BIHARIS: Biharis in Goa have started asserting themselves holding a massive Chhat pooja in Caranzalem and Panjim with great fanfare in the presence of Governor Mridula Sinha who is also from Bihar
BY RAJAN NARAYAN
And a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when the revolt simmering within the BJP became more acute. For a Saturday following the week when the migrants in Goa have started asserting their individual identities. For a Saturday following the week when the mining lobby was desperate to persuade the Central government to resume mining activity. For a Saturday following the week when Goa became the home and work place for a variety of enterprising people from all over the world.
And a few stray thoughts on the fight within the BJP becoming more intense. Subhash Velingkar, who was president of the RSS for more than 20 years before splitting with it, has decided to enter electoral politics. Subhash Velingkar who served as a teacher in Mandrem for many years and is well known in the constituency has decided to contest against Dayanand Sopte in the bye-elections. Apparently, he has the blessings of former chief minister Laxmikant Parsekar who was surprisingly defeated by Dayanand Sopte in the 2017 elections. The other BJP rebels like Rajendra Arlekar and Francis D’Souza are also likely to extend support to Subhash Velingker.
Subhash Velingkar has been an educationalist all his life, having started the Vidya Prabodhini school and college in Porvorim. Velingkar broke away from the RSS on the issue of grants extended by the Parrikar government to English medium private primary school run by the Church. Velingkar joined hands with Uday Bhembre and Arvind Bhatikar, both strongly committed to Konkani. The question that was raised is what are the Marathiwadis doing with the Konkaniwadis? The two groups came together and formed the Bharatiya Bhasha Suraksha Manch (BSSM) to protect and promote the mother tongue on the principle that education at the primary level must be in the mother tongue.
When Goa was liberated there were just about a dozen primary schools most of which were in Marathi with the solitary exception of one Konkani school. Dayanand Bandodkar, the first chief minister of Goa, was an ardent Marathiwadi with his party MGP committed to merger with Maharastra. To ensure that the Bahujan Samaj, which was the combination of all non-Saraswat backward classes, was educated, Bandodkar set up literally hundreds of Marathi schools in every village in Goa.
During the Portuguese regime education was limited to the upper caste Saraswats — both Hindu and Christian. Konkani lovers also set up several Konkani medium primary schools. The Diocesan society started English medium schools in many villages in the State and its example was followed by other Church organisations like Don Bosco in Pilar.
ROOT OF MOI TROUBLE
When the late Shashikala Kakodkar was the education minister in the Progressive Democratic Front (PDF) government of Dr Luis Proto Barbosa in the early ‘90s she stopped grants to English medium schools. Shashikala insisted that grants would be made available only to vernacular medium schools at the primary level. Which meant that while not only Konkani and Marathi, but even Kannada, Telugu, Tamil and Urdu schools could get grants, Church schools offering primary education in English were denied grants.
By the dawn of the new century it was increasingly seen that let alone Goans, even migrants preferred English medium primary schools to schools in their own languages.
English medium primary schools which had been forced to switch to Konkani in the Devanagari script as they could not afford to function without grants, quietly switched back to English on the eve of the 2007 elections. Digambar Kamat, who was then chief minister, continued to give the Catholic schools grants even though no formal permission had been given to them to switch to English medium. Parrikar promised the Bishop that he would formalise the grants to Church-run English medium schools if he became chief minister.
Having given his word and with Catholic MLAs who had been given BJP tickets winning in large numbers, Parrikar had to keep his promise. This made Velingkar very angry and accusing Parrikar of betrayal he quit as president of the state RSS. It was under these circumstances that Velingkar got together with the Konkani mogis to start the BBNS which is now proposed to be converted into a new regional party. It is the first new regional party to be started in Goa in the last two decades and may be able to steal the seats of both the MGP and the BJP.
The only disadvantage is that it will not be able to attract Catholic voters who swear by the English medium at the primary level. On the contrary, the fear is that if the Velingkar group gets adequate seats to call the shots, it may be back to square one for Catholic schools as grants now enjoyed by them may be cancelled. Parrikar has tried to pacify the rebels but has had no success. With Velingkar joining them or the other way around, the rebels will have the benefit of the large section of RSS cadres who are still loyal to Subhash Velingkar.
And a few stray thoughts on migrants in the State who have started to assert themselves. It would also appear that the number of migrants in the state has crossed the 50% mark and is now above the local population.
The original migrants into Goa were the Maharashtrians who were closely integrated with Goa because of their old ties and the freedom struggle. Moreover because Konkani did not have a common script, the language of culture and religion in Goa has and continued to be Marathi. I have yet to hear a Konkani bhajan sung during a Ganesh arti. The Maharashtrians were encouraged to come to Goa in large numbers to fill vacancies of teachers in the Marathi primary schools that Bandodkar started.
Many of the police constables who were recruited after Liberation were from Maharashtra and Karnataka. During the Portuguese colonial regime there were no engineering colleges, polytechnics or even industrial training institutes. There were no power generation stations and select offices and houses were supplied power through generation sets. When Goa became liberated it started getting power from the national power grid. Similarly during the Portuguese colonial regime there was no public water supply by taps to households. Everyone depended on wells for their requirements of water. It was only after Liberation that various public water supply projects like OPA were started. Engineers for running the Electricity Department and the PWD came primarily from Karnataka and Kerala. It is not a coincidence that the present chief engineer of the Electricity Department is from Kerala and the first woman to be selected for the post.
Muslim migrants were first brought to Goa by Shaikh Hassan of Vasco who was a minister in the Rane Cabinet and owns the building in which TOI functions. Shaikh offered jobs for poor Muslims in Karnataka to work as labour in the port. After the demolition of the Babri Masjid, Muslims from other part of India, ironically even from UP where Ayodhya is located, started coming to Goa. The increased inflow of Muslims is obvious from the quantum jump in mosques and burial grounds.
Strangely the fight in Goa is not between Hindus and Muslims but between Muslims and Christians as the new Muslims have settled in the South, where Catholics were not willing to give them land for even mosques, let alone burial grounds.
Nepalis first came to Goa as watchmen and most of them have become cooks in Chinese restaurants. Their place as security guards has been taken by the rural unemployed youth of Orissa who can speak no other language except Odia. I had a body guard once in the office sent to me by one of the security agencies who could not even speak English but could salute smartly. The Odias have now grown into a sizable number as dramatized by the fact that they have their own version of the Jaganath Puri festival in Panjim at least.
The Bengalis have been celebrating Durga pooja for more than four decades with the patronage of the Dempos. The Bengalis claim a link with Goan Saraswat Brahmins who they claim migrated from Kolkata to Goa.
The latest community group to flex its muscles are the Biharis who had the Chhat festival at various parts of Goa where members of the community gathered at the beach to worship the rising and setting sun. Goa of course is nothing compared to Mumbai where Chowpatty beach, 10 times the size of Miramar, is packed with Biharis celebrating Chaat pooja.
Ironically, the only community which does not celebrate or assert itself in Goa are the Dalits. That is because officially there are no Dalits or what are called schedule caste. Which is why unlike in other states there is no reservation as schedule castes which is done by rotation. Incidentally, Babu Azgaokar has always gotten elected from schedules caste constituencies. So Goa is now like the National Anthem — Punjab, Sindh, Gujarat, Maratha, Dravida, Utkala, Banga. Which is why you have Pongal celebrated by Tamil, Onam by Mallus, Durga pooja by Bengalis, Dandiya by Gujus, Puri Yatra by the Odia (formerly called Oriya) population and Chhat pooja by Biharis.
Though there a number of people from the Northeast, we have not yet seen a major Northeast festival because they are divided into so many small tribes always fighting with each other. Although Goa does have a Northeast Association of which the patron saint is Nandita Haksar, daughter of PN Haksar, who was Indira Gandhi’s confidante, and who is married to a Nagaland citizen.
MINING DEPENDENTS DESPERATE
And a few stray thoughts on the desperation among mining stake holders to resume mining. Mining has been at a standstill for over a decade now, ever since the Shah Commission appointed by the Supreme Court claimed that Goa mine owners had cheated the State to the extent of `35,000 crore. Unlike in other parts of the country, in Goa those who owned a mine were gifted this as concessions by the Portuguese colonial regime.
In 1987 the Union Mines Ministry decided that these concessions should be converted into leases so that there would be a common policy for the whole country. However there was a window of six months within which the concessions had to be converted into leases. Many of the smaller concession holders did not bother to make the change because at that time mining was not very profitable.
Most of the ore in Goa is in the form of powder called fines. And the iron ore content moreover is very low. The only demand for Goan ore is from Japan and South Korea as no Indian steel company had the technology to make steel from ore dust. The price of ore was just around $15 per tonne and it was viable only because transport of ore was by barges and not by road.
Then came the Chinese Olympics around 2000. The Chinese with their technology skills built brand new stadiums, roads, highways and even airports for the Olympics. All this building required huge amounts of steel which in turn meant an unlimited demand for ore. The price of ore suddenly shot up from an average of $20 to $200. Suddenly mining was very profitable and all those who had not converted their concessions to leases applied to Pratapsingh Rane, Digambar Kamat and Manohar Parrikar and got their concessions retrospectively converted into leases.
This has been held illegal by the Supreme Court and charges have been framed against all three chief ministers who gave permission retrospectively. Moreover during the Chinese boom all mining companies produced 50 to 100 times their authorised capacity, with some even producing 2000 times the authorised capacity. As the mining economy boomed, more trucks were bought to carry the ore. More jetties were built for barges to upload ore. There was more investment in mining machinery which was leased out to the mines.
There was a sudden drop in demand after the Chinese demand waned and this coincided with the ban on mining which came just one month after Parrikar returned to power and grandly announced a dozen schemes including the Ladli Laxmi scheme and the Griha Aadhaar scheme.
To keep the MLAs from the mining area happy Parrikar had to provide doles to those who owned trucks which were no longer being used. Not only people involved directly in the mining industry but a lot of other businesses like garages, puncture repair shops, and even tea stalls and goldsmiths went bankrupt when mining was suspended.
Parrikar renewed the licenses of 86 mines without ensuring that he had secured fresh environmental clearances. Under the order of the Supreme Court these mines were closed within three months. There has been a demand for an ordinance to resume mining and to grant special status to Goan mines because they were concessions. There is a demand for amending the Concession Act of 1987 retrospectively to ensure that mining can start this season.
It is unlikely however that the Supreme Court will agree to any such arrangement. The Court made it clear that ore like coal is a natural resource and all leases should be auctioned to the highest bidder. If this happens the Jindals and the Adanis and even Reliance will gobble up all the leases and nothing will be left for the Goan mine owners.