COCONUT RAJ: All the political parties are competing to prove to people how much they value the importance of the coconu

AND a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when there seem to have been a revolt within the BJP on the diversion of Mhadei waters. For a Saturday following the week when initially the Goa government seem to be inclined to ban Padmaavat. For a Saturday following the week when the Congress and the Goa Forward were competing to cope with the shortage and increasing price of coconuts. For a Saturday following the week when the constitutional bench of the Supreme Court upheld the right to privacy. For a Saturday following the week when Goans continue to be desperate for government jobs. For a Saturday following the week when tourist taxis declared war again.


AND a few stray thoughts on the revolt within the BJP over the diversion of the Mhadei rivers. Over the weekend a delegation led by no less a person than the speaker of the legislative assembly Promod Sawant visited the site of the Khalsa canal in Kankumbi near Belgavi.

The high power delegation included Deputy Speaker Michael Lobo and the former minister for environment and Cortalim MLA Alina Saldanha. Nirmala Sawant, the president of the Mhadei Bhachao Abhiyan (MBA) and ecology expert Rajendra Kerker were also part of the team.

To their shock they discovered that Karnataka had already diverted the Mhadei River by building the Khalsa dam. They discovered that the course of the Mhadei river had been shifted from moving towards the Mandovi instead to the Malaprabha basin.

The damage has already being done and the immediate victim is the Surla River. The flow of water in the Surla tributary was so forceful that it used to create waterfalls near Valpoi. The Surla River has virtually dried up.

Ironically the worst affected by the diversion of the Mhadei river are the residents of the village of Kankumbi very close to Belgavi city. Not only have they lost their land to the Khalsa project but they have stop getting any water. It is a historical fact that the villages surrounding a major irrigation project inevitably become victims.

This is true of the Anjuna and Salaulin project as much as the huge Narmada dam which was pushed through by Narendra Modi over the objection of ecology activists like the famous Medha Patkar.

Surprisingly there has been not a word from Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar over the fresh discovery by the team lead by the Speaker that Karnataka has already begun the work of diverting Mhadei water.

The Karnataka government obviously took advantage of the letter written by Manohar Parrikar to the president of the Karnataka BJP Yeddyurappa indicating his willingness to share Mhadei water with Karnataka for drinking water purposes.

Parrikar was probably not aware that the Karnataka government has been taking him for a ride and had already built the Khalsa canal to divert Mhadei water. It would appear that the political compulsion of winning the assembly election to be held in April in Karnataka has blinded Parrikar to the consequences of the diversion of the Mhadei river. Or maybe Parrikar considers the interests of his party, the BJP, and the orders of the national party president, Amit Shah, more important than his commitment to the people of Goa.

Former advocate general Atamaram Natkarni has exposed the conspiracy of Karnataka (See centre spread). In brief he has established that Karnataka is hijacking the waters of Mhadei not for drinking water purposes but for irrigation. Having mismanaged and exhausted its own water resources by encouraging the growth of sugarcane which is a water guzzling crop, Karnataka is now trying to steal water which belongs to Goa. Natkarni has stressed the absurdity of Karnataka’s claim that they need 7.8 TMC for drinking water purposes, pointing out that this was based on a projective population of over 40 lakhs as against the present population of Belgavi of 9 lakhs.


AND a few stray thoughts on the ambivalent attitude of Manohar Parrikar to the release of Padmaavat in Goa. The Inox Group which was gifted land by Parrikar on the eve of IFFI had refused to screen Padmaavat in its multiplexes in Panjim. This was despite the Supreme Court order striking down the ban on the screening of Padmaavat in the BJP ruled states of Rajasthan, MP, UP and Gujarat on the grounds that it would create law and order problems. The Supreme Court took the stand that since the Censor Board had cleared the film with a change in name and other cuts it could not ban the screening of the film.

States which sought a ban on the basis of law and order problems were bluntly told that it was their duty to provide protection for the screening of the films.

Apparently under pressure from Home Minister Parrikar the police department is claimed to have recommended a ban on the screening of Padmaavat claiming that it could create law and order problems. Parrikar neither imposed a ban nor assured both single screened theatres and multiplexes protection for screening the film.

In any event, on the opening day of the film, Republic day, Padmaavat was screened only in Ponda and Vasco. The Inox group possibly did not screen Padmaavat on the opening day also because the parent company is owned and based in Gujarat. It was only on Sunday that Padmaavat was finally screened by Inox in Panjim in  both the 2D and 3D avtaars. We must add that there were no law and order problems.

The primary objection to Padmaavat or Padmavati which centres on the obsession of the Muslim Leader Alludindin Khilji with a beautiful Rajput queen is that it hurt the sentiments of the Rajput.

The ‘brave’ Rajputs or at least the Karni Sena, which claims to represent them, displayed their valour by targeting innocent people and both private property and government buses including a school bus transporting children in New Delhi.

Surely a race with such a proud heritage should not been waging war on children and the aam aadmi in the name of the honour of the Rajputs.

There continue to be problems with the screening of Padmaavat in Rajasthan and UP in spite of police protection. The Karni Sena has declared that it will defy the Supreme Court and will not permit the screening of the film. The governments of UP, Rajasthan, and even Haryana, seem to be extending support to the lunatics and the fanatics who are resorting to violence to stop the screening of Padmaavat.

Indeed, right from the beginning the Karni Sena created problems for Sanjay Leela Bhansali. They burned the set of the film at the Chittor Fort where he was shooting last year, threatened to behead him and even said they wouldn’t hesitate to chop off Padmavati star Deepika Padukone’s nose. It was under pressure from the Sangh Parivar that the Censor Board persuaded the film maker to change the name from Padmavati to Padmaavat which was the name of the book on which the film was based.

The opposition to Padmaavat is so strong in Rajasthan, that the chairman of the Censor Board, Prasoon Joshi, a noted poet and advertising guru decided not to attend the lit fest in Jaipur because of threats to his life. Prasoon decided to skip the lit fest commenting that he wanted the festival not to be spoilt by the controversy over Padmaavat.

Strangely, only one brave female actor has protested against the most objectionable part of the film Padmaavat or Padmavati. The objectionable part being the climax which lasts for 15 minutes at the end of the film. The sequence shows in painful detail the preparation and the mass suicide of Padmavati and other women of the royal family. In the film Rani Padmini and the entire court of women followers of the king decide to commit jauhar, which is like wholesale sati.

While sati is a primitive, inhuman practice where by the widow was forced to burn herself alive on the pyre of the husband, the justification for jauhar was that the queen and her dasis should not fall into the hands of the Muslim invader. In fact in the film when Alauddin Khilji comes to Chittor in search of Rani Padmini he only finds ashes.

The government of India and the Censor Board and even the Supreme Court  should have considered the fact that the practice of sati is reprehensible and was banned way back in the 18th century by the British. Sati, although still practised secretly in some parts of the country is totally illegal. Even the Sati temples which have come up by implication are illegal because they glorify an inhuman practice.

As the protestor from the film industry has put it, Sanjay Leela Bhansali has reduced all women just to vaginas and  has insulted all women by glorifying the mass murder of women in the form of jauhar. The film Padmaavat deserves to be banned not because it hurts the sentiments of the Rajput but because it glorifies an inhuman illegal act like sati.


AND a few stray thoughts on the competition between the Congress and the Goa Forward in view of the acute shortage and the soaring prices of coconuts.

It all started with Protimha Coutinho, the president of the Mahila Samaj of the Congress selling 300 coconuts sitting in designer clothes in the Panjim and Margao market at a concessional price. Vijai Sardesai who is the minister for Agriculture  has announced that 30 coconuts or one coconut a day will be sold at a lower price by the horticulture corporation outlets. The chairman of the horticulture corporation, Pravin Zantye, was not consulted because he has shot down the idea. And surely if it is large family they will need more than one coconut.

The price and the availability of coconuts are very important in Goa because there can be no xitt kodi without coconuts. And no Goan can live without his xitt kodi. The question of course is why there is such a serious shortage of coconut leading to an increase in their price.

First it was cashew nuts. As successive governments in Goa started permitting the conversion of cashew orchards into gated colonies, the production of cashews fell sharply. Goa which is the original home, or rather the first state in which the Portuguese introduced the cashew plant, has now been reduced to distant second place. The largest producer of cashew nuts is Kerala, followed by Orissa.

I understand that much of the cashew nuts that are sold in Goa are not grown in Goa but imported from Africa. You can make out because as Manohar Parrikar himself admitted at an international cashew conference last year, the Goan cashew tasted much better than cashews imported from outside the State. But since people who grow cashews don’t get any encouragement from the government, they have stopped cultivating it.

The shortage of Goan cashew nuts, which are in great demand by tourists, has led to a huge increase in the price. The price of cashew nuts has gone up to `1,000 a kg. Moreover, unlike in Kerala, there is no value addition in terms of processing the cashew nuts. The salted and the masala coated cashew nuts which are offered in every 5-star hotel and airline as a snack are far more expensive than the plain cashew come from outside Goa.

In the case of the coconut the problem has been the acute shortage of coconut pluckers. Coconut trees in Goa have traditionally been from varieties which grow to an average height of 9 meters. Which means that without the help of the expert coconut plucker the coconuts will remain on the tree. The children of coconut pluckers are all government servants or are serving on cruise liners and are not interested in the traditional profession. Even the coconut water (nariyal pani) which you get at every street corner and on the beaches in Goa are not from the State but brought in from Kerala. Because they come all the way from Kerala they are not fresh. You can taste the difference between freshly plucked coconuts from Goan trees and the coconuts from Kerala.

Even worse, the Parsekar government reduced the status of the coconut tree to grass to enable mass slaughter for the benefit of a liquor unit call Vani Agro. Among the main campaign promises of Goa Forward was that it would restore the status of the coconut tree. The symbol of the Goa Forward is the coconut.

But the problem is not the status of the coconut tree, whether you call it grass or the state tree. The problem is that we need to introduce dwarf varieties of coconut trees so that the coconut can be plucked by hand by anybody. In other words we should do to the coconut tree what the tea plantations do to tea leaves. The actual tree which produces tea leaves grows to a height of seven to eight feet. But they are not allowed to grow beyond a height of three to four feet to make them easy for the large army of women employed to pluck. Bonsai coconut trees are the answer, not political parties selling coconuts.


AND a last stray thought for yet another Saturday. The craze for government jobs continues to be as frantic as ever. When the North Goa collector office recently announced walk-in interviews for data entry operators and lower division clerks purely on a contractual basis for ten months at a consolidated salary of `16,000, more than a thousand applicant queued up. Some of them even spent the night outside the Collector’s office.

While many of them did not have the certificates to prove their qualifications, the applicants included PHDs and engineers. The only requirement for the post of data entry operator was a typing speed of 30 words per minute. Since there are no typing classes we do not know where candidates can get certificates on typing speed.

Thousands came for the interview even though it was purely a temporary contract job for 10 months and not a permanent job.

There are already thousands of people working on contract for more than 10 years in various departments of the government. An example is the waste management division of the CCP where the garbage collectors have been on contract basis for 10 years. The Central government departments are even worse with the helpers to the linesman in the Telecom Department being employed for decades on a token salary of `6,000 a month. All of them live and perhaps die in the hope that they will be made permanent someday.  

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