STOPPED: The automatic promotion from class III to class VIII which resulted in mass failure in class IX has been reversed. Students who do badly in this class will be sent for remedial classes
By Rajan Narayan
AND a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when on the eve of Ramzan the Central government imposed a ban on the slaughter of all livestock or in another words cattle. For a Saturday following the week when the Supreme Court struck down the order of the Goa bench of the Bombay High Court altering the delimitation of the wards of the Panchayats. For a Saturday following the week when Statehood Day was virtually ignored not only by the Goa government, but even the Konkani mogis. For a Saturday following the week when we discovered that a unique part of Goenkarponn is that there are no Harijans or Dalits among Goans. For a Saturday following the week when the government had decided to stop the automatic promotion of students till the 9th standards.
AND a few stray thoughts for a Saturday following the week when the central government banned the trade and the slaughter of all kinds of cattle. So far most states in the country had an order banning the slaughter of the ‘holy’ cow and its progeny. There are some Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ruled states where even the storing and cooking of beef made out of the flesh of the cow is totally banned. It may be recalled that the head of a Muslim family in Muzaffarnagar was burnt alive on the suspicion of storing and eating beef made out of the flesh of the ‘holy’ cow. There have been increasing instances of gau rakshaks beating up innocent farmers transporting cattle in various parts of the country. Until recently only the slaughter of the ‘holy’ cow was banned.
Under the latest order the transport and sale of cattle and livestock for slaughter has been banned. This includes not only cows but buffalos, bullocks, bull and even goats, sheep and camels. The only carnivorous food exempted would appear to be chicken, perhaps because it has only two legs. This will and has caused protests all over the country, particularly among the minorities and the Dalits. This is because beef is staple in the diet of these groups as it is the cheapest, as compared to meat and chicken. The expression beef is used only for the flesh of cows, bulls, bullocks and buffalos. The ban order will not only affect the diet of large section of the people but will also cause a great loss to the country by way of exports as India is the third largest exporter of beef and the largest exporter to the Gulf. But the majority of the beef exported from India comprises the flesh of bullocks and buffalos and not of cows.
The poorest section of the society, the Dalits, are the worst affected. Not surprisingly the state which has the largest Dalit population and is controlled by the Dalits has been among the first to protest. We are referring to Tamil Nadu which was set up to end the domination of the upper caste Brahmin community and has a large number of beef eaters. As a mark of protest the students of IIT Chennai even held a beef festival. There have also been protests in Kerala where the youth Congress went to the extent of killing a young calf inviting criticism from even Congress party leaders. In West Bengal Mamta has made it clear that she will not implement the order of the Central government. The Tamil Nadu High Court has stayed the implementation of the order for four weeks.
Surprisingly, in Goa where beef is the staple diet of the minority Catholic community, Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar has not uttered a word of protest. This despite the fact that out of the 13 BJP MLAs elected to the State Assembly in the 2017 election, seven are from the minority community. Even more surprisingly, none of the seven MLAs of the minority community have protested against the ban on the slaughter of all livestock. So far the only minister of the Parrikar government to protest against the order and call it unconstitutional is Vijai Sardesai the Town and Country Planning minister and president of Goa Forward (GF). The Muslims in Goa perhaps believe that they should not rock the boat having found a peaceful oasis free of communal riots and have not commented on the ban.
AND a few stray thoughts on the Supreme Court over turning the decision of the Goa Bench of the Bombay High Court on delimitation of wards for the Panchayats election. The high court had held that the delimitation of about 20 wards was not according to the norms. The state election commission headed by the former Chief Secretary was willing to accept the decision. However the Minister for Panchayats, Mauvin Godinho, who is a new convert was determined to prove his loyalty to the Sangh Parivar. He insisted that the government should challenge the order in the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has upheld the delimitation excepting in a couple of wards.
The process of panchayat election to be held on June 12th has not been affected. After the date for withdrawal of nominations in respect of 12 disputed wards of 10 village panchayats, there are still over 6,000 candidates in the fray even though panchas and Sarpanchs do not have any power. As in the case of civic bodies like municipalities and the CCP the power is in the hands of the secretary to the Panchayats who are called Talatis. In civic bodies it is the chief officer or the commissioner who has all the powers.
Goa is one of the few states in the country which is not implemented the 17th amendment to the Constitutions regarding devolution of power to grass-root bodies. Under the amendment, financial powers were to be transferred to civic bodies and panchayats. Even according to the draft regional plan 2021, it had been decided that villages and gram sabhas would decide the pattern of development in their villages. All the power now vests in the director of panchayats who in turn is controlled by the Minister for Panchayats namely the extremely corrupt Mauvin Godinho. The only power that Sarpanch is to make recommendations. Even the birth and death certificates issued by Panchayats are signed not by the Sarpanch but by the Talati. Which is why there is such a heavy demand and a high prize for the job of the talati.
AND a few stray thoughts on the statehood day being almost ignored this time. Statehood day which is normally celebrated on the May 30, was not officially celebrated because of the Code of Conduct that is in place for the panchayat election. The rule is that during the period of Code of Conduct the government cannot hold any meetings or make any policy statements which may influence those voting in the panchayat elections. Which is why the NDA which is the ruling group consisting of the MGP, the GF, and the Independents did not announced their common minimum programme on statehood day.
Although the government did not celebrate statehood day, there is no region why individual organisations and educational institutions should have ignored the occasion. At least for the Konkani Mogis and all those who fought for Konkani to be made the official language of the state, statehood has major significance. It was only after the official language bill making Konkani the exclusive official language of Goa was passed, that the statehood bill could be moved as states in India are organised on a linguistic basis.
The story goes that after the official language bill was passed members of parliament of Goa particularly Shantaram Naik kept reminding the then prime minister, Rajiv Gandhi, about conferring statehood on Goa. Finally Gandhi is reported to have told Naik to mention it during zero hour and that he would move the bill to give statehood to Goa. Which is why Shantaram Naik is called the hero of the zero hour. Though the statehood bill was passed on May 27, it is celebrated on May 30, when the state of Goa was officially inaugurated by Gandhi. Unfortunately Gandhi did not live very long after that, being assassinated by the Tamil Tigers of Lanka when he was addressing a public meeting in Chennai.
There are many people who believe that statehood has been a curse rather than a blessing to Goa. When Goa was a union territory, there were only four governments during the period of 25 years from 1962 to 1987. After Goa became a state and the number of seats in the assembly increased from 30 to 40 there was chronic political instability. Governments and political parties kept playing the game of humpty dumpty. Between 1990 and 2000 alone there were as many as 13 chief ministers. The tenure of a chief minister after statehood, at least during the 1990 -2000 period, was an average of one year. There was even a case where Ravi Naik was the chief minister just for three days before he was dismissed by the central government. The only chief minister to have completed a full term of five years after statehood was Digambar Kamat. Even Manohar Parrikar did not complete a full term as chief minister. He missed the opportunity in 2012 as he was forced to move to Delhi as the Defence Minister of the country and had to resign his seat as the Panjim MLA.
CASTE – FREE
AND a last stray thought for yet another Saturday. Unlike most states in the country with the exception perhaps of the North-East, Goa is blessed because there are no Harijans and Dalits. There are no scheduled castes among the Goan population. If one finds the surnames Harijan in the electoral roll it is because of migrants who came to Goa. Which is why even now there is only one seat reserved for schedule castes in the state which is done by rotation. This time, Manohar Babu Usgaonkar, who is from Margao, won the reserved Pernem seat on behalf of the MGP.
Goa is also lucky that caste is not so serious a problem as in other states where there are constant wars between Jats and Dalits. Or even among communities for the status of being declared other backward classes (OBCs). If there have been no caste wars in Goa it is primarily due to the first chief minister Dayanand Bandodkar who united all the non-Brahmin groups into the Bahujan Samaj. But caste has not vanished altogether. The Konkani writer Shivdas is still fighting a battle to force temples to permit non-Brahmins into the sanctum of the temples. I myself recall that while I was invited to go into the sanctum (as the chairman of the committee knew I was Brahmin) my better half was not, being a non-Brahmin. In solidarity I also refuse to go for a closer look at the gods. In any case I don’t believe in gods and goddess. I believe that they have enough work and I should not burden them further.
Ironically the caste system is the worst among Catholics in Goa. Christianity as a religion does not recognise caste. But the Goans who got converted to Christianity retained their caste prejudices, to the extent that the Saraswat converts would not invite the former bishop who happened to be from Gaudi class to preside over their marriages and christening. I in fact recall a Saraswat Catholic priest in Mumbai telling me not to invite Cardinal Gracias to a function as he was the son of an ayya. Even now you have ads in the local papers seeking Chardo brides for Chardo boys. Saraswats do not marry lower caste girls or boys unless of course there is lot of money — as in the case of Luizinho Faleiro and Churchill Alemao.
AND a few stray on the decision of the government to re-introduce exams from class III, V and VIII. Until now students were automatically promoted to the next class in line with the decision taken by the central Education Ministry. The principle behind scraping exams was that it was teachers and not students who were responsible for poor performance. It was believed that exams put too much pressure on the student at a tender age. Unfortunately the result has been disastrous. Many students, assured that they will get promoted, left the paper blank according to the admission of the chief minister of himself.
It all piled up at the 9th standard. Students who were automatically promoted from the 5th standard to the 9th standard got stuck at that level. A very large number of them failed the 9th standard exam and consequently were not promoted to the 10th standard. This led to a sharp fall in the number of students taking the SSC exam. The pass percentage also fell. I understand that more than 20,000 students were not allowed to take the SSC exam in the last academic year.
The Parrikar government, in which the chief minister is the education minister, has decided to restore all the cancelled exams. But Parrikar cannot defy the policy of the central government. Though the exams have been restored at the level of class III, class V and VIII, no students will be failed. But they will not be promoted to the next class either. They will hang in between and will be forced to take remedial classes, and the burden will fall on the poor teachers who are already overworked.
The problem in Goa is aggravated by the fact that the MoI changes suddenly from the 5th standard. The students particularly in government schools study in the Marathi or Konkani medium or even in their mother tongue, Kannada and Urdu, till the 4th standard. This is because the government stopped extending grants to English medium schools in 1992 when the late Sashikala Kakodkar was the education minister. Though grants have been extended to English medium primary schools run by the Church, other schools including English schools run by private organisation do not get grants.
According to Pratham, a national NGO which examines the quality of education in rural parts of the country, the majority of students even in the 5th standard cannot read and write. Pratham has discovered that even in Goa, students of the 8th standard cannot do simple multiplication and division. It has been our personal experience that even student who have passed the 11th standard cannot write the numbers 10 to 20 properly. We discovered this when we asked the person concerned to write the cheque for 13 thousand.
As in the case of Punjab, the biggest obstacles to students passing their 5th standard exam and their 8th standard exam, are English and Maths. Fortunately in Goa it is not as bad as in Punjab, where 80 per cent of the students fail in English. Ironically many of them have very good handwriting but they cannot read what they have copied from the board. As seen when a young, 17 year old, Punjabi lady, told a reporter that it was not fair to ask her to write a letter to Editor as she did not know what an Editor was and what writing a letter to the Editor involved!