Jason Keith Fernandes will present a paper entitled ‘The Untouchable Citizen’

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Jason Keith Fernandes will present a paper entitled ‘The Untouchable Citizen’ on the June 6, 2017, at St. Anthony’s College at the University of Oxford. Drawing from his doctoral research, the paper will suggest that through the linguistic choices  made by the government of Goa around the issue of the official language of the state it is not merely caste that is at the centre of citizenship experiences but untouchability itself. The paper will be presented at 2 pm in the Fellows’ Dining Room at St. Anthony’s College.
Image credit: Memórias da India Portuguesa

The lecture will be a part of the South Asia Seminar Series, more information can be found here.


Trucked! Mining Dust and Protest in Goa

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With the Sadhana Multipurpose Cooperative Society (SMCS) being allowed a legal existence as a cooperative society, the debate on how Goa should deal with its mineral resources is moving forward in a direction that holds much promise. The initiative of the setting up of the cooperative was led by the villagers of Caurem, particularly by Ravindra Velip. The villagers of Caurem had to fight for almost three years before the authorities agreed to recognize Sadhana as a cooperative society. That Sadhana was made to wait for so long is not surprising considering that their objectives is to enter the mining business whereby they will operate leases, extract ore, transport the extracted ore, sell and export it, cutting across the interests of giant corporates. This three year period, therefore, was not one of idle wait for the villagers of Caurem, but one marked by numerous protests as well as attacks on the villagers.


One of such protests had led to the arrest of some villagers in Caurem, including an assault on them while in jail. RavindraVelip was then the panch of Caurem. A new graphic novel, released online for free circulation about a month ago, uses the assault on Velip and his comrades as a backdrop to reflect on the struggles of people against the destruction of lives and ecology. Trucked! is a joint effort by Favita Dias, a lecturer in sociology, and the illustrator Anjora Noronha. The title of the graphic novel draws from the image of a thousand trucks that transported iron ore from the mines of Caurem to the docks in Sanvordem.  The graphic novel is about Dias’ personal experience of attending a protest meet and standing in solidarity with the villagers of Caurem.

Dias recounts her experience of negotiating her way to Caurem, where the trucks are lined bumper-to-bumper. “Follow the trucks,” Dias is told, when she asked for directions to Caurem; the empty ones, of course. Trucked! in this sense not only serves as a metaphor for negotiating the bumper-to-bumper traffic on the road from Caurem to Sanvordem, but also helps to bring attention to the most visible aspect of mining: the trucks that transport the ore.In fact those who live in the mining areas and on the route through which the ore is transported would largely agree with Dias’ characterization of the trucks as “monsters”. These vehicles speed down the roads, kicking a storm of dust and mowing down whatever comes in their path – even other human beings.


The graphic aesthetic also tries to capture the problems that rampant mining has brought about. The colour red – the colour of the Goan soil and of large-scale mining as well – jumps out of the pages. The powdery texture that the illustrator has managed to produce gives us an impression that it is actually the mining dust that is on the pages of the graphic novel. Much of the internal reflection or the inner thoughts and past memories of the author are depicted using shades of gray. This alternates between the red, dusty-texture of scenes involving iron ore. Thus, the graphic novel offers us a stark contrast between two worlds: the internal world whereby one tends to reflect deeply about finding solutions to problems; and the external world that witnesses a senseless and unabated destruction of lives and ecology.


It is important to recognize how this interiority or internal reflections can help in thinking about the problems related to mining, or for that matter any other problem that confronts Goa. Dias offers a reflection on where an individual should place herself in the larger scheme of things; how one can relate to the struggles of others. It is also about keeping faith, and gaining hope and strength from the battles waged by others, that ultimately would bring about positive changes in our own lives. Dias reflects on the manner in which the villagers of Caurem were waging their protest and resisting the assault of mining corporations and how Ravindra Velip, calm and composed, was handling all sorts of allegations against him in the fight for justice. Trucked! teaches us a way to think and feel about the problems and protests that we are witness to.


In fact, this ability to express the internal condition of the mind to a problem widespread in society was also seen when Dias wrote an essay on her personal experiences in encountering casteism; her coming to terms with her identity as a woman from the Gauda community (published in O Heraldo, 24 January 2016). The personal and emotional conflicts that one goes through and how one can think of these conflicts and pressures in a wider social universe is the way in which Dias structures her work.


It is also essential to recognize the importance of various types or modes of representations that discuss problems faced by the society. Thus, our resistance to the problems becomes stronger if, along with newspaper reports, op-eds and books, we also have other forms of representation like tiatr, songs, and graphic novels such as Trucked! Such efforts would go a long way to build a corpus of texts that record history of Goa’s struggles against destructive so-called development.


(First published in O Heraldo, dt: 24 May, 2017)

No Bars on the Highway to Prevent Road Accidents: Is that the Solution?

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The barring of bars along and within visibility of highways has had major repercussions for Goa, which as of 31st March, 2017, had 11,974 liquor outlets on its rolls. Considering Goa’s corridor status, it has 224 kms of national highway and 232 kms of state highway. Hence 3178 of the liquor outlets (nearly 35%) are mapped as coming within the ambit of the much talked of Supreme Court judgement, that is 2290 bars, 789 retail liquor shops and 99 wholesale shops.  Liquor outlets include bars, restaurants, wholesalers, retailers and warehouses.  This count only takes into account the existing highways and not the ones that are proposed to fuel projects such the coal hub, in which case that many more outlets will come within purview of the Judgement.


What does this Supreme Court judgement direct? Primarily that there should be no liquor outlets within 500 metres from the national/state highways, and, in case of 20,000 plus populated areas, within 220 metres. Where there are licences already issued, the same should not be renewed and no new licences should be issued for liquor outlets located in these areas. A number of these bars also had a food licence. They are free to continue the restaurant minus the bar. However, in most cases, the restaurant was seen as an appendage and the key attraction was the bar.


So what really did the Supreme Court judgement set out to achieve? There were a set of petitions that the Apex Court was seized with which emerged out of a concern about accidents caused by drunken driving, that even resulted in fatalities. Therefore road safety was the plank around which this judgement was passed. The Supreme Court on perusing reports and recommendations of various bodies, including the National Road Safety Council, an apex road safety body, and a string of advisories issued by the Union Government to the States, concluded that drunken driving was a major killer in road accidents, and that banning liquor outlets on highways could in some measure address the problem. The Community Against Drunk Driving had pointed out that “Twenty-four hour availability of alcohol along national and state highways results in impulsive buying of alcohol and about 72 percent road accidents on highways”.


Then came the question of whether this is only applicable to National Highways. The Apex Court considered it absurd that there should be different yardsticks for national highways and state highways, and mandated that the bar on bars and liquor outlets should not be limited to national highways but must also be applicable to state highways, and did not see this in disconsonance with the State excise laws that frame the scope of location of liquor outlets.


The Court also considered it absurd that liquor outlets on the Highway should be banned and those in the vicinity or within visibility of the highway should be spared, hence it came out with the rule of 500 metres from the highway. On moving the Apex Court again, this was modified to 220 square metres for those areas having a population of less than 20,000.


In keeping with this directive of the Supreme Court and the demarcation carried out accordingly by the revenue officials at the instance of the Excise Department, the Excise Department of Goa constituted and despatched teams across the State to ensure strict compliance of the Supreme Court Judgement. The liquor outlets that came within the ambit of the Supreme Court Judgement downed their shutters from 1st April, after their licences were not renewed. Shortly thereafter, in the month of April 2017 itself, there has been a spate of accidents on Goa’s streets, resulting in a number of fatalities, thereby highlighting the point that closure of bars may not be the panacea for ridding the roads of accidents or drunken driving.  Add to this the valorized machismo on Goa’s streets, and you have a heady mix that serves as the right impetus for an accident as many of these cases indicates.


No doubt supply of liquor has the uncanny knack of creating demand. And presence of liquor outlets prompts purchase and consumption, and to that extent there will be some respite. However, the Apex Court has failed to look at the larger picture of non-enforcement of the law that prevents driving after drinking. Or, for that matter, non-enforcement of provisions in excise laws in places like Goa, of advertising liquor products, primarily through surrogate advertisements. Neither has it looked at the issue of sensitization about road safety that will diffuse the macho attitudes that people pick up all along the way as they grow up.


Those who have misrepresented that their bars were located elsewhere and obtained the licence in collusion with excise authorities, may also escape at least temporarily. The Commissioner of Excise is reported to have said that the licences of liquor outlets coming within the scope of the Supreme Court Judgement, would be cancelled forever, and further that if these outlets move out of 500 metres jurisdiction then they can apply for a fresh licence, even as their existing licence will not be renewed. It is also not as if accidents do not happen due to drunken driving on roads other than national and state highways, but yes, the Supreme Court Judgment myopically looked at just the National and the State highways and that too only from the angle of one cause of road accidents, that is drunken driving.


Having said that, the economic fallout of this judgement is going to be immense. Even though the Chief Minister claimed that the ban will have no major impact on state revenue, it is likely that the revenue from excise, reported to be Rs. 315 crores in Goa, will reduce. But one cannot forget that the lobbying power of the liquor industry is immense. Vani Agro Farms Pvt. Ltd. wielded such power that it got the legislators of the state to amend the Preservation of Trees Act to exempt coconut trees from the Act, so that it could cut the big cluster of coconut trees off the land it had acquired, for its alcohol and brewery plant. It even got the approval from the controversial Investment Promotion Board on the pretext that it would generate 500 jobs for local people at Sanguem, even though alcohol and brewery plants do not come within the thrust areas of the Investment Promotion Board.


Similarly, a section of persons who were employed by liquor outlets are going to be out of employment The condition of the persons who have been living off the liquor outlets, along with their families, must be addressed. One has to distinguish between a well-oiled and polished liquor lobby that also has diversified investments in various other sectors, and the small and medium family-run enterprises that were dependent on liquor outlets for their livelihood. No doubt, there is the principle of res extra commercium, which means that by themselves, the liquor outlets are not entitled to be rehabilitated on non-renewal of their licences because they are supposed to be indulging in trade or business activities which are immoral by society’s standards and liquor trade has been perceived by the Supreme Court as one such immoral activity. Immoral or not, if people have been living on the earnings of it over the years, and the State has facilitated this dependency, then the State has to take responsibility for rehabilitation.


What did the other States do? Some States denotified the state highways and labelled them urban or district roads, so as to get out of the ambit of the judgement, since the distances had to be computed with reference to notified national and state highways, which shows the fickleness of the Supreme Court Judgement.  Some States even requested the Centre for a similar denotification with respect to national highways. Other States petitioned the Supreme Court to review its own Judgement. Sikkim and Meghalaya were successful, with the case they made out of their topography.


The Maharashtra Government has found itself in the typical conundrum where it wants to satisfy the powerful liquor lobby on the one hand, and its shrill moral overtones on the other, prompting one of its own to say, “The liquor ban on highways is not about liquor but about road safety”.  One needs to pull their bluff in claiming saving sources of revenue, like excise duty, by denotifying state highways to classify them as urban or district roads. Because an equal amount of expenditure is called for in maintenance of these roads. Already prior denotifications of roads by some states resulted in those very states again approaching the Centre to renotify, on account of further deterioration of roads under the control of local self government bodies that do not even have the resources to maintain these roads. This in turn was seen as having made the roads more accident-prone.


Some liquor outlet owners proved to be even more enterprising. One such liquor outlet owner from Kerala, actually built a maze that lengthens the distance from the highway to the bar by around 250 to 300 metres and thus hopes to get out of the clutches of the Supreme Court Judgement.


Predictably the liquor traders’ association which is headed by BJP’s unsuccessful Taleigao candidate, Mr. Dattaprasad Naik, and the Travel and Tourism Association of Goa, have expressed resentment over this judgement. They argue that the judgement threatens the collapse of the liquor and tourism business. They have the CEO of Niti Ayog, India’s new Planning Commission avatar, who says it will kill the tourism industry on their side.  And this has also found an echo from the Union Tourism Minister. On the other hand, they have shown no social or legal contribution or responsibility to redress the concerns about drunken driving. They appear only to be concerned about Goa’s image as an alcohol  hub (for tourism) being dented, without a care about the implications that injuries and fatalities caused by accidents due to drunken driving, have for entire families, particularly on women and children. When women’s groups have expressed concerns about the advertising of liquor including surrogate advertising, there has been no inclination to pay attention, or rather authorities have looked the other way.


At another level, various ‘res extra commercium’ businesses have been touted as coup de graça for the pathetic financial debt situation of the State. States have often justified the res extra commercium businesses on the plea that they fetch the State huge sums of revenue. Then there is the multiplier revenue earned from having reduced excise duty rates, so as to draw tourists, particularly Indian tourists who throng in hordes and are projected as contributing to the State’s revenue by patronizing its businesses, including liquor business. The State simply refuses to consider a small and medium enterprise local stake holder led model of development.


Another argument has been that drunken driving is not a major source of accidents. The National Crime Record Bureau statistics of 2015 indicate that 1% of all accidents nationally are due to drunk driving, 31% due to reckless driving and 43% due to speeding. Goa has recorded 19 accidents due to drunken driving, of which one has been fatal, out of a total 4338 accidents. So this means 0.4% of the accidents can be statistically attributed to drunken driving. The situation is not far different in Gujarat, which is a dry state, where the percentage of accidents due to drunken driving is recorded as 0.25%. This reinforces the point that lack of effective enforcement of the law against drunken driving is the prime cause for fatal accidents resulting from drunken driving. It also does raise the point that statistical records belie the reality, because it is apparent that there have been more accidents than the statistics indicate due to drunken driving, but the police have not booked the cases as resulting from drunken driving. Apart from that, the road safety issues remain hardly addressed if so many injuries and fatalities have resulted from speeding and reckless driving. Even the most recently announced measures by way of purchase of equipment such as radars, speedometers, alcometers, vehicles, and installation of CCTVs and interceptors, is only reinforcing the State’s complete lack of a sustainable and accountable economic vision for Goa. On the contrary, the State seems to use every opportunity to become a surveillance state, to facilitate massive corporate growth at the cost of the people.


It is precisely this lack of a people-centric economic vision that will take care of people’s livelihoods and health and be sustainable and the lack of an accountable governance, coupled with selective impacts on the already marginalized populations that are already reeling under the social and economic crisis, that casts a super-shadow on what could have possibly been some positive fallouts of the Supreme Court Judgement.


Yet another point being made in this age of don’t-eat-this-don’t-dress-that, is that in a democratic society, each person should have the right to drink whatsoever he wants and however much she wants. That may be so, but the flaw however in this argument is that it is a liberal argument that fails to look at the cost of the lives of other human beings, at which this freedom is being exercised.


It seems that the only way that the State can get out of the present conundrum is one, to improve revenue collection from other sources that are sustainable, two, to have coordinated action on road safety and to hold accountable officials for non-enforcement of sanctions against traffic violations, three, to offer a rehabilitation package for the liquor outlets and particularly those who were working for the long existing liquor outlets, proportionate to the number of years that they have been in business, four, to conduct sensitization through various media on the perils of drunken and erratic driving and to demystify and  deconstruct the supermanhood that is ascribed to those who drive with speed, five, to address issues of surrogate advertising of liquor.


(First published in Goa Today, May 2017)


Kaustubh Naik to present, ‘Navigating the ambivalence – ‘O Bharat’ and the Hindus of Portuguese Goa’

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Kaustubh Naik will present a paper titled, ‘Navigating the ambivalence – O Bharat and the Hindus of Portuguese Goa’ at the International Congress on Politics and Culture in Colonial Periodical Press, to be held at the New University of Lisbon, Portugal. The Congress will be held from 22-25 May, 2017 and the concept note of the Congress is available here.


Naik’s paper looks at the end of constitutional monarchy in Portugal and its subsequent transition into a Republic in 1910 as a critical moment in the history of Portuguese Goa, as it enfranchised Goan Hindus into the state administration, albeit in a restricted manner. Among other implications of this moment, perceived as a step towards freedom, the printing and circulation of Marathi periodicals in Goa saw a surge post 1910. Marathi periodicals in Goa have been regarded as the proof of the cultural inertia of the Goan Hindus, who shielded themselves from so called ‘westernization’. These periodicals, post-1910, emerged as sites that were representative of the efforts of the Goan Hindu communities that were repositioning themselves in an ambivalent political future that loomed over the initial half of the 20th century in Portuguese Goa. As an illustrative case for this observation, this paper will focus on the writings published in O Bharat, the longest running multilingual periodical (1912-1949) published from Portuguese Goa. Through critical analysis of these writings, this paper seeks to foreground the manner in which the Goan Hindu communities were mediating the Indian nationalist discourses originating from the British India while simultaneously grappling with the autonomy of the Portuguese Republic.

Dale Luis Menezes to present, ‘Global News, Vernacular Print: A Study of Political Ideas in Modern Portuguese India (1880-1975)’

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Dale Luis Menezes will present a paper titled, ‘Global News, Vernacular Print: A Study of Political Ideas in Modern Portuguese India (1880-1975)’ at the International Congress on Politics and Culture in Colonial Periodical Press, to be held at the New University of Lisbon, Portugal. The Congress will be held from 22-25 May, 2017 and the concept note of the Congress is available here.


Menezes’ paper looks at the print-culture of Portuguese India which existed in diverse languages, such as Portuguese, Marathi, English, Nagri Konkani, and Romi Concanim. These newspapers are a source of constructing the intellectual history of modern empires. Print-culture has received a decent amount of attention in recent times with scholars like Rochelle Pinto and Sandra Ataíde Lobo working on the intellectual production of elite Goans. However, we do not know much about the subaltern, working class sections of Goan society. How these publications in various languages engaged with news and events from across the globe, and how they selected news items according to their ideological and political proclivities, and their location within empires indicates how politics was negotiated within the setting of the Portuguese empire. This study proposes to focus on three newspapers: the weekly Ave Maria in Romi Concanim, Porjecho Adar a bilingual weekly in Romi Concanim and Portuguese, and the weekly O Bharat in Marathi. It is only by trying to be as representative of the print-culture of Portuguese India as possible that one can make sense of the global and local circulation of ideas, through the medium of news reports. Focusing on global news as reported in the local or the vernacular press would help us understand the intellectual ideas with which the ‘local’ actors engaged.

Fathoming a different Mothers’ Day

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We live in times when commercial Mother’s Day ads stereotype the role of mothers, even as they do not give value to their work. We live in times when jingoism runs high and we are pushed into a situation where our concern as mothers – literally and figuratively – of the menfolk on the country’s borders has to be translated into applauding them for giving up their lives or losing their lives for the ‘nation’. We live in times when we are not expected to interrogate the circumstances and political diktats under which the armed force men became vulnerable to these killings.


We live in times when a High Court Judge is called out by Supreme Court for contempt of court and sentenced to imprisonment, despite the Supreme Court’s own contention that he is insane. He cannot be both insane and guilty of contempt of court. Evolved jurisprudence cannot be upturned only because the Court that feels contemned or the judges that feel contemned are the Supreme Court of India. It is such approaches that embroil apex court judges in a culture of impunity even when it comes to sexual harassment at the workplace of India’s daughters.


The world just observed another Mother’s day in these times. It is, therefore, that we need to revert to the Julia Howard Lowe’s Mother’s Day declaration way back in 1870, imploring “Arise then, women of this day! Arise, all women who have hearts, whether your baptism be of water or tears! Say firmly: ‘We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies…Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn all that we have taught them of charity, mercy and patience.We women of one country will be too tender of those of another to allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs. From the bosom of the devastated earth, a voice goes up with our own. It says, ‘Disarm, disarm’. The sword of murder is not the balance of justice. Blood does not wipe out dishonor, nor does violence indicate possession…In the name of womanhood and of humanity, I earnestly ask that a general congress of women without limit of nationality may be appointed and held at some place deemed most convenient and at the earliest period consistent with its objects, to promote the alliance of the different nationalities, the amicable settlement of international questions and the great and general interests of peace.”


Howe transitioned from a proponent of war to an anti-war activist after she witnessed the mutual mass slaughter of the War Between the States (1861 – 1865). We see such transitioning and interrogation in India as well.


Leila Seth, the first woman judge of the Supreme Court of India who passed away twelve days ago (may she rise in peace, simple soul), did not hesitate as a mother of a gay son, to question the wisdom of the Supreme Court through an op-ed in a national newspaper. In that op-ed, she questioned the Apex Court’s  judgement which sought to restore section 377 treating homosexuality as an unnatural act, and said openly that by those standards her son was now a criminal, and would be further considered criminal if he married following his sexual orientation. She was upfront and made it clear that this critique came from her both as a jurist and as a mother of a gay son.


Just this month itself, Varsha Dogre, Deputy Jailor, Raipur Central Jail, posted on Facebook that she was a witness to the torture of minor tribal girls, at police stations, stripped and tortured, with marks of electric shock on their hands and breasts seen by her. “We need to introspect, because those who are getting killed in either side of this war in Bastar are our own people. The capitalist system is being forced on Bastar, tribals are being pushed out of their lands, their villages are being burnt, women raped — all this to grab land and forests. All this isn’t being done to end Naxalism”, she is reported to have stated.  “Farmers and jawans are brothers, they shouldn’t kill each other.”Dogre faced the consequences of her posting, was suspended and the post ended up being deleted.


In the months gone by,  the double speak about jawans broke apart and Gurmehar Kaur, the daughter of a defence person who had died at Kargil was no longer seen as the daughter of that revered man protecting our bordersor the daughter of Kargil’s martyr. Why? Only because she called out the goondaism of the workers of the ruling party’s student wing the ABVP, following an invite to JNU students Umar Khalid and Shehla Rashid to address a seminar on ‘Culture of Protests’.  On the contrary, she claims she got threats of rape for calling out such goondaism. Can we have a comfortable Mother’s Day with such occurrences all around us?


Mothersas people in their country and as peoples in other countries need to be able to interrogate surgical strikes and war drums in their country as well as in the neighbouring countries and blow the bugle of peace, so mothers will no longer face anguish at the wanton loss of their sons, which could well have been averted, if the war machinery and war corporates and war mongers were not considered all that precious.


What is Mother’s Day if mothers don’t have the space to express the anguish they face over the injustices being heaped on their children, where even the State is complicit? One of the greatest tributes one can pay to motherhood, is to create the spaces for expressions of anguish and concern, and to showcase mothers who stand up against injustices to their children and the children of the world, and set the road for a truly peaceful democracy.


(First published in O Heraldo, dt: 18 May, 2017. This is an edited version)

National Interests and Local Interests

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Goa Forward’s (GF) recent views on the expansion of coal handling at the Mormugao Port Trust (MPT) should be evaluated with the party’s rhetoric of being a ‘regional party’. Surprising, some might say, that a party that stood for Goemkarponn is at odds with those who are desperately working to save Goa’s ecology. If regional interests or Goemkarponn are to be secured for the benefit of the local people, can national interests be served at the same time? Though the backlash to the statements led to a retraction as far as coal handling is concerned, nonetheless GF’s recent statements and their compromises on the issue of nationalization of rivers should make us to introspect and interrogate how national and regional interests operate.


Apart from the fact that national interests have a flip side of making those who do not conform to these interests as ‘anti-nationals’, terms like national interest are a curious way through which protests are muzzled, especially those against the draconian policies of the state. Often policies and projects carried out for the express purpose of securing national interest benefit multinational corporations. National interest further benefit persons of dominant caste and class groups or those who enjoy the power given unto them by the state and the media, while the land and resources of the poor and bahujan groups are appropriated wholesale.


Large-scale projects are not the only way to observe the operation of national interests against regional ones. In a curious way, we can see it operating in Goa’s language politics as well. By making Nagri-scripted Konkani as one of the official languages of Goa, a certain nationalist politics was put into play. The Roman-scripted Konkani and those who demanded that it too be recognized as official were left out. Within this nationalist politics it was not possible to recognize the Roman script because the Roman script is allegedly foreign. Anything foreign is not Indian, and therefore would not serve any national interests. Portuguese-inflected or -derived words in Konkani had to be purged in favor of Sanskrit-derived vocabulary to make Konkani more Indian and more national.


Linked to the politics of the Konkani language and its official script is the Medium of Instruction (MoI) issue. The demand for English, so the argument went, was anti-thetical to Indian culture. Forcing children to study only in “regional languages”, some believe, would instill national pride in the children of Goa. Vile propaganda suggested that the MoI in English was a conspiracy to serve ‘Catholic interests’. It is, however, a different matter that those who are demanding English as MoI are fed-up of the parochial language politics in Goa, and see no future in the manner in which ‘regional languages’ are forced onto the Goan public, more especially, on the poorer and bahujan sections who cannot afford private English education. The bottom line is that through a narrow and parochial politics, Goa’s elite classes are serving national interests that do not see any merits in including all forms of cultures and linguistic expressions. In fact one is expected to give up on certain practices if they do not conform to the national standard.


During the press conference which received a huge backlash, GF’s spokesperson Prashant Naik also made a sarcastic comment, arguing that if there is an opposition to all development projects then all Goans will have to “make the passport” and leave. Notwithstanding the blatant illegalities of such development projects as well as the manner in which such projects rob the people of Goa of their land and water, Naik’s seemingly off-the-cuff statement reveals a deep-seated bias. Those who opt for a Portuguese passport in order to have access to better employment opportunities, and in many ways to escape the increasingly vitiated and stifling political atmosphere in Goa, are seen as betraying the nation. They are viewed as having no loyalty to the nation. By suggesting that there is a link between those who opt for Portuguese citizenship and those who oppose mega-projects, Naik’s statement precisely draws from a ‘nationalist’ discourse that has no regard for the problems and difficulties of the people that drive migration.


Goa’s recent history is witness to several protests that opposed the large-scale takeover by the central governmental agencies and multinational corporations. At least from the 1980s there have been protests against such polluting industries like the Zuari Agro Chemicals, Nylon 6,6, Du Pont, Meta-Strips, the agitation against the Konkan Railway, as well as the agitation against the setting up of the Special Economic Zone, or the agitation led by the Ramponnkars, the traditional fishermen to safeguard the interests of people in traditional occupations. The agitation against evictions in Baina (in the garb of ‘cleaning’ the beaches of prostitution and migrants) amongst several others should also be remembered while the issue of MPT’s expansion is discussed. What this suggests is that in its recent history Goa has witnessed spirited opposition against a form of ‘development’ that is a direct assault on the lives of people.


Claims of national interest should be examined if they secure or deny rights to people, whether these rights are legal, cultural, environmental or in any other sphere. The discussion of Goemkarponn, local interests, and national interests should focus on the struggles in Goa’s recent history that has somewhat restricted the march of developmental projects. This and other instances such as the MoI issue wherein a large section of the people of Goa mobilized to fulfill certain demands tell us that the people of Goa have put local interests above so-called national ones. This is an important lesson to remember.


(First published in O Heraldo, dt: 10 May, 2017)

Sustainable Mining can only be done by Local Communities

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This article is about two mining villages: Sonshi, which has put the focus back on Goa’s nefarious mining mafia and the government that supports them tooth and nail; and Caurem-Maina, which has just succeeded in registering a village co-operative which aims to take charge of mining in the village.


Mining re-started in Goa only late last year after it was stopped in 2012 following the Shah Commission’s report of widespread illegalities and looting of public money to the tune of Rs 35,000 crore. But the villagers of Sonshi have exposed that, despite clear orders from the Supreme Court, not to mention any number of complaints from citizens, nothing has changed with either the unscrupulousness of the mining companies, nor the government which is supposed to enforce the law and protect public interest. Sonshi, located in the heartland of Goa’s mining belt, is the proof. 1200 truck-loads of iron ore rumble through the village every day. Everything in the village—roads, houses, trees, fields, the few children in the government school—is covered in red dust. The mining has dried the village wells; water is supplied through tankers by the mining companies and stored in covered drums, but it is both insufficient and covered in dust. People report all kinds of ailments connected to dust.


All of this is in blatant violation of the law, for which strict action should have been taken by various agencies of the government: the Directorate of Mines and Geology, the Directorate of Road Transport, and the Goa State Pollution Control Board. But they’ve done nothing.


And there is also a livelihood issue. Many villagers were employed in the mining industry before 2012, but no longer. Some of them had invested in trucks to transport ore; those trucks are also idle since 2012, even as other trucks roar past their houses. So the people languish in unemployment and loss, while profits are extracted from the land under their feet.


This too was of no concern to the government. The only action it took is to arrest the villagers themselves when they decided to stop the passage of trucks through their village. 45 villagers spent twelve nights in jail, refusing to pay the bail amount. It was only after the story hit the headlines that they were released, with government assurances that all their concerns would be addressed.


But who believes this? Everything in Sonshi points to Goa going back to the pre-2012 days of illegal and rapacious mining, destroying the environment, robbing the public exchequer, and dishing out violence of all kinds on the local communities. Will the villagers of Sonshi too finally be forced to accept some pittance of compensation and disappear, as they are being pressurised to?


No—not if another Goan village has its way. The village of Caurem-Maina in Quepem has a solution to the mess and, what’s more, has just achieved a milestone in the struggle to realise it. After nearly three years of struggle, the Sadhana Multipurpose Co-operative Society Ltd., a co-operative intended to take up all development issues in the twin hamlets, has finally been registered by the Assistant Registrar of Co-operative Societies, Quepem.


This is an important step for Goa, because at the heart of the mining imbroglio is the question of who decides about development. Thanks to the colonial approach to Goa’s development, both before and after 1961, especially with regard to the top triumvirate of mining, tourism and real estate development, development is a scary word for bahujan and tribal communities of Goa. It means robbed lands, destroyed occupations, polluted fields, gentrified villages, resource-guzzling resorts and casinos, and now coal-poisoned water and land. It means development along the neo-liberal capitalist model, providing good times and massive profits to bhatcars, corporates, and other elites, Goan and Indian. It means maximum extraction of every resource possible, while bahujans and tribals pay the price.


But there is hope. The decision of the tribal villages of Caurem-Maina to set up a co-operative to take charge of all development in the village, is the culmination of a fight against illegal mining that began in 2008. Even though the villagers were dependent on mining jobs themselves, they made innumerable complaints, petitions, and RTI applications over the past decade, and also organised demonstrations and protests, all to expose over-extraction, the concealment of ore as dumps, the making of fraudulent inventories (showing lower quantities than actually mined), pollution, etc. In return, they were met by harassment, savage beatings, and arrests on numerous counts.


The 73rd and 74th Amendments to the Indian Constitution, and laws like Extension of Panchayati Raj to the Scheduled Areas Act (PESA) of 1995, and the Rights to the Forest Act (FRA) of 2006, were supposed to ensure that locals take all decisions regarding land, forests, and development, especially in tribal areas. This is precisely what the villagers were trying to do. It is ironical but sharply clear that, in this entire struggle, it is they who have been on the side of the law, trying to monitor the industry and check illegalities—i.e. doing the job of the government—while the government itself has been on the side of the criminals. Even the application for the registration of their co-operative first met with refusal; they had to fight all the way up to the Bombay High Court before they were accepted.


The fight is not over, of course. The Sadhana Co-operative has now petitioned the Chief Minister’s office to cancel the existing leases in Caurem-Maina, all of which are in violation of the law, so that the co-operative can take charge of mining. Will the government agree? No prizes for guessing.


(With thanks to Ravindra Velip, chief promoter, The Sadhana Multipurpose Co-operative Ltd.)


(First published in O Heraldo, dt: 4 May, 2017)