20 Apr 2024  |   05:19am IST

Remembering Jack.Thank you for the opportunity to be Goan

David Pinto

Today the 20th of April, we celebrate the 109th birth anniversary of Jack de Sequeira, famously known as the “Father of the Opinion Poll”. Growing up in an age where Goa is renowned for being one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country, we often forget the journey that brought it here today. 

For me, I can truly say I took it for granted till I moved to Bangalore after completing Class XII, only then did I realise the difference in experience that we have here. While most of us grew up learning that India had 28 states, back in 1947 at the time of Independence, that number was actually over 560. These all quickly got subsumed into the larger states and in 1956, these were reorganized by language into the states that we know today.

The Opinion Poll in 1967, in which Goans were given the chance to decide whether to merge with Maharashtra or remain a separate Union Territory the only referendum in Indian history and is a moment that should be remembered. The pro-Goa side won and that safeguarded the Goan identity.

Jack de Sequeira, an exuberant bearded personality, is synonymous with the Opinion Poll. Not to take away the contributions and struggle of many other leaders, artists and industrialists like Purshottam Kakodkar, Roque Santana Fernandes, Alvaro Loyola Furtado, Uday Bhembre, Manohar Rai Sardesai ,Ulhas Buyao and Vassudev Salgaocar and many others. 

My uncle remembers fondly how he would see the pamphlets of the pro-Goa anti-merger campaign with its “TWO LEAVES” symbol, being shipped from my grandfather Jose Rangel’s publishing house Tipografia Rangel in Bastora. He was just 8 at the time, but for him, the energy was unforgettable.

I won’t delve too much into the details of the Opinion Poll as that tends to be covered in many places. I would rather stress more on its importance.

To understand its significance, I would like to illustrate it with an example. The Kodagu district in Karnataka, better known to many as Coorg. The district is around 400 square kms larger than Goa. It also has its own ethnic community known as the Kodavas, a very successful community with their own language, cuisine, culture. They have had two Chiefs of Army Staff including one of only two officers to get the rank of Field Marshall in Indian history. And till 1956, it was its own state which had earlier been a separate kingdom for around 400 years. Today as a district they have just two MLAs out of 224 in Karnataka, one MP (which they share with the Mysore district) in the Lok Sabha.

If we compare that to Goa, we currently have two districts, with talk of a third, two Lok Sabha MPs, one Rajya Sabha MP and 40 MLAs. Maharashtra is one of the largest states in the country. The voice of each Goan would have meant significantly less, possibly even being wiped out in the sound of the 120 million plus residents of that state, almost thrice that Canada.

It was of course a long and difficult journey even after the Opinion Poll in 1967, with Goa attaining Statehood in 1987 and Konkani becoming a part of the 8th Schedule of the Indian Constitution, which deals with official languages in 1992. Milestones that many other small communities could only dream of.

At this moment though, we have an aspirational State. A place where so many want to live. So once again I think we all need to remember the leaders who got us here. It is for us to help Goa progress as they would have wanted.

Thank you Jack bab, for the opportunity to be Goan!


Idhar Udhar