SOCIAL SECURITY: Migrants enjoy the wide range of social security benefits ranging from free treatment at the GMC and other government hospitals, access to balwadis where their children are taking care of and provided a mid-day meal, to even enrolment in new schemes introduced by the BJP government, including the Griha Aadhar and Ladli Laxmis schemes
BY RAJAN NARAYAN
And a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when Eid-ul-milad was celebrated very peacefully in Goa despite the tensions in the rest of the country over the abrogation of Article 370 of the Constitution. For a Saturday following the week when it was revealed that a Lamani had officially change his surname to Naik through notification in the gazettes and publication in newspapers. For a Saturday following the week when DDSSY card holders were taken for a ride by government hospitals. For a Saturday following the week when Goa was limping back from devastation from prolonged torrential downpour.
And a few stray thoughts on Goa again proving that it was an oasis of harmony in the desert of RSS-provoked communal polarization.
While Muslims in most parts of the country, including UP, which has the largest percentage of Muslims, were agitated, Goa was peaceful. Muslims in other parts of the country were agitated over the murder of democracy in Jammu & Kashmir. In an action replay of what Indira Gandhi did in 1975, Narendra Modi and Amit Shah declared an Emergency in J&K.
For the first time in the country a state has been converted into a Union Territory. The former state of J&K which included Jammu, Kashmir valley and Ladakh, was split and downgraded into two Union Territories of J&K and Ladakh. The downgrading of the state to Union Territory implies that J&K will no longer have any independence, as unlike States, Union Territories are directly governed by the Centre. This is a steep fall for J&K from the special status it enjoyed till the revocation of Article 370, under which it was not only a state, but a state with a PM.
Even more threatening to the people of J&K is the cancellation of Section 35 which prevented people from other states buying land and setting up business in the state of J&K. This implies that J&K will soon become like Goa and will be taken over by land sharks. The Dal lake with its shikaras, which was the biggest tourist attraction in the country, will now be taken over by bhaile. It is therefore almost remarkable that Eid was celebrated in peace and harmony in the state of Goa.
Unlike even last year, when there were some problems about Qurbani and the import of beef into the state, this time special arrangements have been made. Never mind because of the rain inflicted damage in Chorla Ghat and Amboli, vendors from Belgaum could not supply as much beef as there was demand. Though there has been a mega increase in the population of Muslims, now estimated to comprise about 18% of the population, the migrants have integrated with the local population.
According to the 2011 census, besides Karnataka and Maharashtra, the largest number of migrant Muslims have come from Uttar Pradesh. For some strange reason migrant Muslims have virtually displaced the traditional Hindu barbers of Mala. In almost every beauty parlor, hairdressers are either from UP or Nagaland.
There is a difference however between the new Muslim migrants and the original Muslim population of Goa. The original Muslim population primarily consisted of Khoja Muslims who were more interested in trade and business than religion. The followers of Aga Khan have their own community center near the Azad Maidan Square in Panjim. The Viranis, the Velgis, the Aganis are a few of the surnames of the original Muslims who have lived in Goa for more than five decades.
The original Muslims have totally integrated with locals to the extent that they have no problems even eating choris pao at Clube Vasco Da Gama and Clube Nacionale.
The expansion in the Muslim population can be seen from the fact that the namaz was performed in almost a dozen halls in Bardez. In fact, in Panjim namaz was conducted in the Taleigao Community Hall. Ironically, Muslims do not have any representation in the Legislative Assembly at present though earlier there was Shaikh Haroon Hassan who had been elected from Vasco. Shaikh Haroon was reportedly responsible for bringing large number of migrants from Karnataka to work in the MPT and Zuarinagar, which gave rise to a huge slum in Zuarinagar, commonly referred to as Phukatnagar.
Muslims now have considerable political patronage because of their numbers and the fact that they vote as a block. The Panjim and Taleigao Muslims are vote banks of Babush and Jennifer Monserrate. Similarly, former Chief Minister Digambar Kamat depended on the Muslim majority at Moti Dongar to return to power in every election. A large number of Muslims are also settled in Vasco, Valpoi and in the Curchorem and Sanvordem areas.
There have been no communal riots in Goa except for a small skirmish between RSS cadre and Muslims in Sanvordem over the use of Housing Board premises as a mini madrasa. There have also been some clashes between Muslims and Catholics over land for mosques and burial grounds in southern villages like Raia and Curchorem.
Unlike in other states in the country, including Mumbai, the economic status of the Muslim minority community is quite high, and the hijab and the burqa are virtually non-existent in Goa. There is no question of triple talaq for those who have domicile-ship of Goa as they are governed by the Uniform Civil Code under which only civil marriages are recognised.
And a few stray thoughts on the Facebook post which has reproduced a classified ad in one of the local newspapers announcing that a Lamani has changed his surname to Naik.
During the recently concluded Legislative Assembly, Curtorim MLA Reginald Lourenço claimed that there were several thousand such cases. We can understand Lamanis wanting to change their surnames as there has been a systematic campaign against them. The Lamanis are tribals from Karnataka who make their living as vendors on the beaches of Goa.
What is amazing about the Lamanis is that they are brilliant at picking up languages. They may not be able to read or write any language, but can speak all the local languages and even Russian and Hebrew. It is unfortunate that their linguistic skills are not appreciated and they are sought to be victimised by the local population. Goans are not concerned over the odd Lamani changing his surname to a Goan surname to escape social stigma. In the normal course most of the announcements of change of name are by members of the Catholic community who want to acquire Portuguese citizenship. This is necessary because the name under which they apply for Portuguese citizenship should be exact copies of the original names registered by their parents or grandparents. Interestingly those who change their name for the benefit of the Portuguese passport include residents of Daman and Diu, which were formally part of Portuguese India.
There might be less interest in Portuguese passports following the exit of the UK from the European Economic Community (EEC). It was by virtue of the UK being part of the EEC that Goans with Portuguese passports could migrate and work in the UK. Now that the UK has decided to quit the EEC, Goans will not be able to migrate and work in the UK. The exit of UK may not affect those who migrated to UK more than ten years ago.
If there is no deal on the terms of the exit of the UK from the EEC, there are proposals that only those who earn a salary of over 36,000 pounds annually can continue to stay in the UK. The principle is that both the UK and the US do not want their welfare funds to be diverted to citizens of other countries. The US has also made it clear that they will not grant visas to residents of other countries who might become a burden on the social security system.
This is part of the problem that Goans are waking up to with respect to the mass influx of migrants into Goa. The most worried sections of the Goan community are the Bhandari Samaj and other groups classified under the 30% OBC quota. Goans are worried that migrants might compete for the few government jobs available by pretending to be Goan OBCs. They are also concerned over non-Goans availing of the social security benefits that Goa provides.
Migrants in Goa do not have to spend anything on medical care however serious the problem because of the Goa Medical College, the district hospitals and the primary health centres. Migrants don’t have to worry about getting an education for their children as all they need is to admit their children to a balwadi is an Aadhaar card. I understand that there are many private agencies which make nakli Aadhaar cards which are in high demand not only to ensure their children getting education, but so that the mothers also get nutrition. One of my maids was telling me that lactating mothers are given rice, protein and cooking oil, besides various vaccines and polio drops at the primary health centre.
Goans are also concerned that migrants might seek and secure cards under the Griha Aadhar and Ladli Laxmi schemes, which are supposed to be exclusively for Goans. There is also anxiety on whether migrants will grab the few seats in medical and engineering colleges and polytechnics.
All this is raised for the larger issue of distinguishing between niz Goenkars and the bhaile. As it stands those who are born in Goa, or have lived in Goa continuously for 15 years, are entitled to all the rights that Goans enjoy. Absurdly, Goans who work in other parts of the country or are in transferable jobs, have problems proving any kind of domicile for admission to professional colleges or government jobs. The only exceptions are Central government servants and children of Defence Forces who have a quota in professional colleges. While the state government has proposed increasing the domicile requirements from 15 to 25 years, it has been suggested by the chief minister himself that the minimum domicile period should be extended to 50 years for bhaile to enjoy the facilities that they now get.
Not surprisingly Goa is the favourite of migrants as no other state offers so many facilities to new migrants, including free medi-care, inflation allowance, dowry for the girl child and nutrition and education for children under five.
LATEST SOCIAL WELFARE SCAM
And few stray thoughts on the latest scam in social welfare.
The research agency appointed by the Goa government has already disclosed that more than a lakh who have availed of the benefit of pensions have done so illegally. Similarly they have found that many of those who applied for Griha Aadhar have applied under different names to get the benefit multiple times or are not eligible in terms of the income received. Similarly they have discovered that many Ladli Laxmis are neither ladli nor Laxmi, since married women have applied, claiming to be kumari in spite of being shrimati.
The latest scam refers to Deen Dayal Swasthya Seva Yojana (DDSSY). Apparently there is a racket whereby government hospitals like Hospicio and the district hospital in Mapusa are referring patients to private hospitals. Under the DDSSY scheme, families of four and above get cashless insurance coverage of
4 lakh and couples get coverage up to2.5 lakh. Recently cases have been disclosed of Hospicio referring patients who have cardiac problems to private nursing homes which do not have any such facilities. There is a notorious hospital in Porvorim which conducts unnecessary operations like removal of appendix or non-existing gall bladder stones and finishes the entire insured amount. There is obviously a nexus between the Directorate of Health Services and private hospitals. Significantly, many corporate hospitals have declined to participate as they do not find the fees fixed viable.
We do not know if the Central health scheme started by Modi can be simultaneously used along with the DDSSY cards as they promise insurance cover of upto
5 lakh. Neither of these schemes cover treatment of cancer which has assumed very major proportions in Goa. In the last one year alone over 5,000 cases of cancer have been reported only in the government hospitals and primary health centres. A majority of the cancer cases are breast cancer and oesophageal cancer. The minority Catholic community seems to be the worst affected, possibly due to large consumption of red meat. While cancer is curable in the early stages it is very expensive. A full dose of chemotherapy and radiation can cost upto10 lakhs or more. Indeed, Manipal Hospital is flourishing at the expense of cancer patients.
When the editor or a Marathi paper, who had developed cancer, complained over the high charges to the late Manohar Parrikar, he did not respond as the director of Manipal Hospital, Dr Shekar Salkar, was a very close friend.
Though the GMC claims to have set up a cancer centre I doubt if they are offering chemotherapy and radiation. Of course, more advance methods of treating cancer like immuno therapy are beyond the needs of the ordinary patients.
Cancer does not spare anyone. It is a myth that only women can get breast cancer. Famous Goan author Damodar Mauzo was diagnosed with breast cancer, but fortunately for all of us recovered fully. The latest victim of cancer is the now late Prof. Alito Sequeira, among the most loved and respected staff of Goa University, who used to head the Sociology Department.
LIMPING BACK TO NORMALCY
And a last stray thought on Goa limping back to normalcy after ten days and more of continuous rain.
The sun is back, but potholes have not yet been repaired properly anywhere in Goa, continuing to make lives miserable. Even any patch-up jobs are shoddy and sometimes make the stretch even more dangerous as the road surface starts to resemble hills and valleys. Forget about traffic jams in the Agasaim-Cortalim stretch due to the new Zuari bridge, there are traffic jams in Margao because of the potholes. During the Assembly sessions Digambar Kamat was the only MLA who drew the attention of the Speaker to the potholes across Goa. The biggest risk is to riders of two-wheelers whose wheels slip into huge potholes, threatening life and limb.
There are probably more potholes in Goa than craters on the moon. We hope Chief Minister Pramod Sawant who has just returned from Russia will launch our own Mangalyaan to repair potholes so that there are fewer accidents and one can reach one’s destination in time. Surely if other countries can deal with potholes Goa can. The primary reasons for potholes is badly made roads which in turn is caused by the huge kickbacks the contractors have to pay to mantris and their chamchas.