HEIGHTS: Goans not only work as housekeeping staff, but also own airlines like Air Asia, and are chief executives at leading firms
BY RAJAN NARAYAN
And a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when at long last there was a glimmer of hope that Goans and tourists will be liberated from the taxi mafia. For a Saturday following the week when there was a rage among Goans over the remark of former Chief Minister Pratapsingh Raoji Rane that Goans abroad were all cleaning toilets. For a Saturday following the week when the release of the citizens registered in Assam has raised concern over the fate of Goan Portuguese passport holders in the UK. For a Saturday when Portuguese passport holders in the UK were asked to register for work permits. For a Saturday following the week when both Konkaniwadis and Marathiwadis came together to express their distress over neglect of local languages by the Goa government in favour of English.
And a few stray thoughts on the new taxi app released by the Goa Tourism Development Corporation (GTDC) called ‘Goa Miles’.
Though the app-based taxi service is called Goa miles, it is actually operated by a Pune party — Frotomiles Pvt Ltd. Although the company calls itself a revolutionary transport taxi mobile app, it does not seem to be functioning very smoothly.
Several of those who have loaded the app have been complaining that both the drop point and destination point are often distorted when you attempt to use an app. Those who have tried the app claim that you have to drop the pins on the map for the destination manually.
When one app user finally managed to find a taxi from Panjim market to ‘O Coqueiro, the pickup location on the app showed a village in Green Land and the drop location in the app showed Mongolia instead of ‘O Coqueiro.
The app is also complicated and not very user friendly. I doubt whether a smart phone and computer illiterate person like me can ever use the app. I got the app installed and then the next day when I clicked on the app icon on my phone I just got a picture and nothing happened. It refused to load.
To be able to use the app you have to set your pick up location whether home/office or wherever you be. You are also expected to set your drop location. In theory all available cabs in your location will be displayed for you to choose. You can also pay not only the cash but online through debit or credit cards. After you have chosen the type of vehicle you want, the rates are displayed and you have to tap confirm.
On confirmation you are expected to get the name of the driver, vehicle number and type of vehicle. You are supposed to be able to track your cab in real time with arrival time and the estimated time of your drop at your destination.
The new Goa Miles initiative has already run into troubles with black and white tourist taxis which have a monopoly at the airport, beating up the manager at the Goa Miles counter. The North Goa Tourist Taxi Owners Association is already threatening violence. Not surprisingly only 300 of the 25,000 cabs have registered with Goa Miles.
Given the hostility of the taxi mafia, Goa Miles may not be able to take you even a few centimetres.
The south Goa taxi mafia has made it clear that nothing is changed and that while a Goa Miles taxi can drop a client at the hotel they cannot pick up passengers from hotels.
The taxi mafia hold over both north and south Goa is so strong that even private cars and tourist coaches have been attacked when they go to pick up passengers.
When I took a tourist taxi to a 5-star hotel in South Goa from Panjim for a ‘return’ trip even I was threatened by the taxi drivers attached to the hotel. Only when I revealed my identity and threatened to get them arrested did they permit my taxi to park. Indeed, I had to make special arrangement to park the taxi inside the hotel complex out of fear that the driver might be attacked.
This is in sharp contrast to what happens in Bombay. During a family wedding my nephews called for an Ola cab to drop them at the Taj Land’s End at Bandra. When we wanted to return home we called for another Ola cab which was closest to the hotel.
The new app driven taxi service does not come cheap, though the chief minister at the press conference claimed that the fare from the Assembly to Panjim city would be only `210. The other day when I was at Miramar circle I saw a taxi mafia cab driver asking for `800 to drop some tourists from Miramar Circle to the cruise jetty point where boat rides are available. When the tourist grumbled, the taxi driver pointed to the bus stop and told him that Goa taxis were not for domestic tourists like him.
One hopes that the app based Goa Miles will not go the way of the all women taxi service started by the GTDC. The all women taxi service by and for women was also started by a Bombay party for GTDC, but was sabotaged by the taxi mafia. As long as the taxi mafia enjoys the patronage of politicians like Michael Lobo in the north and Churchill Alemao in the south, I doubt whether Goa Miles will be allowed to function, although app-based services have been very successful in all major cities of the country.
For a Saturday following the week when there was an outburst of fury and rage against former Chief Minister Pratapsingh Raoji Rane who on the floor of the Assembly remarked that Goans were cleaning toilets in London.
Not just Goans in Goa but Goans all over the world have been demanding he be sacked. Congress President Girish Chodankar has distanced the party from the crude remarks of Pratap Singh Rane. The reaction of Goans ranges from defiance to rage.
While some have been rightly pointing out that there is nothing wrong with cleaning toilets if it provides a good salary, others are angry that the former chief minister thinks that Goans are not capable of other jobs. The ground reality is that even a so-called menial job like toilet cleaning can be very rewarding financially as those engaged in the job are often paid 10 pounds per hour. With the pound roughly around `90 this means that per hour the toilet cleaner can earn `900. On an eight hour shift he will earn almost `8,000 a day which for a 22 days in a month allowing for weekly offs can come to `1,76,000 per month — more than the chief secretary of Goa or the general manager of a 5-star hotel earns in Goa.
Even in Goa there are lots of men and women in the housekeeping department of 5-star hotels who have to clean bathrooms as part of their job. There is nothing wrong with cleaning toilets. The founder and chairman of Infosys, Narayan Murthi takes pride in cleaning his own toilet. Maids who are told to clean the toilets often do so reluctantly and so badly that many, including me, prefer to clean our own toilets.
Goans have also reached some of the highest positions abroad. There are at least two British members of parliament, Keith Vaz and his sister, who are of Goan origin. The chief executive of one of the largest American IT Companies in the world, Cognisant, is Francisco D’Souza, a Goan. Recently, a Goan-origin priest, Fr Richard D’Souza, an astrophysics researcher currently pursuing his post-doctoral research in the US, discovered a new galaxy. It is a Goan, Tony Martins, who runs the largest budget airline in South Asia, Air Asia, based in Malaysia.
All jobs involving manual labour, such as painting your house or doing even minor electrical and plumbing work, is very expensive abroad. Very few staying in the US or the UK can afford to have their own maids, because minimum wages are prescribed which average between 10 and 15 dollars per hour in the US. Baby sitters get even more. The concept of dignity of labour is followed and looking down on someone cleaning toilets is shameful. A female Indian diplomat posted in the US was expelled on the charge that she was exploiting the maid she had brought from India.
The best retort to Rane’s offensive remarks is to organise a social boycott. Nobody should collect the garbage from the house of either father or son. Nobody should work as a domestic servant in the Ranes’ houses. Nobody in the Sattari district, which includes Valpoi, should buy the milk from Ranes’ farm. Rane must be put in a position where he has to clean his own toilet and milk his own cow and deal with his own garbage.
For a Saturday following the week when there was growing concern over the fate of the 90,000 Portuguese passport holders which includes 20,000 Goans who run the risk of becoming illegal residents in the UK.
The majority of Goans who have acquired a Portuguese passport have migrated to the UK because it was the only country in the European Economic Community where English was the language spoken. Though with their Portuguese passport Goans could have tried for jobs in any European country including France, Germany or even Sweden and Switzerland, they did not do so because they don’t know the national languages.
The French and Germans in particular are very proud of their language and will not speak English even if they know it. For the benefit of those who are unfamiliar with what has brought about the dramatic change in the status of Goan Portuguese passport holders, one has to understand something about the European Economic Community.
Just as after Independence all the princely states in India, which numbered over 5,000, were all forced to surrender their power to the Central Government to form a united India, the countries of Europe also came together to form the European Economic Community. This is because many of the countries in Europe are very small — some even smaller than Mumbai or Delhi — and the expectation was that they would have more power and would be able to achieve more together.
The UK was part of the EEC until the recent ‘Brexit’ referendum. Among the advantages of being a member of the EEC was that citizens of any of the countries which were part of the EEC could travel to other EEC countries without a visa or passport and take up jobs there without an employment permit. Since Portugal was a member of the EEC, a Portuguese passport entitled Goans to jobs not only in Portugal but in any EEC country — including the UK.
Unfortunately for Goans who went to the UK on a Portuguese passport, the EEC is not one happy family any longer. The UK has decided by a majority verdict in a opinion poll to quit the EEC. Which means that automatically people of other European countries, including Portugal, who were permitted free entry and were allowed to work in the UK, have lost their status as legal residents. The future of Portuguese passport holders who have not taken UK citizenship is not very certain. The only saving grace is that the UK which is a very small country cannot afford to throw out residents of other European countries as its economy will collapse. Moreover there are more English passport holders staying in other EEC countries than there are EEC residents staying in UK. So if the UK throws out EEC passport holders (including Goan Portuguese passport holders) Germany and France could retaliate and ask all the English employed in their countries to go back to the UK.
The Portuguese government, which continues to offer the children and grandchildren of Goans born before Liberation a Portuguese passport, has been very supportive of its citizens. A dozen representatives from the Portuguese consulate in London, including the consul general, recently attended the annual UK Goan Festival. They fielded queries and the Portuguese passport holders were told that they had to register themselves for permanent work permits if they had stayed and worked in UK for more than 10 years. For those who have just migrated to UK they would have to register in the waiting list for work permits. Around 200 Portuguese citizens of Goan origin registered at the specially set up facilitation counter.
Unlike in the case of Assam where Narendra Modi is talking about sending 40 lakhs Muslims back to Bangladesh the UK has assured non-British passport holders that they can continue to work in the UK provided they obtain work permits. Those who are already working have no fear of losing their jobs. The UK has even set up an online registration process. The only Goans who will be in trouble are those who have illegally entered and are working without permits in the UK.
There is also the bare possibility that a Trump-like situation of parents separated from children can arise in the UK. This is because as in the US, children born in the UK automatically get citizenship even if their parents are not citizens.
And a last stray thought on the agitation among both Konkani and Marathi mogis over the stepmotherly treatment to local languages. The historical fight between at least Devanagari Konkani and Marathi seems to have been forgotten.
The tragedy of Goa is that neither the Hindus nor the Catholics who have been fighting for Romi Konkani to be made the official language are admitting their children to vernacular schools. Even the poorest of the poor, including migrants, want their children to study in English schools.
Diocesan schools which are the only English schools which get grants from the government are not able to cope with the demand for English education. So year after year the number of Marathi and Konkani schools are shrinking, and the number of private unaided English schools are increasing, like the Santa Minguel school run by Babush Monserrate which is a favourite of migrants despite high fees because no documents are asked for. Given allegations that he used to run a call girl racket opposite Dhempe College in the past, Babush’s detractors grumble that the police should check if the girls attending his school are sexually exploited.