My return to Goa after four months’ absence from (India) Goa gives me an eerie death like feeling, with all that is happening around. Any senior citizen living in Goa for the past 2 to 3 decades will admit that Goa has changed. In fact change is the only constant in life and is inevitable but the changes that are happening in Goa are certainly not development nor for the good of the people and every senior citizen would vouch that there is deterioration of the quality of life as compared to the life they lived two to three decades ago.
Looking around, these deteriorations of Goa are discernible for every concerned citizen of Goa; there is no area in which these degenerations have not taken place, yet our politicians and those in power would proudly call it developments. Yes all this deterioration that is true for them is development and enrichment, be it in the construction of roads, buildings, and allotment of government largesse or what not. As a matter of fact which politician in Goa has not enriched himself/herself during the past two decades? Haven’t they become richer by 200 to 300% as per the data they themselves have submitted at the time of elections, even the so called honest politicians (that’s what they claim) have enriched themselves 200% or more, during every assembly term. After all, politics is a highly lucrative business and those who want to make a fast buck are all in it irrespective of party, caste or creed whatever.
Decades ago Goa could boast of clean drinking water, often water with rich mineral content in their local wells, and people used to use that water for washing, farming in addition to drinking without any further purification processes. These waters used to be crystal clear, now almost all these wells, even in remotest villages have been irreparably polluted. Thanks to all the construction activities, flat complexes, star hotels, even the mining. The end result is that the ordinary residents have to buy water or boil water for drinking purposes.
The idea of flats was mooted to deal with extreme housing shortage situations in cities like Mumbai, Calcutta and Chennai, etc, but Goa never had any housing problems as such. With the present population of 18.2 lakhs the number of flats in Goa is definitely much more than the population, who ever thought of granting permissions for this entire multi storied construction haven in remote areas of Goa with no rhyme or reason. On an average almost all flat complexes have only 50% occupation and 90% are sold to outsiders. The end results, the ground water is polluted, electricity is scare with frequent interruptions, roads have become dusty, peaceful village life has become all but a misery. Theft, robbery and even murder have become common occurrence in addition to prostitution, which the police will never be able to stop as they all enjoy political patronage.
Take the case of “formalin in fish issue” how was it handled? Even a young school going child would know that formalin is dangerous as he has been told, how bodies and laboratory specimens are preserved. But our honorable Ministers kicked up a debate as to permissible limits. But what happened to the culprits who distributed formalin laced fish in Goa? Instead of first arresting such responsible persons and then initiating the legal process, the ministers were all out to protect such culprits.
Take the case of mining. Everyone knows that the whole issue of mining came up because of huge and rampant illegal mining. When the State’s soil and resources are stolen the first and primary step should have been to arrest the culprits as it is a crime against the State and then levy the penalty which alone would have been more than enough to support the genuine mining affected people. Not a single minister or MLA has ever made a statement to this effect to initiate actions against the real culprits instead they are blaming the Supreme Court and the few NGOs who just wanted that the law should be upheld. It is shocking by any standard, exposing that for these elected representatives the mining mafia are their bosses, because they fund their elections and nefarious activities. How can we ever call this a democracy? There is no process even now to ascertain, as to who are the really mining affected people. People who came across the State’s boarders just because it was a lucrative business cannot be called the mining affected people. Why so much of delay, laxity and reluctance to recover the fees for these illegal mining cuts at the root of Goan democracy?
The recent press announcement by an honorable minister that the roads to Margao from Panjim are going to be diverted for the road construction is equally pathetic. The new highway construction having been entrusted to an expert road builder by the Government, such builder is expected to know when and how these diversions are to be affected and it would naturally become part of the contract. If the same has not been so incorporated it is a sheer case of incompetence on the part of the government and the government law officers and it would smell of corruption and kickbacks. But if it is mentioned in the contract it is the duty of the government and also of the Minister, who made the announcement to ask the builder to first ensure that such diversion road is capable of handling the kind of traffic, by proper asphalting, road widening, drainage, installation of traffic signals, etc, and after ensuring that it is done correctly and suitably by the contractor then only announce to the public. Then it is governance, otherwise. The Government is playing the victim card, in which case why Goa at all needs a government? Some public spirited persons should take the matter to the judiciary as it is a violation of human rights to expose the real contractual terms between the builder and the government.
The State needs ministers and officials whose primary concern should be people’s welfare and convenience and not someone who is only concerned to serve the interest of corporate goons, building mafia and drug lords.
(The writer is a Professor of Law and former Dean, Faculty of Law, Goa University)