FAMILY GATHERING: As many as 900 family members have been known to get together to celebrate Ganesh Chaturthi at their ancestral homes
BY RAJAN NARAYAN
And a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when there will be a shut down in the whole of Goa from Monday to Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when the Centre disclosed that 76.2% of households in Goa do not have access to a toilet. For a Saturday following the week when there was a ranging controversy over Chief Minister Pramod Sawant’s decision to appoint himself pro chancellor of the university.
CHATURTHI SHUT DOWN
And a few stray thoughts on Goa facing a total shut down from coming Monday onwards.
Fortunately unlike the shutdown in J&K, the provocation for the shutdown is the happy occasion of Chovoth. Historically the Chovoth festival which is unique to the Konkan and represents a coming together of the extended family falls in the middle and end of the week. In Goa, unlike in Maharashtra, Chovoth is a family festival. Moreover traditionally only one member of the extended family brings Lord Ganesh home to the ancestral house, while the rest of the family come to the ancestral house also. Which means that there can be 50 to 200 or more relatives who have settled in various parts of Goa, India or the globe coming together to celebrate the festival. This involves a lot of travelling with members of families who shifted to the capital city because of their jobs going back to their ancestral home.
Officially Monday and Tuesday are holidays declared by the state government for Ganesh. This is because in the present day world families cannot stay back in the ancestral home for the mandated 10 days which was the original practice. Ganesh is kept in the house for a minimum of one-and-half days to a maximum of 21 days. Most Goans who have ancestral homes who have a get together of the extended family host lord Ganesh for five or seven days. This means not only visiting the house where Ganesh presides but staying in the family home for the week during which Ganesh is worshiped with various members of the family performing the Satyanarayan pooja.
With the Ganesh festival starting on Monday the probability is that most government offices will remain empty for the whole of next week. Government employees are experts taking casual leave in combination with holidays to extend their celebration of Chovoth. But it is not only government offices which are likely to remain shut the whole of next week. the process of shut down Goa might start as early as on Saturday to take advantage of the weekend holidays to prepare the canopy for lord Ganesh. Even if the idol of Lord Ganesh is brought earlier, he is normally kept outside the house and is installed in a place of honour in the house only when the priest is available to do the pooja.
There is such a desperate shortage of priests that they are imported from Udupi and Gokarna. I have been at homes of Goans who have had to wait till two or three pm to install lord Ganesh. So if you are invited for lunch on the first day of Chovoth, which represents the birthday of Lord Ganesh, be prepared to wait till 4 pm for your lunch. Those who have Satyanarayan pooja also need the services of the priest. Just as everyone in the family, Lord Ganesh himself has to wait for the bhatji, as the priest is called — he cannot enter without the blessings of the bhatji.
Historically Ganesh idols used to be made by skilled craftsman in the village itself and were of clay. As more and more members of the generation next move to white collar jobs people started buying images of Ganesh from the market or ordering their specific idol from a master craftsman. There are families who even get them from Mumbai. On the eve of Ganesh huge matholi markets spring up — the biggest of which in Banastarim on the way to Ponda — where you get all the wild fruits, herbs and leaves which are strung together to form the matholi.
The biggest concern of Chief Minister Promod Sawant is to ensure that potholes are filled up so that Ganesh has a smooth ride. It is also a matter of priority that there should be no power shutdowns during the 10-day Ganesh festival. Equally important is that the immersion points across Goa are well illuminated so that there are no cases of accidental drowning.
Whether a government which cannot even repair potholes can create adequate infrastructure to welcome Lord Ganesh and bid him a smooth departure will remain to be seen.
Chovoth time is a nightmare for bachelors and those who depend on Zomato and Swiggy for their lunch and dinner. This is because all Goans restaurants and shops, including many pharmacies run by Hindu families, shut down during the 10 days of Chovoth celebrations. Café Central, the popular take out bakery and Goan speciality outlet, shuts down during the Chovoth week. The Ganesh shutdown however is good for health because I recall that in my smoking days I used to be desperate to find even one cigarette and had to stock up in advance.
And a few stray thoughts on the disgraceful disclosure by the central government that Goa is the worst performing state when it comes to achieving the target of availability of toilets.
The annual report of the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation has revealed that 76.2% of the households in Goa do not have access to toilets — this is lower than even the national average. The ministry report had also indicted the Goa government for its failure to provide portable drinking water to its residents.
The anti-defecation programme initiated by Narendra Modi and the shortage of water are closely connected. The CCP and village panchayats in Goa may insist that they are open defecation (OD) free and there is no shitting in the open. They will insist, as the CCP is doing, that it is only migrants who do not have a toilet of their own within their households. This is not true as the primary problem with providing toilets to all households is not lack of funds. It is not too difficult to build the required number of toilets within the targeted date of the 1st of September if enough funds are made available. Sulabh international has been the premier agency in the country which has not only been building public toilets but more importantly maintain them. The CCP in fact despite claiming to be OD free has entered into a contract for building more than 100 toilets over the next two months.
The crux of the problem is water supply. There is no point in building hundreds of toilets if there is no water connection. A government which is unable to provide drinking water for more than two hours a day cannot be relied on to make water available 24 hours a day for toilets. The construction of toilets is not just brick and cement but it also has to have a water tank so that it can be flushed and kept clean. Even public toilets built by Sulabh, which you have to pay a nominal sum to use, have a water problem.
Perhaps the old Goan custom of the pig toilet was the most eco-friendly solution to sanitation. Historically all communities believed in Goa that the toilet should not be within the house but behind it. The present practice of having a toilet within the house was considered unhygienic. Behind each ancestral house there was a small compound with toilets. Below or behind the toilets themselves was the pigsty — the place where the pigs were kept. Whatever waste was generated by the humans was very happily consumed by the pigs. The pigs, fattened on waste, were in turn turned into sausages and greatly relished. Choris pav is Goa’s equivalent of Mumbai’s wada pav or Delhi’s pani puri. Unfortunately, there is not enough space to have pig type toilets as the cost of land is gone up. Moreover doctors do not advise the renewal of the pig type toilet.
Given the fact that it will take years if not decades to create infrastructure for supplying water 24 hours a day, the bio-digester toilet seems to be the best solution. The bio-digester toilet is a decomposition mechanized toilet system which decomposes human excretory waste in the digester tank using specific high graded bacteria further converting it into methane and water, discharged further to the desired surface. It does not require water. But it is far more expensive than a normal toilet which can be flushed. Forget flushing, even if adequate water is available it would serve the purpose.
Sanitation in Goa is pathetic whether in rural or urban areas. Except for parts of Panjim and Margao, Goa does not have a modern sewage system. Builders have been taking the easy way out by creating soak pits. Which have to be cleaned regularly by manual labour.
One of the main jobs of the sewage station at Tonca run by the PWD is to pump out the sewage from the soak pits. The Xentral and state governments have now stipulated that any building complex with more than five building should have a sewage treatment plant. Even where sewage pipelines exist, local residents are unwilling to connect their soak pits to the sewage system.
It is a disgrace that Goa, which gains to have the highest per capita income in the country and attracts lakhs of tourists, has the dubious distinction of being the last in the country in terms of achieving the open defection free challenge. Even the most popular beaches like Calangute and Baga, in the North, and Colva and Benaulim in the South do not have even urinals, let along toilets, for the lakhs of tourists visiting the beaches. Most of them have to rely on temporary toilets put up by the more popular shack owners.
POLITICS IN UNIVERSITY
And a few stray thoughts on CM Pramod Sawant trying to acquire control over the University of Goa.
While in most states in the country, and particularly in central universities, vice chancellors are fighting against government interference, in Goa the vice chancellor itself is inviting the camel to take over the tent!
The story goes that a generous and compassionate Arab decided to give shelter to the camel that had been carrying him, in his tent. Very soon he discovered that the camel had taken over the tent. This is the situation of Goa where the academic head is inviting political interference in the affairs of the university.
This is particularly unfortunate because Sawant’s predecessor Manohar Parrikar was also made a similar offer by the Vice Chancellor Sahani. Parrikar rightly rejected it, pointing out that academic institutions should be autonomous and should be headed by distinguished persons and not politicians.
Indeed, even Governor Mridula Sinha should be removed from her position as chancellor of the university. Her position as chancellor is a historical accident. Till the mid-70s Goa did not have its own university and was attached to the Bombay University. There was only a post graduate department of the Bombay University in Goa.
It was Dr Gopal Singh a very distinguished historian who took the initiative to set up the Goa University. At that stage Goa was a Union Territory. Dr Singh also managed to get the status of a Central university for the new Goa university. By tradition the Chancellors of Central universities in Union Territories are the governors of the state. But since 1987 when Goa became a state, the government could have removed the clause under which the governor was the chancellor. Apparently nobody wanted to offend the governor and the tradition continued. Fortunately the governors only limited themselves to ceremonial roles and did not interfere in the academic functioning of the university.
When the university was started Dr Gopal Singh found it difficult to get local faculty for the university. The minimum qualification for teaching jobs in the university was a PHD or a doctorate. There were very few Goans — with the exception of Dr Peter Ronald D Souza of the Political Science Department — who had the qualifications required to be the HOD.
To make it attractive for highly qualified academics to take up jobs in the university, accommodation was provided along with fixtures and furnishings. Even that did not help in the beginning and the university struggled to establish itself. Forget about the chancellor, there have been very few vice chancellors who have been Goans. The first vice chancellor of the Goa University was another historian, Dr Shaikh Ali. As far as I can recall there have been only two vice chancellor of Goan origin — namely Dr P R Dubashi and Dr Shetty — who were borrowed from NIO.
Ironically while Goans have been selected and invited to be the vice chancellors of leading universities like Manipur and even the JNU, they have not been considered for appointment as vice chancellors in their own states. In fact the former head of the Economics Department in the Goa University is now the Director of the Indian Management Institution at Ahmedabad. Many distinguish Goans like Dr. Raghunath Anant Mashelkar, one of the best scientists in the country, and Dr Anil Kakodkar, chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission of India, were either not considered or refused the offer.
Among the charges against the university is that it has not implemented the directive that 30% of even the faculty post should go to other backward classes and schedule tribes and castes.
It is only after a long fight led by the late Dr Alito Sequeira of the Sociology Department, that the first scheduled tribe member was made a assistance professor in the arts faculty.
The most popular of the departments in the university is the Computer Science Department. The Management Studies Department has not attracted much interest despite a very dedicated HOD.
Interestingly, among the most popular departments are the language departments, particularly Konkani and Marathi. This is because it is easy to get jobs a Konkani being the official language it is the compulsory language at least at the school level.
The worst aspect of the university is the quality of the doctoral thesis. Any research project requires funding. Research scholars in Mumbai are given not only large stipends but also funds for books and for travels.
While good work has been done, the quality has been poor because the university is desperate for funds. This is because there is lot of confusion on whether it is a Central or a state university. The university does not get grants from the Centre and for the last two years has not got any grants from the State. Perhaps the vice chancellor thought appointing the CM as pro chancellor would be the best way of securing funds. But this will kill the autonomous spirit of the university and is an invitation for political interference.