TRAFFIC JAM: You may be forced to spend your New Year at home or in your hotel. Not only are roads jammed and parking spaces unavailable, now it looks like strategically planned violence will spill out onto the street!
BY RAJAN NARAYAN
And a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when Yogi Aditiyanath’s UP-style goondagiri became part of Goa. For a Saturday following the week when Goa experienced both a retreat and a surge in the waves on most beaches. For a Saturday following the week when the Modi government has authorized as many as ten agencies to strip you of any digital privacy you have. For a Saturday following the week when the National Green Tribunal started getting tough with Goa about its failure to set up an actual plan to tackle river pollution. For a Saturday following the week when typical Indian versions of carols were heard for the first time during Christmas. For a Saturday following the week when a generous and compassionate couple asked invitees to their wedding to pledge to donate their eyes after death.
And a few stray thoughts on Dhondgiri beginning in Goa with the posting of the notorious Satish Dhond as the general secretary of the BJP.
Satish Dhond has a notorious reputation for pioneering the kind of goondagiri and targeting of opposition parties and minorities that we have been witnessing in UP. It may be recalled that recently when a police officer was killed by gau rakshaks UP Chief Minister Aditiyanath and the local administration released several statements that catching the cow killers was more important than investigating the riots and murder. Clearly, for them, the value of a cow is much greater than the value of a human being, even if it is a senior policeman. It was these comments that provoked senior actor Naseeruddin Shah to comment that the life of the cow was consider more important than that of a human being in Modi’s India.
The fear we have witnessed in the BJP-ruled states of UP MP and Rajasthan has now come to Goa with the entry of Satish Dhond. Fortunately MP and Rajasthan have been liberated from saffron goondagiri. Dhond announced his presence in Goa by organizing a rally from the BJP office in Atamaram Borkar Road to the Congress office next to the Mandovi hotel.
The objective was ostensibly to protest against the Congress charges against Narendra Modi in the Rafael fighter aircraft deal, even though the Supreme Court has given him a clean sheet.
Goa Pradesh Mahila Congress Committee (GPMCC) president, Pratima Coutinho, was waiting with a plate of samosa to welcome the Dhondgiri rally which was allegedly armed with stones and sticks. Pratima claimed she was practicing Gandhigiri. To which of course Satish Dhond and the other BJP goons insisted that she was practicing Rahul Gandhigiri and not Mahatma Gandhigiri.
We do not know who abused or attacked whom first. The fact remains that a large group of women, including Pratima Coutinho, were assaulted by Dhond and his goons.
From the photograph which appeared in the daily newspaper it looked like an act of molestation and outraging the modesty of women as Pratima’s dupatta was grabbed and pulled. There was a free for all between the BJP workers led by Dhond and Pratima and the Mahila Congress members who were outside the Congress office.
If the intention of Dhond (who claims he had all the requisite permissions) was to protest the charges against Rahul Gandhi for his Rafael demands, they could have protested at Azad Maidan.
The very fact that they chose to protest outside the Congress office where they knew they would create problems shows the nefarious intentions of Satish Dhond.
The absurd part of it was that the police who were there in large numbers just watched and did not interfere.
It may be unrelated but there have been a number of incidents recently with the police assaulting citizens and getting away with it.
DGP Mukesh Chandra had started a scheme called ‘Sentinel’ which literally means guard. The police appointed volunteers who were required to take photographs of traffic offenders and forward them to the traffic branch of the police. To put it more simply the DG wanted citizens to spy on each other.
It is suspected that a mobile dealer, Ramanuj Gupta, who has a retail shop in Shiroda, took the DG very seriously. People allege that he started flooding the traffic police with dozens if not hundreds of traffic violations which was easy for him because he had a mobile shop. Contrary to the assurance of the DG, his identity was allegedly leaked and the people of Curchorem not only shut down the shop, but want Gupta, the man in question who has lived in Goa more than 35 years, to quit, although he denies having had anything to do with the Traffic Sentinel scheme.
Similarly, in South Goa, there is a boycott and violence against Lamani traders because one Lamani managed to get a taxi license from the RTO. The local taxi mafia in Benaulim led by Churchill Alemao is demanding that the license be cancelled. But why single out Lamanis when every second taxi in Goa is run not by niz goenkars but by outsiders? Goans may own the taxis but in five cases of out of ten they are driven by outsiders, mostly migrants from Karnataka and people from minority committees. If the taxi drivers have objections to the Lamanis getting a taxi license they should sacked all their bhaile drivers and run their taxis themselves.
And a few stray thoughts on when the tsunami in Indonesia and other changing climatic factors created fear in the minds of shack owners.
On Sunday and Monday the waves, particularly in Morjim and Palolem, receded by over a kilometre. At low tide the water does move back but never by one kilometre or more. Conversely, during high tide, water levels rose correspondingly, sweeping away boats beached on the sand. In some parts of Goa the water swept away beach-beds and even entered shacks. It was not just the effect of the tsunami and earthquake in the Southeast Asian region. The full moon on Monday was also partly responsible. When the moon is full it is closest to the earth and pulls the water towards the shore. The result is that the sea is very rough.
It is not only shack owners but also water sport operators who are affected by changes in wave patterns. The water receded to the extent that even sand dunes could be seen. Part of the reason for the climatic changes in Goa is massive destruction of sand dunes and mangroves. Both protect the shore from the fury of an angry sea.
Due to the obsession of rich bhaile for a flat or villa facing the sea, there have been large scale violations of CRZ rules. These violations have occurred in collusion with politicians.
It was only recently, long after Laxmikant Parsekar was defeated in the election, that some illegal structures within the CRZ zone in Morjim were demolished. Former Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar admitted that he was aware of the violations of CRZ but did not take action because the shacks were the only source of livelihood for locals. Goa attracts tourists because it has amongst the best beaches in the world. But if it does not protect the beaches, tourism, the largest source of employment since the mining industry shut down, will also be in trouble. The CRZ rules have to be implemented very strictly and there should be a freeze on the construction boom along the coastal belt.
And a few stray thoughts on the Modi government competing with Facebook and Aadhaar to steal the privacy of Indian citizens.
Facebook has admitted that the personal data that it collects every time we log on or post or share a message is passed on to other industries. The pattern of your messages helps corporates create profiles which are used for marketing. For instance, if your Facebook post reveals that you are interested in cosmetics, your contact details will be sold on to cosmetic companies so that they can send you messages.
Much more dangerously, Facebook has been allowing the playing of political games. The revelation that Cambridge Analytica, a company linked to Facebook, misused data to help Donald Trump win the US elections, has set off alarms. Donald Trump is still under investigation for colluding with Russia to defeat Hillary Clinton.
There are also fears that Facebook and Google may have interfered with the 2014 Parliamentary elections in India and would play an even more deadly role in the 2019 elections. The methods are simple. Hundreds of dedicated workers and even robots will send nasty massages against Opposition candidates and positive messages for BJP candidates.
Unfortunately, the campaigning is not limited to just political messages. There have been many occasions where not only Facebook but even WhatsApp were used to spread false rumours of someone having killed cows or even kidnapped children. This has resulted in the murder of several innocent people, particularly in BJP-ruled states.
Now there’s a new threat to privacy. The Central government has authorized the Income-Tax Department, security agencies and altogether ten entities to read anything you post on Facebook or WhatsApp and anything you search on Google. In the case of WhatsApp, its end to end encryption is not going to help as Facebook (which owns WhatsApp) will have to supply the government agency the code to identify the receiver and sender of any message that the government may consider illegal or dangerous.
The government is always empowered in very special circumstances to seek information from IT agencies. But now it has carte blanche to raid anyone, even without seeking the permission of the senior security official concerned. Big Brother will be watching you all the time. Many of us are worried about the government forcing us to link our Aadhaar card with our mobiles and our bank accounts. But this is much worse as, with the number of smart phone users growing geometrically, the Modi government, like Donald Trump can do match fixing.
So be careful on what you post or send on WhatsApp because the encryption will not help you. As far as I know the only service which is relatively safe is Blackberry because the owner claims that they pick the security code anonymously and they themselves don’t know what a particularly individual’s code is.
NGT IN ACTION
And the few stray thoughts on the NGT getting tough on the pollution of rivers in the country.
The most polluted river of course is the Ganga, which starts in the Himalayas and passes through most of North India. Although Varanasi is considered the most sacred part of the river, where people believe cremation ashes should be immersed, it is also the place where the Ganga is the dirtiest.
The national survey of rivers has discovered that there are eight stretches in Goa which are highly polluted. Although the Goa government was asked to prepare an action plan to tackle the pollution by January 31st, nothing has been done so far. Of the 351 river stretches in the country identified as highly polluted, 11 are in Goa. Of this, eight fall in Category Five, which are most polluted. This includes Assonora to Sirsaim, Bicholim to Curchorem, Ponda to the Opa Waterworks, Cuncolim and the river Valvanti in Porim.
The Assonora and Opa pollution is of great concern as they are the main sources of drinking water supply to Goa. The river stretches passing through Bicholim and Curchorem are highly polluted because of pollution of mining rejects. Besides these five, the Talpona river in Canacona is also considered highly polluted as well as the stretch from Marcel to Valpoi.
One of the main yardsticks for measuring the purity of a river is whether it is fit to bathe in. It is been shockingly discovered that none of the rivers in Goa, or that matter even large parts of the sea, are fit to bathe in.
And a last stray thought on how there has been an Indian touch, or more specifically a Goan touch, to Christmas carols this Christmas.
Historically most Christmas carols are written for the very cold countries in Europe. At this time of the year much of the Christian world such as Europe and the UK are freezing cold and many of them are covered in snow. Which is what gave rise to the legend of the white Christmas. As a consequence most carols are on cold, white, Christmas.
Goans seem to have taken the initiative in composing carols better suited to warm countries like India. The veteran pop singer Remo Fernandes (who now lives in Portugal) has put out on YouTube a typical Goan Christmas carol which refers to Goan images.
Similarly, Akshata Bandekar, the child singer now studying medicine in GMC, has released a new Christmas song on her website. Christmas is probably the most widely celebrated festival in Goa and adds a great deal to the tourism attractions that Goa offers.
Very few states in the country or countries in the world have as many beautiful cribs as in Goa. The only discordant factor is clashes between politicians anxious to exploit the Christian vote bank. It is claimed that sound permission for a post-Christmas mass dance was withdrawn in south Goa for the benefit of a dance organized by President of Goa Foundation Vijai Sardesai. It seems that even Christmas has become a political game, although the Pope in his Christmas message has stressed that Christmas is about love, compassion and charity.