19 Jun 2022  |   06:17am IST

Human development IS the way forward

In a first of its kind decision, the Pramod Sawant-led BJP government in Goa made a budgetary provision of Rs 20 crore for reconstruction and restoration of temples and heritage sites destroyed during the Portuguese era. At a time when the people are grappling with numerous challenges, should the State government focus on rebuilding temples, statues and forts or focus on human development? SUJAY GUPTA tries to assess what should be the priority of a democratically government in the latest episode of Herald TV’s debate programme Point-Counterpoint.
Human development IS the way forward

Goa has always been known as genteel and accommodating, neighbours, friends and communities more cohesive. But government of the day seems to be focusing on issues of history which are debatable, rather than focusing on what is basically needed for progress of Goa. 

A lot of things are there that need to be done in the present in terms of fixing the economy, improving quality of education, conservation of the ecology, job creation amongst many other issues. In this context, is it appropriate for the government to rake up the past instead of focusing on the present and future? 

“What we are suddenly waking up to is another Goa which we have not seen for a long time. Even when late Manohar Parrikar was our chief minister, there was there was no aggressive antagonisation in the society. We are unnecessarily raking up a past which does not help us to go forward. All over India, the conflict is between memory, history and harmony. We simply choose a memory which is painful. When we go back to scientific history, that memory can be found wanting also,” Fr Victor Ferrao, Visiting Professor, Rachol Seminary said.

“I’m a Catholic Christian. My brother is a Hindu. We all share a common past. History can be written from various aspects. So, what do we want in Goa right now? Do we want to harmony or just painful memories to be raked up and hurt each other?” Fr Ferrao questioned.

Principal of Shree Mallikarjun College of Arts, Science and Commerce, Canacona, Prof Manoj Kamat does not attribute the current changes in the society to political dispensation. 

“From Kashmir to Kanyakumari these kinds of things are going on and what is certainly happening is we are moving from an egalitarian world or a globalised world towards more of nationalism, which is more personalised. Of course politics adds little fuel to the fire, which is already there,” he said.

“The Goa in which we were born, in which we have lived, was pluralistic and cohesive. We thought about independent identity, at the same time respected diverse cultures. But things are changing. Although I don’t see any orchestration, but some way or the other it is very disturbing,” Prof Kamat said. 

He said that the series of events that have occurred in the past don’t encourage attachment, but it is about conflicts with the other groups and we are not talking about harmony for which we were known for. 

“We are glorifying our past for no reasons, rather than talking about developmental agenda. so it seems to me from an academic background that currently we are having too much of the stories of the past which are futile and will not add any value towards raising our standards of living, level of intellect and over all glory of Goa. On the contrary we are regressing on these entire fronts,” Prof Kamat said.

Adv Carlos Alvares Ferreira, Congress MLA from Aldona said that the state is supposed to look after governance and focus on development the State. 

“It should not take sides because the state looks after every individual citizen in the country. It should not venture into taking up these kinds of religious matters because religion should be kept in your home. It should not be brought into the public domain,” Adv Ferreira said.

“If you look back in past of Nazi history, you will find information was given drop by drop. Then trying to antagonise people so that you create a big movement and then you fuel that into a larger movement. I think this is very dangerous and it will not be the Goa which we have presently. No true Goan and will come forward and say that they will approve of such kind of things or methods,” he said.

 Giving examples of the two World Wars, Adv Ferreira said nations have suffered at the hands of other nations but everybody has forgotten looked forward and progressed.

“The why only are we looking backwards and trying to only enter into battles and wars and finish ourselves. Finally we are all Indians and we should live together in peace and harmony,” he said.

Rupesh Kamat, BJP State convenor of Social Media Cell however asserted that the Centre and State government both are equally giving importance to socio-economic development of the society.

“BJP is always focused about human development. Those who are rich or financially stable, will take care of themselves, but not the poor. That is where a government needs to focus on and BJP government in the State as well as Centre from 2014 or even 2000 under late Manohar Parrikar, has focused on the poor. Be it the citizen pension scheme or DDSY health insurance scheme, the Laadli Laxmi scheme... these are all focused on giving more stability to the poor,” Kamat said.

He said that the State government has been already focusing. 

“If you see, we are disbursing Rs 1561 crore per year under Dayanand Social Security Scheme, Laadli Laxmi scheme roughly around Rs 725 crore per year, Rs 1600 crore under Griha Aadhar Scheme and Deen Dayal Swasthya Seva Yojana (DDSSY) around Rs 289 crore. So this comes to around Rs 4000 cr per year,” the BJP leader said.

He asserted that the government is spending on welfare scheme for the poor and he does not believe that it has shifted the focus from development agenda.

“As far as the temple part is concerned, I don’t think the party has ever talked about destroying some religious monuments and rebuilding temples on it. The Chief Minister has spoken only of rebuilding some structures which may have been destroyed earlier,” he said.

“We have so many historic monuments and religious structures which are of national and international importance, like the Old Goa Church. People from all parts of the world come to see these monuments. So it is the task of the government to take care of such monuments. I don’t think this is against any other community,” he said.

Although the BJP State convenor of Social Media Cell accepted that the government “may have fallen short in some areas”. However it has focused not only on State but also central government schemes.

“If you see Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s tenure from 2014, his major focus is on the poor all his schemes are focused to you know bring up the poor people. So, there is no deviation from the development agenda of the government, be it in the State or at Centre,” he said.

Responding to the remarks by Kamat, Fr Victor Ferrao said that he was “completely okay” with developing temples. 

“But I’m still raising the question what type of development index or indices we will talk about? Be it the GDP or Human Development Index or the Inclusive Wealth Index, how are we going to grow as Goans when we are looking backwards at temples and monuments of past era? Are there no other urgent important matters like what comes to our minds? There many glaring issues like the potholes on the third Mandovi bridge. So why are temples being raked up now when we have issues which require more attention,” Fr Ferrao said.

Advocate Ferreira called the “utterances of development” as “mere illusion”. 

“This development is merely a distraction because you keep the people enamoured with that. It’s like the opium which will keep you busy and this side you have no development. The roads are not in good condition, the gutters are not being cleaned. There’s flooding everywhere. Works are not being completed on time, contractors are not being paid, people are not being paid their salaries on time,” the Congress MLA from Aldona said.

 “You talk about DSS, Laadli Laxmi scheme...are those payments being made on time? People have not been paid since a year or more. This is unfair. First you start giving them and then you stop. This according to me is nothing more than to cover up your sins of omission and non-commission of development works. You are causing distraction,” he said.

He called it a strategy in governance by which distraction is created. 

“We are not against building of any temple, absolutely not. For my part, when Mahala temple was built in Verna, I was one of those who went to vote for it so as to give it for free to them. This is the Goa in which we have lived in. We have also been part of that journey of all those years where we have all lived happily together. So these statements when especially come from the government then it is a little disturbing. I think it destroys secular fabric of the state,” Adv Ferreira said.

When asked why are the words “fear” and “disturbing” being associated with CM’s statement on restoration of temples, Prof Manoj Kamat added one more word, “distrust”.

“I’ll add the third word as it can be attributed to such kind of statements for multiple reasons. The government for the first time has a stable majority and what we expect at this juncture from the government is to speak about the developmental agenda moving forward. But when the government talks about rebuilding temples destroyed by the Portuguese, it is confusing,” he said. 

According to him, in Goa except for one site that is earlier Vijaydurga temple in Cortalim, there are no other sites where temples were destroyed, nor any temple rebuilt. Other sites where the temples were destroyed have been rebuilt over a period of time. 

“So is the government talking about multiple sites, because there are no other sites, as per empirical evidence. Whatever evidence has been collected, it is from the records prepared by the Portuguese, who have documented everything properly. The disturbance is caused from the timing of this statement. The government has majority in the Assembly, there is virtually no Opposition. There is also no election coming up immediately,” Prof Kamat said.

There is a perception within the society that the heightened pinpointing of religious issues and going overboard on the Hindu aspect, being more dogmatic, will ultimately help the party reap the benefits of this in Lok Sabha elections or in case of a ‘one nation one election’ and flash polls, if it happens two years later, keeping that in mind, BJP is securing its core vote bank. Is this narrative true?

Rupesh Kamat, BJP State convenor of Social Media Cell said that BJP as a party is focused on development and believes in inclusiveness.

“BJP as a party is now has focused on all communities, all sex, caste.  I think if you see the setup of our party, we even have minority cell, we have Women’s Cell . We have one cell for the Other Backward Classes (OBCs). This has been done so that everybody comes out and gels together and we have a cohesive party. I absolutely do not agree that BJP is totally playing the communal plank here,” he said.

“If you see the campaign which BJP had in Goa and during the Lok Sabha elections in 2019, the Prime Minister’s focus has always been development. In UP elections, all the political pundits spoke about of how people felt secure with the all the needs that were fulfilled by Yogi Adiyanath government,” he said.

“I think that is why they got a huge majority in UP. People were benefited with the social welfare schemes for the poor and a good security system in the State, which other parties failed to provide. These were two key issues on which the UP’s electorates voted. Due to this we saw majority of the votes going to BJP. I think BJP is fully focusing on development. It is the only agenda you know. But this issue about ‘disturbance’ does not exist and maybe it has been created by certain sections,” he said.

Recently a gentleman who’s not technically with the party but you don’t know whether he’s in or out one doesn’t know, suddenly raised the whole issue of St Francis Xavier and how he’s not the real Goencho Saib. Obviously the BJP did not say that their person said it, but at the same time it was also not denounced as a statement. 

The BJP could have also come up at that point of time and say that it did not support these kind of remarks by saying that this was fundamentally incorrect. So silence also is a sign of being complicit. This then becomes a topic to ponder on because people are reacting on it. 

Adv Carlos Alvares Ferriera said that at the time when new High Court building was inaugurated, he was present at the event where a video was played, which showed a tinted or tilted history.

“From there I could sense that the narrative was being written out exactly in the Nazi style, through TV through radio. You know how the television channels work. There was a narrative being set and but I did not react because I could have been looked at being oversensitive and making an issue. But after you see that video and then you see what happens, it’s like a sequence following. Then I think there is a design or a plan,” he said.

When asked about what was there in the video due to which he felt was not correct, he said that there was history of Goa, which depicted destruction of temples and how things were being done by the Portuguese regime. 

“Even Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad came and spoke against the Portuguese. But Chief Justice of India, Justice Sharad Arvind Bobde spoke in favour of Portuguese legislation, the Portuguese Civil Code. It made headlines despite all the negative comments by BJP leader and the distorted contents in the video,” he said. 

Prof Manoj Kamat said that Rs 20 crore was allocated for temple restoration for the year 2022-23. Already first quarter is over. We are in mid-June and work has not started. Now only nine months are left. The government has to decide how it plans to spend this money in remaining months. 

He also said that there is an opportunity for the government to explain how it is not taking sides, because the statement by CM was also made in Delhi, although it was not the place to talk about allocation of Rs 20 crore for temple restoration work. 

“I believe that state or any particular democratic state should not make any sides. A democratic and legitimate State should not talk about religion and not a particular religion as such. A democratic state always has to be accommodative. When these are the principles or tenets of any democratic state, you should not talk about religion,” the Principal of Shree Mallikarjun College of Arts, Science and Commerce, Canacona said.

While it has become a habit of politicians to criticise everything that Portuguese did, the fact remains that they ruled Goa for over 400 years and there is huge legacy that has been left behind. Lot during that time happened. Should we erase everything from that time and start with a clean slate or some of the important elements can be adopted? There are laws made in Portuguese era which is being still followed in Goa.

Reacting to this question, Fr Victor Ferrao, Visiting Professor, Rachol Seminary said that it is not easy to erase everything of past and take forward the best of whatever we have.

“Unfortunately you know we will never be able to erase the legacy of Portuguese or the British. Whoever they have done if you say Portuguese brought Chillies, they brought the mangoes. Even the whole ecology was enriched by them. Then comes the legal system, the bureaucratic system, recording systems,” Fr Ferrao said.

Citing the example of record keeping system of Portuguese, he said, “Who was recording our births, deaths and even marriages? This is always a selective approach of painting everything Portuguese as wrong. But then everybody is benefiting in some way or the other from these legacies. Our food has a lot of Indo-Portuguese essence in it, our architecture has Portuguese influence. So therefore I feel disturbed when you select something and then it becomes a stick to beat the minority.”

On being asked why did he felt so, Fr Ferrao said, “Can you erase everything that colonizer did? In fact from that point of view, when we selectively look at history, we tend to forget which business houses that came out of Portuguese rule benefited. 

“There are mining companies who benefited, whom I am not naming. So therefore, there are things which seem to me based as a personal kind of reflection, not necessarily as a priest but as an academician or intellectual who likes to look at things,” he said.

“We forget an important aspect of history and that is who invited the Portuguese in the first place? So all there are all kinds of issues and yet only few things are selected and are directly related with the minority community. That’s why I made the remark that it becomes a stick to beat the minority,” he said, elaborating on his previous statement.

When asked about the feelers he gets from the society being an academician, Prof Kamat said one thing is clear that there is certain amount of mistrust against the ruling dispensation. 

“Minority community in Goa is not the typical minorities that you find across India. They have good education levels in Goa and have fairly larger share in economic resources of Goa. If you look at the political power which the minorities in Goa enjoy, is again undisputed. So, no agenda or bias can be ever called as a stick against the minorities. But certainly, when government announces X amount of money for restoration of religious structure, when the same amount could have been used for development work, shows that priorities are wrong,” he said.

When BJP can distance itself from its own party members following the backlash due to their unsavoury comments and call them “fringe elements”, can’t it do so in case of a non-BJP person and former Goa RSS chief making communally sensitive remarks?

Advocate Carlos Alvares Ferreira said that in case of Nupur Sharma and navin Kumar Jindal, the government silent, it was BJP as a party which reacted and made a statement.  It was the Embassy of India in Qatar which released a statement stating that it was the statement by ‘fringe elements’.  

With the elections becoming tighter, there is now a tendency to latch on to your core support base because you don’t know what is going to happen next time. Is it a correct perception?

In response Adv Ferreira said that BJP using Hindutva plank as an experimental laboratory. But the question is will it work? “Goa is different from rest of India. Goa won’t burn the cordon of hate and will reject such kind of theories and proposals. It will take some time. But people will soon realise these are all gimmicks and this will not work for long.”

When asked about why the government didn’t make any remark against the statements on Goencho Saib, Rupesh Kamat said, “People of a certain community should not relate themselves regarding anything said against the Portuguese. Also, the statement on allocation of funds on any temple or structure of any community should not be related to governance of Portuguese rule. We have suffered and gained together. I don’t think the Portuguese should be connected with any particular religion or sect.”

BJP did not react because the party did not want to give any importance to somebody who is irrelevant to it at the moment. “So neither he belongs to RSS or BJP. By reacting to his remarks, we would have given him unnecessary importance. Our conscience is very clear,” he said.

All said and done, one thing is clear that years of colonial legacy can’t be wished away overnight. The best of that era should be retained, as it is already happening now and assimilate in into our present administrative system. Also, there should be more focus on development agenda rather than raking up the past.

IDhar UDHAR

Idhar Udhar