Development is a word that always attracts us and rightly so, as it generally makes life simpler and easier for us and often also provides jobs or self-employment, particularly for our youth, who are otherwise constrained to move out in search of livelihood. However, it is imperative that such development be sustainable and not in any way destructive or beneficial only to selected few. It is unfortunate that we are often selfishly concerned about development of our own constituency or surroundings, while least worried about damage caused somewhere else.
In Goa, we cannot afford to overlook the substantial additional influx of migrants in a State already bursting at its seams, solely for creation of politicians’ vote banks or further demographic changes or steps detrimental to our environment. It is here that the views of the Government clash with those of the people – because unfortunately for our Governments, development means massive constructions and grandiose projects which would bring accounted and non-accounted revenue for the Government, its Ministers and bureaucrats and only minimal benefit to the people. Keeping the people in the loop of Government plans and understanding their genuine problems and feelings are the essence of democracy and ought to be the tenets of a people friendly administration. However, almost every project of the Government or supported or promoted by it with an eye on the cuts it will get, runs into rough weather because either the people have not been taken into confidence or proper procedures have not been followed or are in contravention of established laws.
Where on earth does one see Governments regularly flouting or subverting their own rules and regulations and going ahead with projects throwing to the winds all the laws, which they would normally insist on being implemented by private individuals? Why is the Government waving or making a mockery of Environment Impact Assessments on big projects? Is it not because it knows that they would hit a roadblock if proper EIAs are done? Are we not watching helplessly thousands of trees being felled for road widening, particularly in Salcete, while general directives of the Supreme Court to plant five times new saplings to offset the damage are not being followed? Does it cost much to thus protect our environment from possible adverse consequences?
Narendra Modi’s Government is in mighty hurry in going ahead with development in the country at any cost and at the fastest pace possible. There is nothing wrong in that, though environmental issues cannot be overlooked, just to please his industrialist friends. The consequences could be tragic, as have already been experienced by various States. People are not averse to development though they are, at times, oblivious of its possible unpleasant consequences. But they are now turning apprehensive that “development” and the so-called “welfare of the poor”, which the Government so much brags about, are only a cover for the regressive and dictatorial policies this Government is indulging in, which only confirm the predicted fears that we are marching towards a totalitarian State.
Modi Government’s record on transparency has been uninspiring and in fact abominable. Anonymity in political funding, delay in appointment of Lokpal, attempts at diluting both the Lokpal and the Whistle Blowers Protection Acts – these are yet to become operational, even after three years of being notified - proposed increase in fees for filing applications under RTI and charges for obtaining documents, Taxation Laws allowing search and seizure of properties by tax authorities and giving them sweeping powers to open cases as early as 1962 and much more that would be long to enumerate – are some of the steps this so-called “democratic” Government needs to be credited with. Remarking on the failure of this Government in the appointment of Lokpal, the Supreme Court remarked that cleansing of economy “must be matched by strong steps to cleanse public life” and that the Lokpal Act cannot remain a “dead letter” The Taxation laws were surreptitiously introduced by Jatley in November last when the Lok Sabha was busy debating demonetization. They were passed recently in a hurry, without any discussion and did not have to go to RS, where NDA is in minority, as it was a money bill.
The recent murder of a trader in Alwar, Rajasthan, beaten to death by “cow vigilantes” for transporting bovines – the ninth such murder, in last three years, according to some TV channels – reported even by international Press, was shamefully denied by Union Minister Naqvi and is yet another example of how emboldened rowdies are getting in the present unruly and communal set up.
It is now only a question of time – once the BJP has the numbers in Rajya Sabha, there won’t be any looking back – even the Constitution may not be spared. Draconian laws will stifle dissent and curb freedom of expression and action. Though we may be helpless to some extent, let us not give thumbs up to this Government without anticipating what is in store for us. Goans must be given credit for having rejected the BJP, perhaps for these reasons, though the Party may still be ruling the State. Yet, my fellow Goans need to be cautious against being carried away by small acts and overgenerous with praises to some politicians’ abilities to perform, thus offsetting the credibility they lost for good reasons. While we need to appreciate such acts, let us not lose sight that such individuals are also well known for their ability to hoodwink people. They may strike when least expected…
(The author is a retired banker)