Season of Plenty?: Tourism and the Locals in Goa

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By DALE LUIS MENEZES

 

In most discussions on the impact of tourism on Goa, the issues that locals face as a result of the tourism do not enjoy much attention. With charter flights landing from the beginning of October, there was quite a buzz in the media speculating a successful tourist season. The buzz, perhaps, was created because the industry is in such dire straits and much of Goa’s economy is believed to depend on the footfalls of tourists. In all these reports, there was an image that stuck in my mind, which I think is symbolic of the misguided way in which tourism is conducted in Goa.

 

Those who arrived on the first charter flight were given a warm welcome with roses, and a brass band belting out some tunes in the background. These were scenes of happy and hospitable Goans. Apart from drawing on the stereotype of Goans being ever open to tourists and tourism-related activities, the welcome given to the charter tourists looked like an attempt by the Tourism department to remedy the image of Goa’s tourism industry which has taken a hit due to reports of mismanagement, environmental degradation, the rising rate of crime, and the destruction of Goan resources through an unsustainable increase in the number of tourists.

 

The aforementioned image seems to be a part of a pattern: a history of tourism policy-making that has only viewed the average Goan as a happy-go-lucky person who does nothing but enjoys and entertains. One can access this history of the creation and implementation (or the lack of proper implementation) of tourism policies in Goa through two documents: the “Master Plan for Tourism Development in Goa”, July 1987 and the recent “Tourism Master Plan”, 2016. These documents tell us how the policy-makers conceptualized Goa as a tourist destination, and how, through the implementation of this policy, the successive governments failed to take account of the problems that were identified in these documents. For instance, the ‘master plans’ recognized that there are limits to the number of tourists a place can accommodate; yet, we see that successive governments have tried to increase the number of tourists in Goa. More tourists require more people to service them and this has led to large-scale migration of labor into Goa. While the absence of proper labor laws and regulatory mechanisms have led to the influx of a large number of migrant labor and consequently their exploitation as well, the high influx also indicates that tourism as an industry has failed to provide gainful and dignified employment to local Goans as one can observe Goans migrating elsewhere for better job opportunities. So, how has all this tourism benefitted Goa and Goans?

 

During the 1980s when the Indian state and the Goan government were trying to promote tourism, they created the image of Goa as a timeless paradise. Goa was marketed as a blend of the East and the West, a slice of Southern Europe in India that tourists could afford for a fraction of the price. As Paul Routledge writes in his essay, “Consuming Goa: Tourist Site as Dispensable Space” in the Economic and Political Weekly (2000), the tourism industry was driven by the logic of consumption; nothing could stand in the middle of ‘Goa the paradise’ and the leisure consumption of the incoming tourists.

 

In such a scenario of Goan resources being offered for the consumption of tourists, what happens of the local Goan? The problem is that the local Goan is only included in the planning of tourism development as a service-provider, or worse, as someone who has to endure the mismanagement of public infrastructure because the tourism industry requires that Goa’s resources – roads, water, land, etc –  be pressed in the service of the tourists. Thus, a lot of Goa’s economic planning today is oriented to serve the tourists, not the locals. The casinos in the Mandovi are a great example of this kind of development. Even the viral e-petition that demanded the introduction of app-based taxi services in Goa argued that the main reason why Goa needs such alternate transport services is because “[t]ourism is the backbone of Goa’s economy and tourists across the world & India are used to services like OLA/UBER, it’s [sic] time to allow them to operate in Goa”. The first benefit of such a move, the petition suggests, is – not surprisingly – a “boost to tourism”.

 

Could this e-petition, like much of Goa’s tourism policy-decisions, be oriented in a different direction? Could the locals be privileged over the tourists? Could the petition have said that because of the increase in Goa’s population and the abysmal public transport system, the locals need to be provided with alternate and affordable modes of transportation?

 

While governmental policy has favored tourists over locals, the response from Goa’s civil society, too, seems to be trapped within the same logic. At the end of the day, Goans giving into the logic of leisure consumption or of understanding Goa as a pleasure periphery (especially of India), effectively means that local Goans – us – have very little say in our own collective economic and cultural future. Even if the economy is in a bad state and the state coffers are almost empty, one must find better ways to rejuvenate Goa’s economic situation. Such a scenario would be always better than selling away our say in our collective future for a few pieces of silver.

 

(First published in O Heraldo, dt: 11 October, 2017)

Portuguese Passport and the Language Issue

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By DALE LUIS MENEZES

 

Rui Carvalho Baceira, who has recently completed his 3-year stint as the Consul General of Portugal in Goa, made some very interesting comments about his stay before moving onwards to head Portugal’s diplomatic mission in Palestine. Of his many observations, his statistics on the people applying for Portuguese nationality can offer some insights on the problems Goans are facing vis-à-vis education and employment. In an interview to a prominent national daily in Goa, Baceira said that most Goans seeking a Portuguese passport “are male, between 20 and 30 years old, and are not skilled. Few have a university background”. He further added, “In Goa, Portuguese passport aspirants are roughly 60% Christian, 30% Hindu and 10% Muslim”. While it is not exactly clear what Baceira meant by “unskilled”, the reference, perhaps, could be to a lack of professionals, such as doctors or lawyers, seeking the Portuguese passport.

 

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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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Shaiva versus Vaishnava in Portuguese Goa

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By AMITA KANEKAR

 

Among the many myths that pass for history in Goa, a popular one is about how Hindus were relentlessly oppressed under Portuguese colonial rule. Not only were temples broken, rituals banned, and conversion enforced, we are told, but Hindus were also humiliated and tortured (via the Inquisition), so much so that everyone had to either convert or flee the Old Conquests. Most Goan Hindus are brought up on stories of religious oppression, along with religious heroism, i.e. of Hindus who had to fight valiantly for their religion and their idols.

 

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Of Catholics in Goa, Germany, and Fascisms

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By JASON KEITH FERNANDES

 

Two recent statements, one by BJP’s Goa spokesperson Nilesh Cabral, and the other by the IT Minister Rohan Khaunte, should chill Goans concerned about the health of the Goan polity. This is because it signals that critique of the government will not be tolerated by the present establishment, neither by the ruling party, nor by those supporting it.

 

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“Public Purpose” and Aggressive Land Acquisition Laws

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By DALE LUIS MENEZES

 

The 2017 Monsoon session of the Goa Legislative Assembly ended about a month ago. In what could be construed as a remarkable show of governmental efficiency, six bills were passed and one referred back to the select committee for further deliberations and clarifications. Of these bills, The Goa Compensation to the Project Affected Persons and Vesting of Land in the Government Bill, 2017 and The Goa Requisition and Acquisition of Property Bill, 2017 have come under the scanner of activists due to the consequences such laws might have on the ownership of property, and especially of  marginalized communities. It is believed that a combination of these two laws would allow the government unfettered power in acquiring land from the people of Goa, to be disposed of as the government deems fit. In many ways, activists argue, such laws would secure the rights of investors over and above those of the common people of Goa. Goa is no stranger to such laws with the Investment Promotion Act, 2014 being at the centre of the Tiracol controversy.

 

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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)

The Household-Office and the Approachable Politician

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By DALE LUIS MENEZES

 

If Goemkarponn unites all Goans one would wonder why a Goan is an outsider in a village/town other than his own. Perhaps, Goemkarponn and other Goan identities contain mild xenophobia towards those it calls its own. Girish Chodankar, the Congress candidate in the just concluded Panjim by-elections, was termed an “outsider” by his opposition. One would be forgiven for assuming that Chodankar hailed from a place beyond the borders of Goa; it turns out that he is a bhailo in Panjim only – he resides in Margao!

 

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The Continuing Saga of Goa’s Reservations Scam

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By AMITA KANEKAR

 

Since 2014, when a reservation scam at Goa University hit the headlines, there has been some effort on the part of citizens to get the reservations policy, as mandated by the Constitution, implemented in Goa. But 3 years down the line, as a recent petition to the University from the Social Justice Action Committee (SJAC) shows, things haven’t changed. The problem is that, behind Goa’s liberal and cosmopolitan bonhomie, is a brahmanical society, alive and kicking. Caste-based reservations are supposed to ensure representation of all communities, and especially traditionally discriminated-against ones, in government and educational institutions. But not only does the establishment, dominated as it is by upper castes, refuse to implement the law, it tries to brainwash us with a lot of propaganda about how reservations run counter to merit.

 

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