Herald: Shying away from special status

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Shying away from special status

20 Apr 2019 04:48am IST
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20 Apr 2019 04:48am IST

We can demand and demand and renew the demand, but will special status ever become a reality in Goa? Decades have passed and it hasn’t. Resolutions have been passed in the Assembly but special status hasn’t become a reality.

Delegations have met Prime Ministers making impassioned appeals and still special status hasn’t become a reality. Promises have been made at election time and special status has eluded Goa. We can’t be censured if we begin to believe that special status is merely a promise being bandied about to keep up the hopes of the people. When you look at it dispassionately, just what steps have been taken to make it a reality?

Five years ago the then BJP Prime Ministerial candidate had promised he would get it done for Goa if the party were to come to power at the Centre. BJP got a simple majority, Goa elected both BJP MPs at that time, there was a BJP-led government in Goa, and five years later, there is no mention of special status in the election manifestoes of the party candidates. Rather, the BJP is putting up hurdles around the resolution to the demand. Party MP and candidate in South Goa, Narendra Sawaikar, has said that special status would requires an amendment to Article 371 of the Constitution, which will have to be supported by half the number of State Legislative Assemblies, and that it cannot be conferred via a notification.

Frankly, what Goa is looking for is something simpler. It is seeking, demanding and hoping for some plain legislation that will protect the land and control the migration that is swamping the Goan identity and diluting the uniqueness of the State. Can’t the politicians understand what the people of Goa are seeking and work towards providing this to the Goenkar? All that Goenkar wants is to be able to call himself and his descendants Goenkars. It’s quite simple to understand, actually.

If BJP isn’t saying anything much on special status, Congress has promised it this time. At least it has promised a law to preserve Goa’s land and identity, which is what the demand for special status is all about. For Congress, what is has promised on paper is just a reiteration of what the party’s national president had said about introducing amendments to safeguard the land of Goa. This had been impressed upon him when he had met with groups of Goenkars during his visit to the State, one of them being the Goencho Avaaz that in the past year has been battling the assault on the land and identity. 

But, while Congress has promised these amendments, what we need is a timeline to this – dates when these amendments will be introduced, passed and notified. Unless there is a commitment with a deadline, there is no guarantee that this issue will ever be taken up, and there is no way in which the people will be able to force the government to make good on the promise. Every time the demand is renewed, the government can claim that it is under consideration and postpone the decision. Aren’t we seeing something similar where the resumption of mining is concerned? To avoid this, a firm deadline is required. 

The fact that special status is not even being spoken of in the campaign, while other issues have taken a leap ahead, shows that there is a lack of political will to make it happen. No doubt many of these other issues are also important, but what happened to special status? Where did it lose the way? The fact is that this will solve much of what has been going wrong in Goa. And that is why there is no political will to get it done. 

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