24 Jul 2022  |   06:55am IST

POGO lesson: All Goans cannot be fooled all the time

POGO lesson: All Goans cannot be fooled all the time

They thought they could fool some Goans sometime, some Goans all the time, and all Goans all the time. But the constitutional impossibility of bringing in the ill conceived POGO Bill was well-established by those with a basic understanding of the constitution. And the rejection of the bill on that ground by the House was evidence of that.

Readers of Herald should not be surprised though. The folly of such an ill-conceived project which was devoid of constitutional sanctity would never pass and no revolution can occur by bending the constitution of the country that all Indians follow.  And Goans will not be fooled.

All Goans want is that their real troubles, their real difficulties are understood sensitively, their lands and fields are protected, their identities are secure and they lead a comfortable existence very much possible within the existing laws. The POGO project is nothing but a diversionary tactic, away from the real needs of Goans.

The larger and more serious reason was that the bill was ill-conceived and designed in an attempt to mislead to get political benefits. Floating a bill that would give non-Indian Goans benefits reserved for citizens of India has been found as nothing but an attempt to mislead and hoodwink.

Herald underlined this on several instances, that the POGO bill was nothing but an exercise in fooling Goans. The rejection of the bill terming it unconstitutional was only to be expected. There could have been no other response. A bill of this nature is so blatantly against the spirit and tenets of the Constitution that it did not take the House any time to reject it.  

Your paper was telling people that this was doomed from day 1, not because Goans shouldn’t get benefits from the land they are in, but because the Constitution does not provide for the exclusion of other Indians almost completely from the employment and opportunities spectrum anywhere in the country.

Perhaps the POGO party isn’t aware of the Kesavananda Bharati case (1973) judgment which essentially underlined what was obvious. Those who introduced this bill which was summarily dismissed will probably read it now and understand that Goa follows the Constitution of India.

The SC held that although no part of the Constitution, including Fundamental Rights, was beyond the Parliament’s amending power, the “basic structure of the Constitution could not be abrogated even by a constitutional amendment.”

Now see what the proposed bill defined what POGO would mean. “A person of Goan Origin” of the state of Goa shall mean a person who is or whose either parent or grandparent was governed by the Civil Code of 1867 including those born outside the State of parents who were governed by the Civil Code of 1867, in existence during the Portuguese regime.

The bill does not once use the words “and have to be citizens of India’ on the day the bill comes into effect and shall cease to be identified as POGO when he or she relinquishes the citizenship of India. Why?

The bill conveniently seeks affirmation of regional roots without the affirmation of nationality and therein lies its unconstitutionality. And then lies the catch.

And it then went on to state that those of Goan origin, as per this definition, would be entitled to all government schemes, loans subsidies even if they were citizens of other countries now. Section 3(b) of the proposed bill states, “No person other than Person of Goan Origin shall be eligible for any scheme.”

Of course, benefits can be given to sons and daughters of the soil up to a point so that for schemes, benefits, and even jobs, Indian Goans who are otherwise eligible have a better chance.

But it cannot be so skewed. The bill seeks to state that every employer (private) “shall’ employ 75% of its workforce from POGO. Is that even practical? Will high-tech companies be forced to hire only 25% of what is required from their best and most trained talent pool, who are non-Goans?

The government is inviting major multinational, tech companies, and manufacturing giants to come to India as a part of the make in India initiative. Goa is naturally looking for these companies to set up a base. In any case, world-class pharma companies already have a base in Goa. Did the initiators of POGO expect these international standard companies to keep a calculator and then hire or transfer highly-skilled and technically qualified personnel for pharma, manufacturing, and tech jobs?

The POGO draft had magnanimously said that the employer ‘can’ seek an exemption to the 75% Goans rule, but the process is tedious where an appeal has to be made to a “designated” officer (of the government) who will first assess whether the employer made any attempt to hire a Person of Goan origin for that post. The choice of rejecting the appeal or accepting it or directing the employer to still hire a POGO and/or train them rests with the designated officer. There is no clarity on the qualifications the designated officer needs to have to be equipped to make the judgments on who is qualified or not for a highly trained in a private company. So, companies investing in cores would have to depend on the subjective assessment of an untrained designated officer on who they can hire for key positions.

At the same time close to 50% of Goa’s population, who are non-Goans and who live, have businesses, and even generate employment for Goans, would be kept out of the benefit packages that schemes meant for Indians, as our Constitution does not differentiate between fellow Indians. And even if they have the skills, they would have only a 25% per cent chance of even applying for private jobs.

This complex restriction-filled system will make existing private sector companies wind up and leave and no world-class companies will set foot in Goa either.

One must add that several lawyers and others like Gajanan Naik and Adv Pundalik Raikar among others have pointed out specific technical and drafting flaws in the bill.

Raikar said, “It is a half-hearted attempt by those who think they can rake up people’s passion. Large chunks of the population cannot be left out. This is discrimination.” He went on to add that the right to life and liberty, employment, to set up businesses, to roam freely and reside in any part of the country as well as the right to free speech and expression are fundamental and the POGO Bill would have been violative of all of this and therefore has no place.

“They are asking for reservations of this kind for persons of Goan origin.  The person must be out of his mind. Some provisions can be accepted in Goa to give Goans a better chance of employment, but a new bill is not needed for that”, said Adv Raikar.

Moreover, Goa has always embraced people coming in and settling down. Goans and non-Goans have lived harmoniously. The POGO Bill – now rightly rejected- sought only to divide. And let us not forget the very Goans who have settled abroad, many citizens of those countries have found jobs and get all social benefits including unemployment assistance from those countries. There is no resistance from the local population of those countries.

Moreover, don’t so many of our children, who are working professionals, work across the country settled in well-paying comfortable jobs. One doesn’t need to look far. The Mumbai film industry is literally bathed with the creativity of Goans in music, competitions, set design, etc. If there was a POMO (Person of Maharashtrian origin) Bill of the same nature, in Mumbai, would our creative geniuses in the film industry have flowered and earned so much respect?