25 Dec 2019 | 03:20am IST
It's Christmas and a time for hope
It’s Christmas Day, and time to unwrap the gifts under the Christmas tree.
There’ll be toys and books, clothes and curios, electric applicances and electronic gadgets, leading to squeals of delight and murmurs of appreciation. The Goenkar will sit down to a lunch of the best the Goan cuisine has to offer. But, what will his dear Goem get? Will it find under the Christmas tree anything that will bring a smile to the face of the land? Last Christmas Herald had, in a column, made a list of gifts that the State could do with at Christmas time. It had not asked for much, but then in the case of Goa, it was not a secret Santa Claus that would shimmer down to deliver, but the government that would have to act. But did Goa receive any of the gifts it had sought?
One of the gifts that Herald had said Goa would love to find under the Christmas tree last year, was a commitment from the government to protect the environment. That may not have happened – well not entirely – but in a very minute manner Goa did witness a change in the government’s handling of an environment-related situation that gives some hope that there is a change in thinking. For the first time, it was not just the people that rejected a plan – the Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP) drafted by National Centre for Sustainable Coastal Management (NCSCM) – but also the MLAs who attended the presentation of the draft plan. The government then discarded this plan for the several anomalies it contained and sent it for correction. This led to a consultation process and then had village panchayats preparing their plans to be submitted to the government. It is a beginning made, a positive move that brings hope of change. If only it carries on.
The second gift was a study of the carrying capacity of the land so that the government would be aware of just how much development the State can handle. Without such a study, Goa’s development is entirely haphazard, with no planning of any kind. This study didn’t happen. But it still can, if only the government puts it mind to getting it done. We complain of having to get our daily consumption of food – vegetable, fruits, grains, fish, meats – from outside the State. There has, however, never been a study conducted to determine the population that the State can sustain by its own limited resources. Goa has been taking in a large number of people, with gated complexes housing up, especially in the littoral talukas, and now they are moving inland. Hotels and restaurants have come up on the beachside, mining has ravaged the foothills of the Sahayadri mountains, but Goa has never bothered to check whether it has stepped over the line. Unless this is done, we will not know how far we can develop.
The State could have achieved much more in the past months, but it didn’t. There is a government that is numerically strong, but somehow, the desire to make the change for the positive has been lacking, and it falls back on allowing the development momentum to take it forward at the pace and towards the destination that unplanned growth will. But, here’s another Christmas and some more hope for wishes to come true, so that Goa can retain its beauty and still take those forward paces needed to stand abreast with the rest of the country in development. If those paces can be planned, it will make much of a difference to the State. Perhaps this Christmas some change will transform the past and bring in a future that will make Goa better.