In the face of criticism that the Bharatiya Janata Party’s manifesto, or Sankalp Patra as it has been called, has nothing specific Goa, the party organisation scrambled to come up with a statement proving that the party has not left out the State, but there are many programmes in the document that will benefit the State.
While the manifesto takes the broader picture of the pan India needs and focuses, or rather promises, a major boost to infrastructure, there appeared little that Goans could look forward to. Of course there is the promise of doubling farmers’ incomes, but that is not going to put a smile on the faces of the mining dependents. And there is also the promise of the Ram Temple that may interest a few people in the State, given that there were Goans in Ayodhya that fateful day when the Babri Masjid was brought down.
So while its opponents poked holes at the manifesto, the BJP in Goa has discovered that the manifesto has something for everyone and tourism and coastal development will be the main areas where Goa will benefit. But in this – coastal development for instance – the party appears to have overlooked the fact that the Coastal Regulation Zone 2019 rules have come up for much opposition in the State and any coastal development will not be looked upon kindly by the coastal communities that have already loudly voiced their opposition to the development promised by the CRZ 2019 rules. While there are no specifics on this in the manifesto, the possibility that the development in coastal areas will follow much of what the CRZ 2019 rules mandate cannot be ruled out. Is that then beneficial to Goa?
But, of course, the State will not turn its back to the coastal safety that has been promised in the manifesto. The State and the entire coast could well do with a strengthened coastal security that has been assured of via the implementation of a coastal security scheme providing modern equipment and allocating funds to States for establishing coastal police stations and other measures. The current condition of the coastal police conditions and the equipment that they have been provided with, need to be upgraded desperately. The larger apprehension is that this security uplift may not come until it is too late. Can the party, if it comes to power, take this up urgently. Since the 2008 Mumbai terror attack, coastal security has not been give the upgrade it deserved or required in the State.
And then the local unit of the party decided to highlight the Sagarmala project, a scheme of the government that has drawn much censure in Goa, with the National Fish-Workers Forum giving a call to scrap the project not just in the State but all over the country. Concerns have been raised about the project, also specifically the establishment of the shipping corridor. The demands, and not just from the fishing community, has been to denotify the six Goan rivers – Mandovi, Zuari, Chapora, Mapusa, Cumbharjua and Sal from the National Waterways Act, the denotification of MPT’s jurisdiction over the inland and coastal waters and no coal handling at MPT. In the face of these objections, can BJP expect the people of Goa to acquiesce to the promises of its manifesto?
It was then left to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, at his election meeting in Goa, to reach out to the mining dependents and the fishermen with promises of solving the former’s issues and offering sops to the latter. The Prime Minister’s assurance to the mining dependents of finding a solution to their problem comes against the backdrop of the call by the leaders of the dependents to work against the BJP candidates. But with no solution in the past one year, not even credible efforts at finding one, will the mining dependents, currently protesting in New Delhi, be swayed?