On the Anniversary of Swami Vivekananda’s Famous Speech

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By AMITA KANEKAR

 

The Goan and Indian media recently marked the 125th anniversary of Swami Vivekananda’s celebrated speech, made in Chicago to the ‘World’s Parliament of Religions’. Now, 125 years is an odd anniversary to commemorate, but then this was no ordinary speech. It was a speech that made Vivekananda a hugely popular figure across the country – as seen by the hundreds of streets named after him – is still celebrated in school textbooks, and seen as something for all Indians to be proud of, even though it was not about India but about the Hindu religion. The fact that Vivekananda visited Goa just before making this speech has evoked some excitement here too, given the strong likelihood that the visit contributed to his ideas.

 

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Wanted Urgently: A New Model of Governance

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By AMITA KANEKAR

 

I was astounded to hear, a couple of months ago, of a glass house being built in Goa. Large-scale glass usage in buildings was developed to allow in maximum natural heat in cold climes, which reduced artificial heating and thus saved energy. Glass-fronted commercial buildings then became popular the world over, an aspirational look that became known as the International Style, even where they had to be supported by expensive airconditioning. But a glass house in a hot and humid place like Goa? Described in trade journals as the vision of fashion designer Tarun Tahiliani and architect Sameep Padora, and ‘nestled among the lush green fields and backwaters of Goa’, the villa will apparently sprawl over about 660 sq m., in a huge 1690 sq m. plot. It uses very special kinds of glass, we are told, designed for ‘intrusion-resistance’, privacy, and energy efficiency, besides keeping out dust and noise. No information of its cost, nor its consumption of air-conditioning.

 

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The Benefits of having an IITian CM

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By AMITA KANEKAR

 

Parrikar used to be a popular politician in Goa, and the thing people seemed to like most about him was his IIT background. Of course, there were also those who liked him for belonging to the RSS or to the Saraswat community. But there is little doubt that his IIT degree was his biggest credential, which worked even among those who would otherwise never dream of voting for either the RSS or Saraswats.

 

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Menstruating without Oppressing Humans or Nature

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By AMITA KANEKAR

 

Goa has become a garbage dump. Old-timers find this more appalling than others, for they remember a pre-1961 Goa which frowned upon public littering, spitting, urinating, and defecation. But changing attitudes is just one part of the problem. The other is today’s culture of disposables, especially single-use plastic. And the fact that, although more than 98% of Goa’s garbage is compostable or recyclable – according to vRecycle, the Salcete-based waste management company – this doesn’t get done, for which the blame lies both with the public and the government. As for the remaining 2%, a big part of which is gel-based personal hygiene products like sanitary napkins and diapers, which cannot be disposed of safely, the only way out is stop usage.

 

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Blaming Rape on Colonial Rule

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By AMITA KANEKAR

 

The outrage over the Kathua and Unnao rape cases has its problems. The major one is that it leads one to believe that these crimes – and their fall-out – are something new, when in fact they are the norm in India. Rape has been used historically all over the world to terrorise, but continues so in India, where rapes of the vulnerable – women and men, children and adult – are routine. Plus some rapes are not even considered crimes by the law, like marital rape. Many rapes are also not even reported because the rapists are relatives and other known people, and the new death penalty will only worsen this. Besides all this, the armed forces of the country are routinely accused of horrifying rapes, including Kunan-Poshpora of 1991 and many others in Kashmir, and the 2004 Manorama case in Manipur, about which justice has rarely, if ever, been done.

 

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Beauty is not the Issue

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By AMITA KANEKAR

 

An important victory was achieved by the Goan people against their own government a couple of days ago, when the villages of St. Andre and St. Cruz were removed from the controversial Greater Panjim Planning and Development Authority (PDA), thus forestalling the intensive real estate development that the latter entails. This victory comes on the back of a few other significant wins against the perverse development being foisted on us, with the courts stopping both mining and the moving of mined ore, the Pollution Control Board halting operations at Mormugao Port for lack of environmental clearance, and, of course, the Bombay High Court’s judgement last year, against Parrikar’s shifting of Goa’s National Green Tribunal bench to Delhi, in which Justices G S Patel and N D Sardessai waxed eloquent on Goa’s beauty  – ‘ridiculously brilliant sunsets’ et al – and called it a land worth fighting for.

 

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Public Access in the Smart City

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By AMITA KANEKAR

 

The Goa government will surely wish us a Happy Women’s Day today. There will be celebrations of womanhood to mark the day, mostly superficial. There will be women’s discounts at malls, and women’s specials at restaurants, for the moneyed. There will lists of women achievers, largely elite. Most women however—the ordinary ones—won’t figure in this hoopla at all. In fact, the government seems to be working overtime to make their lives worse. Goans are surrounded by big disasters—of land lost (to resorts, airports, mining, widened roads, you name it), of alienated rivers, unaffordable housing, morbid tourism, deadly pollution, scam infrastructure, and, not least, the complete lack of decent and paying jobs. But along with these are also many small, hardly-noticeable, daily disasters. One of them is how public access to space is shrinking.

 

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Brahmin Reservations amid Atrocious Exclusion

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By AMITA KANEKAR

 

I have written in the past about how the policy of caste-based reservations enjoined by the Constitution is blatantly violated in Goa. This is despite a number of clear-cut Supreme Court judgements and Central Government notifications and orders, right from the 1990s. These notifications specify that reservations were to be implemented, both in new recruitment and for promotions, on the basis of post-based reservations rosters. These rosters are supposed to clearly list all the posts in a department or a cadre, beginning with the situation in 1997, and also to specify whether these posts are reserved or unreserved, and, if reserved, for whom. These post-based rosters are to be prepared for every department/cadre, and would thus show the backlog of reserved posts to be filled, during any fresh recruitment after 1997.

 

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Why Bhima-Koregaon Challenges the Nation

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By AMITA KANEKAR

 

The Oxford University Press edition of ‘Just One Word’, a collection of stories by Bama (this year’s speaker at the Dr B R Ambedkar Memorial Lecture Series in Goa), describes her at the back of the book as a ‘Dalit writer’. There is however no mention of caste in the bio-data of her translator. One might argue that a translator is not as important as an author, of course. But why don’t we see Amitav Ghosh mentioned as a Brahmin, and Arundhati Roy as a half-Syrian Christian-half-Brahmin, at the back of their books? Because caste of the savarna is invisibilised in Indian discourse. Savarnas are casteless, so we are led to believe, as is their nation and its history.

 

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