite the resolutions in the State Legislative Assembly. As the demand has been growing over the past years, we have had a BJP government at the Centre and the State for the past five years, yet there has been no progress at all on this count, despite the promise to look into it. It is also the small size of the State that sends just two representatives to the Lok Sabha that almost silences the voice of the State in Parliament. Is this going to change with the assurance made by the Congress national president? Or will it remain merely an election promise?
This is no victory for the people demanding protection of the land. As already mentioned, is merely an assurance. How will the Goans who have been fighting for special status and protection to the land, ensure that the assurance made during an election campaign turns into reality? This is the period when politicians promise, and then after the elections, comes the period when they shift deadlines on their promises, or raise hurdles towards meeting the assurances they have made. For there to be a logical outcome of this assurance, the Congress has to first assume power at the Centre. Then the local activists will have to keep up the pressure on the government to deliver on the promise. The battle is not even half won, it is still in the very early stages, and there is a long way ahead.
Goa has had enough of assurances and promises. It is now time for these to be converted into reality. That next step has to be taken, instead of just taking Goans for a ride. Congress will have to draft a roadmap towards meeting this assurance, with deadlines that have to be strictly met. This is important for the State, though it might not be on any import to the Centre, and it will left to the MPs who are elected to impress upon the government that this is one assurance that it cannot go back on.