Disastrous Planning: Development and Goa’s Future

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By DALE LUIS MENEZES

 

Goans are constantly bombarded with large-scale infrastructure schemes and this has become routine. If there is a successful protest mounted against the expansion of coal handling in Mormugao/Vasco, then the battle-ground shifts to Mopa, from there it shifts to the mining areas, and currently we are at this juncture where something called “vertical development” is promoted through the controversial Regional Plan 2021 (RP-21). As protests have already begun against the revival of RP-21, it would be useful to check out what exactly the plan seeks to achieve.

 

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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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Idle Trucks, Striking Taxis, and a Broken System

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By DALE LUIS MENEZES

 

The recent ban by the Supreme Court of India on mining activities in Goa for a second time reminds us of the plight faced by those dependent on the mining industry. But the court order also brings to mind other Goans stuck in a similar situation of facing economic uncertainty and the consequences of large-scale illegalities. For instance, it is, I think, useful to compare the mining industry and the tourism industry as both have been touted as the ‘backbone’ of Goan economy, and both these industries witness conflicts and illegalities in equal measure.

 

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My Way – the Highway

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By ALBERTINA ALMEIDA

 

As 2018 begins, a major challenge facing those standing for Goa is to ensure the reversal of the laws, and legislative and executive moves that have resulted in the continued dispossessing of Goa and its people of its land and resources. Throughout 2017, the Centre and the State have legislated or moved in ways that have posed alarming threats. The attitude of the state and its enforcement mechanisms has been My Way the Highway.

 

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Environment and Culture: Taking Stock of 2017

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By DALE LUIS MENEZES

 

Standing on the cusp of the New Year, it is useful to reflect on the year gone by. This we do with the hope that the inevitable new beginning will be better than what we experienced in the past, in terms of our personal and public existence. And in that spirit, I think, we should take every opportunity to evaluate our political, social, and cultural existence during the past year.

 

Environmental and cultural concerns can be argued to have dominated the political discourse in Goa in 2017. Indeed, the protests articulated in places like Mopa and Sonshi demonstrated how environment and culture influenced the present discourse on Goan identity. The year witnessed a massive public hearing on an environmental issue. Choking on coal dust, many gathered in Vasco to make their grievances heard. This unprecedented event signaled yet again the growing sense that Goa’s environment and ecological health is endangered, and, if not addressed urgently, will lead to an unmitigated disaster.

 

Similar to the urgency to address the issue of coal handling and pollution to stop Goa’s environment from deteriorating, the resistance to the development of mega infrastructure projects, such as the new greenfield airport at Mopa, in Pernem, was also in the news. We are also witnessing opposition to other projects, like the double-tracking of the Konkan railway route, the re-starting of mining and the effects there of. This time around, many activists have successfully tried to shift the discourse to demonstrate how aspects of Goan economy fit in a larger system of global capitalism. An increasing number of Goans can be said to have realized that they are being reduced to cogs in the larger system of capitalism. There is awareness that a remote Goan village is not isolated, on the contrary it is linked to distant industrial or commercial hubs. However, the awareness of how global capitalism is a continuum of feudal (or feudal like) system of land ownership and control prevalent in Goa is still lacking; one hopes that it will be a part of mainstream political discourse soon.

 

There are instances where the issues are old but the sites of protest and resistance have shifted to new villages or areas. Nonetheless, it is becoming increasingly clear to all that urban and rural Goa is categorically speaking out: Goa’s ecology and the quality of life of Goans are under threat.

 

Concerns with the environment were closely linked with those of preserving Goa’s culture. In fact, one’s identity cannot exist without the interplay of the environment and cultural productions. Identity, then, was a common thread that ran through the various protests and grievances articulated in the course of this year, as it has been over the last several years. The allusion to the intertwining of identity and environmental issues does not simply refer to the utterly cynical politicking over the coconut tree – being de-notified and re-notified on governmental whims – but rather upon instances wherein Goa’s identity and the belonging of Goans in a wider world was debated; indeed the discussion only deepened by acknowledging the complex history and culture of Goa.

 

António Costa, the Portuguese Prime Minister, who visited India in January, provided the occasion for re-thinking the cultural belonging of Goans; particularly their connections with Portugal and other Lusophone spaces. Costa, who has Goan ancestry, was celebrated in Goa as well as in India for possessing Indian roots. Minor details like Costa or his father, Orlando Costa, having no connection with the modern Indian nation-state did not deter the grandiose celebrations of homecoming. Even those most critical of Goa’s continued contacts with Portugal and Portuguese culture maintained a somewhat uneasy silence. Of course, it helped matters much that Costa came with the intention of fostering business ties with India and Portugal. But even while Costa’s Indian roots were celebrated, one thing became inevitable clear: Goa and Goans are still undeniably connected with Portugal through history, culture, and migration.

 

The major events within the spheres of environment and culture – the protests, debates, and discussions of future visions – occurred within a political system. This is the system that needs to hear our grievances and resolve them. We, the people, elect our representatives who are entrusted to run the system. Indian democracy that is built on periodic elections is based on the assumption that one person – or one citizen – has one vote, and this vote has one value. This means that everyone in the country, who has the right to vote, indeed exercises this franchise, are equal with other citizens of the country. This, however, is not the case in reality as caste and class differences obstruct the true realization of democracy in India.

 

In short, because of the existing social and economic conditions, the political system is unable to represent the interests of all – or at least most of us. Laws and policies are therefore made not to protect the interest of all constituents in the polity, but only to further the interests of a few. This is why one witnesses draconian laws enacted and executive fiats beings issued that impinge on the rights and livelihood of millions of people in the country. Of the many challenge in the New Year, and those that will follow in the years to come, the most important one is to make good of the promise that political representation would lead to the empowerment of all citizens.

 

(First published in O Heraldo, dt: 20 December, 2017)

The Ruby-red Blood on our Hands

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By AMITA KANEKAR

 

Development for whom? This is a question being asked by many in Goa today as the Government’s ambitious projects—whether of real estate or tourism or infrastructure – are increasingly revealed as destructive of both the natural environment as well as the lives of Goans. But this development has a third victim as well, one that is rarely focused on in Goa thanks to our bias against the poorest of Goa’s ‘bhaile’. This is those who actually do the real physical work of development, viz. the construction labourers. Within the exploitative and profiteering model of development that is followed in Goa, as in the rest of India, which is oriented towards the benefit of only land-owners, investors, and corporates, these workers are simply cannon fodder.

 

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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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Mormugao to Mopa: A Case of (Ob)noxious Development

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By DALE LUIS MENEZES

 

There should by now be no doubt in our minds that any large infrastructure development in India happens only through the destruction of resources like land, water, and air. This economic system is largely the legacy of British colonialism and Nehruvian socialist policies that promoted large scale land acquisitions and mega projects such as massive dams and industries. The many protests and demonstrations that one witnesses against polluting industries and wholesale land acquisitions in India is a fallout of this process initiated by the British Raj and followed through – ostensibly due to national interest – by the independent nation-state of India.

 

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National Interests and Local Interests

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By DALE LUIS MENEZES

 

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.

 

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Coal and a bit of Colonialism

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By DALE LUIS MENEZES

 

The decision by the state and central governments to expand the coal handling capacity of the Mormugao port is cause for alarm. From very real and obvious dangers of environment and health to the equally real threat to the livelihoods of traditional fishermen, the government seems least bothered about the citizens. On the contrary they are making haste to promote the interests of the big corporations. Indeed, plans to build the National Highway 17-B and the dredging of the Mormugao port are geared to facilitate the transport of large volumes of coal to industries in neighboring Karnataka.

 

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