HIJACKING: Goan politics have remained corrupt since we started the Goan Observer in 2003. When asked about stealing the government from the Congress which was the single largest parry, Parrikar cited a Marathi saying which means people who can’t dance blame the dance floor
BY RAJAN NAREYAN
And a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when Goans celebrated Diwali in their own unique fashion. For a Saturday following the week when all the sick politicians seem to be showing considerable improvement, including Manohar Parrikar. For a Saturday following the week when Goa will soon get its own version of the great American casino city, Las Vegas.
And a few stray thoughts on the unique manner in which Goa celebrates Diwali.
Perhaps the Sanatan Sanstha is right and Goa is more interested in demon kings like Narkasura than Ravana. In the rest of the country including the national capital New Delhi, the highlight of Diwali is the killing or rather burning of the devil, Ravana, who kidnapped Sita. The Ramayana, indeed, is the basis of the entire Diwali celebration in the rest of the country. Diyas are lit and flowers put up to welcome the victorious Ram on his return from Ayodhya.
No matter that for Sita, who had been kidnapped by Ravana, it was a bitter ending. She was suspected of infidelity not only by the population of Ayodhya (considered by the Sangh Parivar as the birth place of Ram), but by her husband himself. She was subjected to the Agni Pariksha (ordeal by fire) and passed with flying colours. But she was so disgusted with the lack of trust of her own husband that she decided to return to Mother Earth once her sons were reunited with their father.
Not surprisingly the BJP has used Diwali this year to push up the stakes on the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya. Not only RSS Chief Mohan Bhagwat, but even Prime Minister Narendra Modi has described the Supreme Court as unfriendly to Hindus. This is because the Supreme Court led by Justice Gogi refused to be bullied into advancing the hearing on the property dispute which is the main point at issue.
The Muslim minority community which is sizable in UP has been insisting that the Babri Masjid which was demolished was built by Emperor Babar. How a statue of young Ram got into the premises of the mosque is still a mystery. The mosque was demolished despite assurances by the then Chief Minister of UP Kalyan Singh and Congress Prime Minister P V Narsimha Rao on December 6, 1992.
On Wednesday, November 7, UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath renamed Faziabad, Sri-Ayodhya. He also demanded and wanted the Central government to pass an ordinance to transfer the land of the demolished Babri masjid to the mahants to start work on the Ram Mandir. Yogi Adityanath has also said he is consulting the designer of the Sardar Patel Statue of Unity to create an equally imposing statue of Shri Ram. With Parliamentary elections around the corner, the BJP, which has not been able to deliver achhe din is banking on the Ayodhya issue again to polarize India on communal lines to return to power.
To come back to Diwali in Goa, it is Lord Krishna who is worshipped in Goa and not Lord Ram. The first day of Diwali is devoted to Lord Krishna killing the demon Narkasura. Narkasura has become a big business with politicians anxious to sponsor various effigies of Narkasura. There are Narkasura effigies literally every five metres in many parts of Goa. I recall when I was returning from the GMC via Dona Paula on Wednesday there were multiple Narakasuras getting ready. At the Tonca junction there were four of them!
In earlier years the largest number of Narkasura were in Taleigao as Babush Monserrate used to fund them generously. After he stopped being an MLA he has lost much of his interest. But even Manohar Parrikar is a great fan of Narkasura and faithfully sponsors the Narkasura in Mala every year. Parrikar believes that this Narkasura is lucky for him as it was the year he sponsored this Narkasura that he was first elected to the Assembly and later became chief minister.
In other parts of the country Diwali means a very wide range of sweets from halwas to ladoos and the entire range of dry fruit sweets. In Goa the choice is limited either to the besan or bundi ladoo.
In other parts of country Diwali is the time for huge feasts. In Goa the emphasis is on poha. On Diwali day several varieties of poha are made and eaten including tikat (spicy) poha, milk poha, curd poha, sweet poha, etc. Digambar Kamat when he was chief minister upheld the Goan tradition by inviting us all to a feast of dishes made out of poha lovingly supervised by his wife, Asha.
Unlike in other parts of the country, Goans do not considered Diwali the start of the New Year. And Goans certainly believe that gambling is a very good way to start the New Year though the casinos are full of outsiders. But Goans do celebrate Laxmi Pooja which this year was on Wednesday, the 2nd day of Diwali. Diwali began Monday night/Tuesday dawn with Narak Chaturthi.
For Goans it is not Diwali which is important but Tulsi Vivah, which comes 14 days after Diwali. Tulsi Vivah is the second most important festival in Goa where the entire family gets together at the ancestral house to celebrate the marriage of the tulsi plant to Krishna. It is also an occasion for all married couples to renew their wows.
The tulsi represents Radha who was Krishna’s girlfriend and companion but could not become the lady of the house by marrying Krishna. So once in a year Goans celebrate the love of Radha and Krishna in the form of Tulsi Vivah. We have had a privilege of attending a colourful Tulsi Vivah in an old ancestral house where the owner traces his history back to six generations. More importantly Tulsi Vivah also marks the beginning of the marriage season as marriages are banned between Ganesh Chaurthi and Tulsi Vivah.
And a few stray thoughts on all the sick mantris returning to Goa, if not in the pink of health.
The Navhind Times on Wednesday claimed that Manohar Parrikar has started taking solid food and has even stepped out of the house for a walk in the gated colony in which he now lives. How well he is and how fast he walks and whether he is free of the pancreatic cancer which afflicts him we do not know. His health is still a closely guarded secret in Goa.
Former Power Minister Pandurang Madkaikar, who is alleged to have taken a huge dose of sexual performance enhancers and suffered a stroke in Mumbai, is back in his palace in Old Goa. In his case again we do not know as to what condition he is. It is unfortunately too late for him to enhance the performance of the Power Department which has been taken over by Nilesh Cabral.
Nilesh is hoping that women’s power will improve the performance of the Electricity Department much more than man power as he has appointed Goa’s first women Chief Engineer Rekha Mathew, in place of N Reddy, who was on an endless extension. Nilesh will have to support the new chief engineer in hiring enough linesmen to ensure that breakdowns are attended to, which is more difficult. There are very few experienced linesmen available since most of them have retired. Indeed, recently a linesman fell down from a tree whose branches he was trimming as they were clashing with the power line and died.
I recall that a former veteran electrical engineer had designed a special device to enable linesman to climb poles. Our linemen are very poorly equipped and, most of the time, do not have ladders or even gloves. There have been many cases of electricians being electrocuted.
Besides Pandurang Madkaikar, former Deputy Chief Minister Francis D’Souza is also back after treatment in the United States. Francis came out of the airport in a wheel chair. But Francis has not lost any of his fighting spirit and has joined hands with former chief minister Laxmikant Parsekar and senior leaders Rajendra Arlekar and Dayanand Mandrekar. They have had a meeting at the residence of Francis D’Souza but have not decided when and where to have their next meeting. There is the chance that Subhash Velingkar will also join them. So Parrikar has a fresh problem on his hand with all the BJP rebels coming together to oppose their own party. The main provocation is the admission of Subhash Shirodkar and Dayanand Sopte into the BJP.
GOAN LAS VEGAS
And a few stray thoughts on Goa getting a version of Las Vegas — the famous gambling capital of the United States.
The city of Las Vega is located in a desert and is devoted entirely to gambling, with all commercial amenities, including hotels and tourist services, geared to facilitate gambling.
When the Cabinet meeting was held, among the issues discussed was the new gambling policy for the state. The chief minister has not been able to deliver on the promise of removing the casinos from the Mandovi river. Recently a 6th casino has sprung up. A notorious politician in UP has taken over the Maharaja casino vessel and has started operating it. The Maharaja originally belonged to Subhash Chandra, head of the Zee Group.
In the beginning many Goans and 5-star hotels entered the casino business. This included Victor Albuquerque and the Leela group. The Salgaocars (before the split) ran an off shore version of a casino — Carnival — though they have retained the on shore casino in the hotel. The difference between the off shore and the on shore casinos is that the latter are not allowed to have live gambling. Casinos in 5-star hotels can only have gambling machines.
The government of Goa had promised to remove the casinos from the Mandovi river when it came to power way back in 2012. Manohar Parrikar had promised to get rid of the casinos as they choked the Mandovi River and made movement of other vehicles dangerous. Fortunately, with the suspension of mining, there is not much barge traffic in the Mandovi. But the casinos interfere with the movement of the Betim Panjim ferry and the cruise boats which offers thousands of tourists a boat trip along with a lot of daru, dance and music.
Now apparently Manohar Parrikar has decided to move all the casinos from the river to land. A special casino city is being planned next to the Mopa airport. Jaydev Mody, the largest casino owner, is reported to have already invested large amounts of money in buying land for the casino complex at Mopa. There will be hotels also, for the benefit of not only those who use the Mopa airport, but also for the benefit of the punters.
This will of course very badly affect the business of Panjim based hotels. Over 50 to 80% of the rooms in the 5- and 4-star hotels in Panjim and Porvorim are booked by casino owners. Deltin of course has, in addition, its own hotels, and is planning a huge hotel complex at Betim, where the Tourism Department used to have a dormitory.
Tourists from Delhi, Bombay, and increasingly Bangalore, fly into Goa during the weekend and are given complimentary hotel rooms as long as they deposit at least a lakh in the gambling account. They often park their wife and kids in the hotels and spend all their time gambling. Though occupancy of hotels in Panjim will be affected by the shifting of the casinos to Mopa, it will reduce traffic congestion. This is because 70% of the SUV cabs in Panjim are tied up with the casinos to drop and pick up the customers.
The policy has not been finalized and it is unfortunate that the rules are not yet been framed. In other countries there is a Gambling Commissioner and the owner cannot retain more than 20 to 30% of the profits. In Goa it is the reverse with the casino owner keeping 80%. Moreover the casinos are money laundering meccas, where large amount of black money is converted into white money.
And a last stray thought for this Saturday. We would like to thank you for all the support you have extended to the Goan Observer over the last 15 years. All of you are aware that 15 and 16 are very awkward years for young girls and boys. They suddenly decide that they are adults and can take their own decisions. Boys insist on two wheelers and girls insist on smart phones. The libido becomes active and roses are preferred to rakhis.
Just as adolescence is a difficult period for young people, it is also a difficult period for young organizations like Goan Observer. We require your support and good wishes in this troubled year when we are 15 trying desperately to become sweet 16.
We are confident that with your support we can fight the good fight for good governance in Goa. We can prevent Goa from going the way of UP and MP and can help ensure that it continues to be an island of harmony and maintains its records of communal harmony. We stand committed to keeping Goa green and secular. Migrants and tourists come to Goa because they are guaranteed of peace of mind. Only you, our readers, distributors and most importantly advertisers, can help us to keep the flame of freedom alive in Goa.