At home: (Clockwise from top) Former RSS Chief Subhash Velingkar, of the Goa Surakhsha Manch now… in search of of cleaner politics and governance; his heritage home; GSM meeting in progress
by TARA NARAYAN’
Subhash Velingkar of the Goa Suraksha Manch would make for a surprising and refreshing change if he wins the forthcoming Panaji by-elections, a Panaji born and bred boy his love for Panaji is unquestionable….
EVEN at a first meeting Subhash Velingkar comes across as a man with enormous dignity and self-respect. Here is an educationist who believes in evergreen values of life. Talking to him is refreshing and inevitably the conclusion is that here is one man who would not change with the times for love or least of all for money!
After a rather refreshing chat with him at his blue-hued heritage home tucked down a back lane facing the Mahalakshmi Temple — I am convinced Panjim should give the blackboard (the logo of Subash Velingker’s Goa Suraksha Manch (GSM)) a chance. Why is he such a misunderstood man?
He is a Panjim born and bred boy and says the RSS in him has no quarrel with minorities, “We see them as our blood brothers and we accept that all religions deserve justice…unfortunately, a totally wrong picture was painted of the RSS in Goa by the BJP…” Most of us may or may not be aware that he is the educationist who paved the way and groomed the late Manohar Parrikar to be chief minister of Goa. Then came the bitter fall out over government grants for Diocesan English schools.
For electoral gains Parrikar turned his back on his mentor’s views on the subject and after that there was no reconciliation. On the issue of government grants to Diocesan English primary schools, Subhash bab says he is still of the firm belief that Goa should observe the national and in fact international norm that primary education should be in the mother tongue and not English. He has nothing against the poor wanting their children to learn English for a better start to life, “but this they should do at their own private expense and not at government expense.”
He traces the long and deliberately distorted history of the issue, “In fact, the grants for English primary schools were stopped by the alliance of Goa People’s Party and MGP, the Progressive Democratic Front, when Proto Barbosa was the chief minister and Shashikala Kakodkar the education minister in his government….” Both the Indian Constitutional law and even UNESCO endorse the view that children must study in their mother tongue at primary school, although in certain circumstances, as in Nagaland and Mizoram there were exceptions.
The then PDF government started limiting grants from 1990 onwards to government schools teaching in mother tongue, be it Konkani, Marathi or Kannada…where was the question of Diocesan schools switching to English after teaching in Devanagari Konkani for 21 years? Subhash Velingkar reiterates, “I am not against learning of English but this is against all education and scientific norms. English is not our mother tongue, it is only our slavish mentality which…please read the book
The Myth of English’! The government is spending about400 per student per month to study in the now English government primary schools….”
In the beginning, he muses, “the BJP was with us on the issue of primary education in Konkani and in fact we got the BJP elected… I was the convenor of the Bharatiya Bhasha Suraksha Mandal when we revolted against the BJP when it started giving grants to the Diocesan schools which converted to English in a hurry, even before the matter could be legalised. Apart from this the RSS decided to take a moral stand when the BJP started deviating from the ethical moral stand in governance and to his shock the high command at Nagpur decided to back Parrikar. When he broke away, 95% of the RSS left with him. He rues the fact that it is a corruption-tainted BJP which rules Goa today and “the BJP is no different from the Congress, they are two sides of the same coin!”
No, he would have no truck with either parties even if the GSM wins the forthcoming by-elections. “The BJP is functioning on a
22,000 crore loan…35,000 crore casino income goes into the pockets of individual BJP politicians.” Surely the people of Goa are aware of this? He is positive that the time for a thorough change is now. Goans must vote for clean politics and not for the dirty cesspool it has become. In this context his chances are brighter than last time, “My party will win and even if we sit in the Opposition we will make the government work and be more efficient and competent…”
To a query he quipped that he is a revolutionary by birth, “My father was a freedom fighter and was arrested twice, he was so badly thrashed by the Portuguese police…eventually he had to escape to Mumbai.” It is his father’s never-say-die spirit which rules him. This time he is convinced the BJP will not come back into power, “If I get 7,000 votes this time I will win… It’s a four-cornered fight and there are a total 15,000 to 16,000 voters.”
THE grapevine says that minorities and slum dwellers of Panaji will vote for Atanasio Monserrate because he has played the role of godfather to the poor? To that Velingkar exclaimed, “Even Ravan did a lot of good things!” Unfortunately, he fears, such distorted fears have been created about the RSS in Goa, “They have been deliberately politicized. I say again that our view of our Catholic brethren is not hostile, we consider them our blood brothers with a common ancestry and every religion must get justice. I have many friends amongst the minorities in Panjim and they will vote for me!’
On that note it was a good time to wish him good luck for it was nearly 4 pm and he was due for a meeting with his party colleagues awaiting close by — Subhash Velinker has converted his garage space into an election office and GSM meetings are held here. A huge jackfruit tree is framed in the backdrop, full of hefty fruit waiting to be harvested! I cannot help thinking that it would indeed, be divine justice if this redoubtable man of letters and philosophy gets his chance. Imagine the sea change that would take place in our current dismal political scenario courtesy a man who envisions all these changes. Achhe din for Panaji finally?
For one thing the GSM’s manifesto promises to clean up the St Inez Creek on a priority basis. Next will shifting the government offices lock, stock and barrel out to the open spaces at Merces where Prime Minister Narendra Modi had his huge meeting last year. So that Panaji may retain its original residential charm, be restored to breathe in peace — spared all the haphazard construction and consequent congestion of traffic pollution, which is currently turning the half town-half city into a most unhealthy place for residents.
Listening to his quiet, impassionate, yet steadfastly reassuring words I am inclined to think that perhaps it is Subhash Velingkar who has the real Midas touch with a difference. He won’t turn everything he touches to tinkling gold but he is the most likely candidate in the forthcoming by-elections to swing in better parameters of governance for the larger good of Panaji — a Panaji which deserves better, far, far better than what it got in the last 25 years!