Fr Pratap Naik, S.J.
COVID-19 has gripped the entire world with fear and uncertainty. Some say that it is a punishment of God. I firmly believe that it is a man-made disaster. We went against the will and plan of the creator. Under the name of “development”, “progress” we began due to our selfishness to overexploit and destroy the planet earth. We forgot the basic truth that we are “caretakers” and not “owners” of it. We wanted to control the earth for our greed. Now the earth is bringing us down to our knees through COVID-19. This is the golden opportunity for all of us to do introspection, change our thinking and way of life. I am a too small person to suggest my vision for the entire world or for my country. Since I live and work in Goa, I have a dream for my beloved golden Goa.
Goa is a tiny state, smaller than any district of our neighbouring States Karnataka and Maharashtra. If we wish, Goa can become a model for other States in all respects. To do this, we have to take clues from our history, the way our ancestors lived happily a healthy life in villages in unity. Due to COVID-19 most of the workers from other states whom we labelled them as “outsiders (derogatively called as ghanttis)” are gone and soon will go. Nobody forced them to come to Goa and nobody forced them to leave Goa. Hence, now is the best opportunity for us to rebuild golden Goa with a new vision and work ethics.
We have to develop and execute an eco-friendly plan for the entire state of Goa. Those who hold an Aadhaar Card and voting Card in Goa and provides a proof of 20 years of residency in Goa should be considered as a citizen of Goa. We have to stop to create smart cities, instead make every village in Goa as a smart and as far as possible self-sufficient and self-sustaining village. Our focus has to be on villages which should free from multi-storeys buildings, housing complexes, malls, supermarkets, star hotels. Every village should be provided with supply of 24x7 electricity, drinking water, network coverage, village market, playground and parks for children, public gardens with benches especially for senior citizens, ponds and lakes to keep the temperature in balance and to attract water birds, post office, banks, recreational clubs, health centres with basic facilities, marked areas for greenery and forest where absolutely no constructions are allowed, common sewage system so that we could dig wells for drinking and agricultural purposes. At no cost agricultural land, be allowed for conversion and to be used for other purposes. We have to encourage agriculture and horticulture. No fields to be allowed to keep without cultivation. Cooperative farming could be promoted so that every field is used for cultivation. Cooperative sale centres to be started so that the farmers get the fair price and no middlemen are allowed between the farmers and buyers. We should refuse to sell our land to builders, developers and those who do not have proof of 20 years of residency in Goa. What development work has to be permitted or not to be permitted has to be decided by the village community and not by others. Totally ban the entry and the use of loose plastic and plastic products like plates, cups, decorations, toys, plastic plants, etc. Instead promote eco-friendly material for daily use as our ancestors did. To protect our health and the soil, ban chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Make available organic manure. Ban production and sale of artificial soft drinks, instead promote natural drinks like milk, buttermilk, curds, fresh fruit juices. Ban Chinese dishes in hotels and restaurants which use chemicals, instead promote our local tasty dishes. Right now, we depend on other states for food materials. We must try now to cultivate and export our local food products.
Lay heavy taxes on city dwellers and give subsidy and generous tax reduction for those who are engaged in farming, horticulture, traditional fishing, home and small-scale cottage industry, business in the villages. Mining has destroyed our beautiful Goa and lives of villagers. We have to seriously think about this issue and find solutions to preserve our land. We cannot leave this decision in the hands of Government and politicians, who do not care for us. The decision must be solely of the local people who live around the mining areas. Water harvesting has to be done in every village to conserve water. Our ancestors took hundred of years to create fields for cultivation and water conserving devices. Today we are destroying them by filling with debris and use it for constructions! Goa was small and beautiful with small houses, bungalows surrounded by trees, fields, and streams. Hills, valleys, and fields were the beauty of Goa. Today we have destroyed them. Shall we preserve what has remained from destruction? What remains should be prevented from further destruction.
Totally ban the entry and sale of pan, ghuttka, tobacco and similar products. Smoking; drinking; spitting; urinating and defecation on roads and public places should be punished with heavy fines. Those who sell adulterated food materials, fruits, vegetables, etc must be heavily fined. Repeated offenders’ licence to do business in Goa must be cancelled. Government needs money. Instead of burdening the citizens with too much of taxation, punish the offenders of every type with heavy fine to raise the funds. For this the hands of the police must be strengthened. Before liberation, we were afraid of police. Now that fear has gone. Why? If a few police personnel are found corrupt, dismiss them from service. To reduce pollution, in a week a day has to be marked, on that day no vehicles, except bicycles, handcarts, emergency and basic services vehicles will be allowed on the road. We are blessed with rivers. Water transport must be increased to avoid traffic congestion on the roads.
Instead of running after government jobs, our youngsters should seriously think of modernising “blue collar” jobs. In Goa carpenters, masons, electricians, tailors, barbers, painters, fishermen, plumbers, coconut and fruit pluckers, bakers, toddy tappers, shopkeepers, cooks, drivers, fruit, vegetable and flower vendors, maintenance persons easily earn their living. Our local persons do this work on ships and abroad. If local people do the ‘blue collar” work, then “outsiders” will not come to Goa. I do believe that from a sweeper to collector as far as possible, locals must be the preference. We cannot and should not expect that we will do the white-collar jobs and let the “outsiders” do the manual works. Dignity of labour is the same for all. What is needed in Goa is conversion of mind and heart. We should be ready to do any traditional work with dignity and earn our livelihood. Why Goa has become a gold mine for the workers of other States and not for us?
If Goa should remain as “Golden Goa” we should rethink of our political system which rules us. These days for any office job, the minimum qualification needed is tenth standard. The retirement age and other work conditions are fixed. Those who take important political decisions, which affect our lives - should be educated, men of vision and integrity. People are losing their faith in our politicians and political system. Once they are elected, they are no more accountable to people who voted them to power. They change their parties, promises and civic ethics. Every politician including a panch member in Panchayat should have a fix retirement age decided by the people. Goa, once a corruption free place has become a corrupt state. Who is responsible for this? To a great extent, we citizens of Goa are responsible for this. Can’t we decide unanimously who should represent our ward or constituency? When we decide our representative, no money is required for canvassing and to get elected! Then, money will not play any role for election. If the elected representatives are persons of integrity and value-based persons, in Goa corruption could be controlled if not eliminated within three months. How? Every person including minister, who demands or takes bribe to be caught red-handed and dismissed from his/her job immediately (not mere suspension, which is an eyewash for the public) and attach their unaccounted asset to government treasury and make them to do manual work on our roads and public places with a label attached to them which specifies their offence. We have to send bogus clients to ministers and government officials to catch them red-handed. If we do this, a day will come in Goa, nobody will dare to take or ask for bribe. On the contrary, one who offers bribe will be caught and punished!!! Are we ready to make Goa a corruption free Goa?
We don’t need more than one airport, bullet trains, casinos, lawless tourists. We need not be part of Mars or Jupiter expeditions. Let our focus be to save our planet earth, where every creature lives in harmony with others. If Singapore can be an ideal modern country, why can’t Goa be an ideal state within our country? I know this is a dreamer’s or madman’s dream for Goa, a lonely voice in the wilderness. But it is needed for my beloved Goa. Are they any takers for this “wild, mad dream”?
(The writer is a well-known Konknni researcher, writer and a poet who is based at Loyola Hall, Miramar).