Illegal but Legalisable: On What Basis?

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By ALBERTINA ALMEIDA

 

Goa is about to make sale and development of orchard land a criminal offence that could attract imprisonment of one year. When revealing this information, Vijai Sardesai, the Town and Country Planning Minister claimed that 20 lakh square metres of land had been illegally converted across Goa, and that an amnesty period would be given to those who had illegally developed land to seek conversion from the Town and Country Planning Board by March 31, 2018.

 

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Recent State Decisions and Recommendations: More Nails in the Coffin for Goans and for Tourism?

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By ALBERTINA ALMEIDA

 

Commodification of the environment for tourism in Goa is reaching endemic proportions. It has the potential to kill the very goose of environment that could lay the golden eggs of revenue and income generation from tourism. The Government dismisses such critical ecological concerns as the work of naysayers, and argues that no development can occur if every time a new project is proposed, environmental concerns are brought to the drawing board to oppose it. However, if people’s concerns about environment are not addressed, then the insensitively planned projects that follow have the potential of completely destroying the livelihoods of people in Goa, and putting their health in jeopardy.

 

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Access to Justice – ISDS style!

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By ALBERTINA ALMEIDA

 

On 11th October, 2017, the Honourable High Court of Bombay at Goa quashed the notification shifting the jurisdiction for Goa of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) to the Bench in Delhi, thereby retaining the jurisdiction of the Western Zone Bench at Pune. This welcome decision for the citizens of Goa in the trajectory of asserting access to justice, could, however, be shortlived.

 

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Freedom of Speech and Expression: Caste, Creed, Cringe!

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By ALBERTINA ALMEIDA

 

Recently, with the killing of Gauri Lankesh, the controversy over Sudirsukt and the death threats to writers such as Kancha Ilaiah Shepherd, certain facets of freedom of speech have come under sharp scrutiny, making one question  who cringes about what speech and expression, what is the ambit of freedom of speech that we value, and who does so at what times.

 

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Water Water Everywhere, But…

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By ALBERTINA ALMEIDA

 

There is one central lesson that can be gauged from the National Waterways Act 2016. It is that the people who have been traditionally using and sustaining the river waters and especially for their livelihoods, will have limited or no access to the rivers and maybe even the river banks.   The National Waterways Act, 2016, became law on 25th March, 2016, and came into force from 11th April, 2016. The inclusion of six riverine stretches of Goa in the Schedule to the National Waterways Act, 2016, is threatening the very existence of Goa, where livelihoods have revolved around the rivers and the coasts, even when population groups do not live in the immediate vicinity of these water bodies.

 

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Remembering Thälmann

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By ALBERTINA ALMEIDA

 

Goa has lost a leading light in the death of Thälmann Pereira, advocate and trade unionist, and State Secretary of the Goa Unit of the Communist Party of India (Marxist). Thälmann was born in 1962 into a communist household. His parents led the party in Goa and were intimately involved with it. This probably is why he was named after the founder of the Communist Party in Germany, Ernst Thälmann. Yet despite this proximate connection, he did not, unlike many Communist leaders, wear this legacy on his sleeve. So much so that even his wife, Rita Dey Pereira, said that she did not, during their courtship, have an idea of the amount of space the red (meaning Communist) flag occupied in his life. It began unfurling during the course of their married life, to use her own words.

 

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Lies, Damned Lies, and Merit

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By ALBERTINA ALMEIDA

 

(With apologies to whoever it was that first coined the phrase “lies, damned lies, and statistics”- there seems to be a lie there itself)

 

Lies masquerade as merit in these post-truth times. As a matter of fact, lies have been morphed into stereotypes and stereotypes morphed into merit long before terms like ‘post-truth’ or ‘alternate facts’ became popular.

 

What better way to begin to see how lies are masqueraded as merit or high standards than through taking a look at the controversy surrounding Vishnu Surya Wagh’s ‘Sudirsukt’? Wagh’s 2013 book of Konkani poems, some members of the dominant Gaud Saraswat community in Goa contend, lacks any kind of literary merit necessary to receive an award. These same people have taken offence to his poems saying they are stirring passions against a certain community.

 

There is one poem titled “Mhaji Bhasha” (My Language) that is raw with the feelings of hurt caused by casteist oppression. It actually addresses the lie that the ancestors of the depressed castes were forced to pass off as truth – that their language was ‘lost in a forest’, when in fact ‘those who came along with Parashuram/From Kashmir or Bengal/While chopping off forest cleanings/Chopped off our language as well’, because ‘our ancestors …/Would speak to their face/Seeing this they began to fear…/And they connived to make our ancestors dumb’. The Brahminical elite have in fact manipulated the debate on official language to selectively get their language, which they call ‘Konkani in Devanagiri script’, to be the only one meritorious enough to be declared the official language of Goa, despite the truth of the limited access and usage of this Brahminical language.

 

The legislature and the literary world are not the only areas where lies are masqueraded as merit. This also happens in the world of the judiciary. As recently as May 2017, the Madras High Court had to, in so many ways, chastise a particular Trial Court judge, with a warning, “Let this be the last judgment ever written on communal consideration”. The Madras High Court was hearing a case, where, in the Trial Court, the judge had arrived at the conclusion that the particular accused had committed a murder solely because they belonged to a particular community and with a perception that the traditional occupation of the community was theft. There was no evidence otherwise linking the accused to the crime. What the judge had done in this case, was to perpetrate a racist lie, by giving merit to the values of the dominant sections of society earlier, that the particular tribe has criminality in their genes.

 

The Madras Court pointed out that the “Judiciary cannot afford to decide the cases by tracing the criminal activities of the forefathers of the accused. No Court of Law can stigmatize a community as a whole. Proof beyond reasonable doubt of the guilt of an accused should be reached on the basis of the evidence on record. Any finding of guilt based on no evidence but on communal considerations is unconstitutional”.

 

An attribution of merit to arguments by certain dominant circles, could well mean, for instance, that, if a Goan were accused of drunken driving in some part of India, then, with the Bollywood imagery about Goan men being drunkards, the judge would presume that since he is a Goan, he must have committed the offence of drunken driving, without appropriately appreciating evidence led through due process.

 

Giving merit through the law or otherwise to dominant arguments (buttressed by casteist sexist corporate centric sections of society) can actually challenge the very existence of people, as is happening, for example, with Aadhaar. If you don’t have an Aadhaar card, you don’t exist. Your existence itself is a lie. You can’t file your tax returns, you can’t have a telephone connection or a mobile number, you can’t get any subsidies, your relatives won’t be able to get your death certificate. There is no merit in your existence.

 

There has also been some hype created about how the standards of teaching are declining at Goa University because of reservations. If anything, this hype is a stark example of the nexus between lies and merit. Despite the reservations, there are exactly four reserved posts when the constitutionally-mandated seats should have been around 66 in a teacher strength of 163. Clearly it is not those who are occupying reserved posts who are really responsible for the declining teaching standards? If anything, this indicates that it does not mean that if there are 159 teachers holding positions by what is called ‘merit’, it is not a passport to high standards in education.

 

In the financial sphere also, lies have masqueraded as truth courtesy those at the helm of affairs, who claimed that demonetization would stymie the black economy. But as a recently-released Reserve Bank of India Annual Report itself points out,  99% of the demonetised currency notes of Rs. 1000/- and Rs. 500/- have come back into the system, that is, 99% of the notes have been exchanged in banks. This has been at a cost of Rs. 21000 crores plus to the Reserve Bank of India. The people with black money have not been stuck with those notes as was statedly anticipated. If black money was indeed operating through stashing of currency notes which are undeclared income, this gives a clear signal at the very least, that it is not primarily so. An indictment of the merit of the ruling dispensation, and their ability to rev up the economy and cripple black money!

 

Indeed, one can see that lies, damned lies, are sanctified with the aura of merit.

 

(First published in O Heraldo, dt: 7 September, 2017)

More than the old ‘where-are-you-from’…

Posted Leave a commentPosted in Popular Essays

By ALBERTINA ALMEIDA

 

In the context of Goa, ‘where are you from?’ is a simple sounding question that hides the many complexities. Because if you put surnames and the place from which you hail together, you can figure out where in the caste hierarchy a person belongs. Therefore, it is not obviously the innocuous question it is intended to be.

 

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Privileging Investors’ Rights over People’s Rights: That is what it all adds up to

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By ALBERTINA ALMEIDA

 

We have seen several developments as well as utterances by ruling party members in Goa in just the last couple of months, in flagrant disregard of their wide ranging adverse implications for the people in Goa and their livelihoods. The justification of the proposed coal hub, of the declaration of six of our river stretches as ‘national waterways’, the hasty passage in the last Assembly session of the Goa Compensation to the Project Affected Persons and Vesting of Land in the Government Bill, and of an amendment to the Town and Country Planning Act  against the backdrop of the ‘transferable development rights’ policy as a bait for succumbing to what those in Government call development, the Central Government’s approval of the Revenue Generating Scheme for the Golf Course Resort Project of Leading Hotels Pvt. Ltd. at Tiracol…these are but some of the ominous signs of suppressing the rights and voices of people in order to privilege investor rights over people’s rights, and to completely overlook the lack of credentials of the proposed investors.

 

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