The charge of the kisan brigade through the streets of Mumbai, blisters on their feet and determination in their hearts, may have shaken the government of Maharashtra, but this one single mammoth march for farmers rights, has infused hope in a manner that no government ever could.
Goa needs to learn lessons from this. Maharashtra is a neighbouring state and its farmer’s struggles are legendary. But Maharashtra has had a fantastic track record of civic rights and peoples movements as well as farmer’s movements. But this march of 35,000 to the Azad Maidan in Mumbai stood out for one crucial reason. This was a true people’s uprising with not a whiff of politics with nothing to gain but their just rights. And it’s amazing that the bitter yet courageous truth of the march of this 35,000, was brought home by just one picture and a headline on The Telegraph, Calcutta of a feet of a 62-year-old woman wounded by her long march to Mumbai from her distant village. The torn feet, bloody red, told the story of the spirit and conviction of the farmers of Maharashtra. The headline read: “Blister that should make India choke on its coffee”.
They were wronged. Complete implementation of the loan waiver scheme announced last year, implementation of the Forest Rights Act, 2006, and compensation for victims of damage to cotton crops following bollworm infestation and the unseasonal rains and hailstorm. And finally the Devendra Fadnavis government had absolutely no choice but to agree to demands which were earlier met with mere assurances.
In Goa, after a long hiatus, we are seeing a strong people’s movement buildings up in the villages which have been included in the hastily and politically formed Greater Panjim Planning and Development authority. With the resignation of the MLAs of St Cruz and St Andre (both Congress MLAs known to be close to the GPPDA Chairman Babush Monseratte) and the Sarpanch of St Cruz from the Greater PPDA, there has been absolutely no let up in the relentless people’s agitation to get the villages of Chimbel, St Cruz, Old Goa and Curca-Bambolim-Talaulim, to insist on their villages being taken out of the PDA an reverted back to their panchayat controlled status.
The principle issue here is bottom up decision making and consultation. Added to that is whether vertical development should take place in certain areas in order to allow still other areas to be untouched in order to maintain the Goan skyline. And yet if the villagers insist that vertical development should be kept out of their villages, it’s an argument which merits hearing.
While the scale of the Mumbai agitation and those of the villagers of “Greater Panjim” cannot be compared the underlying lessons are similar. While there is an element of politics in the Greater Panjim agitation, the act of the common man of Goa to move from being social media activists to real foot soldiers on the ground, fighting for causes that are truly Goan, will bring freshness and augment the authenticity of agitations. A very good example of this was in Vasco when the public hearings were going on, for the expansion of the coal berths. In a situation which was unprecedented, people from all over Goa turned up to participate in public hearings of the project in Vasco which would have an impact in the lives of many outside. It is to a large extent due to public pressure that the even the expansion of the South West Port Limited has been held by the Goa Pollution Control Board.
In any democracy, it is the people who are the watch dogs and they are the voice of opposition. With the congress losing the right to actually call itself the voice of the opposition, that mantle has to and will fall on the people and it is their job to deliver for Goa and that too responsibly. It is when the people lose their power to oppose, that democracy suffers a thousand cuts.