DR OSCAR REBELLO 26th Sep 2022
Way back in 2007, the people of Goa, rose to a man (and woman) to get the Regional Plan 2021, a draconian document that sought to viciously brown Goa in the most malevolent and vile manner possible, rescinded and scrapped.
With the help of a very clever Manohar Parrikar, numerous other land battles were won, notably the SEZ agitation, that again threatened to swallow Goa lock, stock and two smoking barrels. But then, Goans could simply not push this advantage forward—and nothing can live in a vacuum.
A task force that was set up, with credible and nationally renowned faces like the late genius Charles Correa and Professor Edgar Ribeiro, to formulate a new RP which sought to balance both the environment and the economy, was mercilessly trolled, smashed on social media and eventually strangulated to death.
The fundamental lobby that did this comprised the trolls and sundry friends of good governance who wanted to put Mr. Parrikar in the saddle and additionally the multitude of NGOs who sought everything dark green in the RP. The extremists who felt that the economy could go take a walk. Goa, like Cuba, must be suspended in a time warp, was their bizarre logic.So the two biggest stumbling blocks to a holistic regional plan, seeing the light of day were:
1.Non-political actors. The NGOs who protested valiantly and won significant battles in courts, but were never able to influence policy decisions because for them virtue signaling was far more important than backing political parties, fledgling as they were, to play this game on the front foot.
So hundreds of AAP supporters who sought to get some voices in the Assembly in 2017 were roundly dubbed as RSS stooges and sent into the dog- house. The same too with passionate, even if a little immature, running life on POGO joysticks, guys like the RGP.
Everyone in Goa in 2017 and 2022 trusted and rooted for the confirmed charlatans and canny cross-dressers from the GFP and the mother-lode Congress party to deliver us from all evil. Father forgive them for they know not what they do was the excuse to prop up a disgrace like the Congress party: a task only Goans can pull off with a swagger. So the greatest pitfall of the NGOs was never to have articulated a political position because their clean white clothes should not be soiled. And the second was in never being able to argue forcefully for an alternate economic agenda to the people of Goa.
2. The abject ruthlessness and greed of the established political parties.
At least now, the die-hard supporters of both the BJP and the Congress should admit that all the characters in this morbid Broadway show are exactly the same as far as policy is concerned.
Sell Goa to the highest bidder. But they are in politics, they need to feed their constituents who have appetites more voracious than cheetahs, they need to continually raise cash (hence all want to be in the ruling dispensation), and most importantly, they all know that it is the pathetic Goan elite both Christian and Hindu who are the first off the block to sell ancestral land to the Delhi sharks.
So the protests, hand wringing and chest beating at every Sunday service is more hollow than Putin fighting for democracy.
Most of the land in Goa is owned by the wealthy and l must add morbidly obese elites of Goa.
No one holds a gun to their head to sell their land but they gleefully do so and then query:
"What are you doing to save Goa doc??"
So the entire political class capitalises on this blatant duplicity. And arm twists those who are in the best position to save land to shut their gobs up.
In the UK for instance, Beatrix Potter the legendary children's author and William Wordsworth the celebrated poet, didn't just fight the authorities to save the UK’s pristine treasure: the Lake District. They
actually bought out huge parcels of land around the district and then bequeathed it to a National Trust to keep it green for posterity.
Vishwajeet Rane should emulate this.
His father, as CM whatever his faults, was an indefatigable lover of the environment.
Proof is he prefers to remain on his farm, rather than live in Panjim’s asthmatic concrete and watch the Mandovi sewage go by.
Vishwajeet knows that this carte blanche to put up golf courses and, horror of horrors, allowing agricultural land to be used for Bangalore or Pune-style development models will be the death knell of Goa.
Sure, using Goa’s forests as the US uses its national parks to boost the local economy is an idea that must take off, especially in the hinterland where mining is now dining at a non-existent banquet.
There is a need to get back to the drawing board, to do away with the arbitrary powers conferred upon the TCP dept to change land zoning like Kim Kardashian changes her outfits. And random high-rises, other than in limited designated zones to further business, banking, finance and IT must never be contemplated.
The BJP today (there is no Congress so by default everything is BJP) is not a coherent, wholesome unit in Goa.
It is every satrap to himself and Goa be damned. So those who are influencers, lovers, and loyal followers of the BJP must speak out loud even if within closed chambers.
This RP must be corrected. Get planners and reputed environmentalists on board and draw it up again.
Focus on the economy for sure, but an economy that benefits ordinary Goans not some nimble out-of-state gamblers.
Focus on the environment, though some compromises will necessarily have to be done when important economic decisions need to be taken.
But importantly, focus on Goa.
For if Goa dies, frankly who lives??
The best immediate option is to keep all these new fangled proposals on hold, initiate a sincere dialogue with all stakeholders, keeping extremists from either side at bay, and come up with a mutually acceptable solution that may not please everyone but should certainly not ensure the devastation of Goa.
Will better sense prevail??
Maybe, maybe not.
We must live in hope that the hopelessly drugged-out people that we are, sometimes, just sometimes, are capable of seeing the light and will do the right thing.
Post script: As a small state with a small set of opinionated windbags (like yours truly) should learn from Israel. Whatever else, they never sell their land, they justly or unjustly reclaim land, they conquer bits of it. But they hold on to their land zealously.
Because they know, from their past and painful history of the Exodus and Persecution, that Land is Identity.
We Goans should urgently realise and internalize this philosophy.Or else all that will be left of our identity is Lorna and the dekni on YouTube, the booze and drugs on our beaches, and Konkani torn between Romi and devnagri.
We are a pretty stupid people after all, don't you think??