DROPPED: The standards of the prestigious DD Kosambi Festival of Ideas has dropped with much loved speakers like Faye D’Souza being dropped at the last moment
BY RAJAN NARAYAN
AND a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when the Chinese coronavirus epidemic seems to have come to Goa. For a Saturday following the week when Chief Minister Pramod Sawant insisted that the verdict of the Vigilance Commissioner Mr Mishra was not binding. For a Saturday following the week when the name of popular TV anchor Faye D’Souza was dropped from the list of speakers for the DD Kosambi Festival of Ideas 2020. For a Saturday following the week when there were a spate of tiger killings in the Mhadei forest. For a Saturday following the week when the Bihar government set up a special chapter in Goa to educate Bihari migrants on good behavior. For a Saturday following the week when the Goa post offices are the most inefficient and understaffed offices of the central government. For a Saturday following the week when the CAA agitation against the CAA continued in the state.
And a few stray thoughts on the Chinese coronavirus spreading to the tourism paradise of Goa. The first victim of coronavirus in Goa is incidentally not a Goan but a tourist from Delhi. Apparently, the suspected coronavirus patient had returned from China and come holidaying in Goa when the virus symptoms showed up. But the chances of Goans themselves catching the virus are very high as relations between China and Goa have increased greatly since the Chinese Olympics.
The most vulnerable are the mine owners who are among the biggest suppliers to the Chinese market. Goan mine owners first discovered the Chinese market for iron ore in the run up to the Olympics in China 2008. China decided to create massive new infrastructure with a view to impressing the world about China’s technological capabilities. The main stadium called Bird’s Nest was an unique example of modern architecture. Since large quantities of steel was necessary Chine started importing steel from all over the world. The advantage China has is that its steel units could manufacture steel from even iron ore dust, unlike other importers of iron ore like Japan and South Korea. Historically, iron ore from Goa which has low FE content and largely in powder form and just part of the processing mix in steel manufacturing plants in Japan and South Korea. Goa was among the biggest beneficiary and taking advantage of the opportunity produced an excess of iron ore heaps beyond authorized capacity. Every mining lease is permitted to extract a fixed quantity of ore to maintain inter-generation equity. However, Goan mine owners ignored permitted limits and made hay while the Chinese sun shone on them.
Indeed, the Shah Commission estimated that illegal over production was to the extent of `35,000 crore. Cases are still going on against the 86 mining leases which exceeded the capacity. During the Chinese export boom thousands if not lakhs of Goans visited China. Some Goans have even set up industrial units in China. So much so the risk of Goans catching the coronavirus is very real and high.
There are many rumors about the coronavirus. It is reported to have originated in the Wuhan province of China. It is reported to be similar to swine flu which caused havoc the world over including Goa. Goa being a tourist destination is vulnerable to any kind of virus from the common flu to AIDS and now the coronavirus. Not to be confused with the Tata retail outlet Corona which are the largest sellers of computer equipment and have open an outlet near Mall De Goa at Porvorim. The problem with the new viruses that keep getting discovered is that they are very contagious and spread very fast. Since they are a new generation of virus a cure for them has yet to be found.
Fortunately, there have been only about a hundred deaths because of the coranavirus so far, most of them in China. Among the advice provided by both the Chinese government and the Infection Agencies is to ensure that you do not come close to a coronavirus suspect. It is transmitted through the air from human to human. The symptoms are very much like that of the common flu excepting that they are much more severe. Common precautionary steps prescribed include covering your nose, mouth and washing hands frequently. The Goa government has set up a coronavirus isolation ward with 30 beds at the GMC. There is also a proposal to set up another quarantine center at Chicalim. Unfortunately, Goa does not have a lab for checking new viruses and samples have to be sent to the National Virological Laboratory in Pune for confirming the coronavirus. Though the focus is on visitors to China and Indians who have visited China in the recent past, you can catch the virus from any of the charter tourists who come from UK and Russia. So if you catch a cold take precautions and ensure that you stay away from people with cold infections till you are sure it is not a case of coronavirus.
AND a few stray thoughts on the Vigilance Panel’s indictment of former Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar, former Secretary for Mines Sains and former Director of Mines Prassana Acharya. Pramod Sawant has been insisting that the verdict of the Vigilance Commission is only a recommendation and it is not mandatory for the State to act on it. The Vigilance Commission disputes the claims of the CM and has directed the government to register a First Information Report against the concerned persons. Neither of the three found guilty by the Vigilance Commission are any longer involved with the Mining Department. Laxmikant Parsekar is no longer the chief minister and the Mines Secretary Prassana Acharya have been transferred out to another department. The primary issue is the renewal of the leases of 86 mines by the trio and found guilty by the Mining Department. The State government renewed the leases even as an investigation was going on into their illegal actions during the Chinese export boom. The Goa Foundation which had initiated the first case against the mine owners in Goa which led to the suspension of mining challenged the renewal of the leases by the State government. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Goa Foundation and declared that the renewal of the 86 leases was illegal.
As Laxmikant Parsekar has correctly pointed out the government seems to have singled him out for punishment. Every CM in the State from Pratapsingh Raoji Rane to the late Manohar Parrikar and still very much around Digambar Kamat have been accused of collusion with the mine owner. Rane and Digambar Kamat have been accused of condoning the delay in conversion of the concessions granted by the Portuguese into leases in 1987. Mining was not very popular or profitable till there was a huge surge in demand from China. Just before the Chinese Olympics many unused concessions were sought to be converted into leases as late as 2006. The conversion had to be done within three months of the Mining Department at the center in 1987 directing the conversion of concessions into leases. Former CMS Rane and Digambar Kamat who were indicted by the Shah commission for exceeding the time given for condoning the delay in conversion from concessions into leases.
The three chief ministers from Digambar to Rane to finally Parrikar were also accused of permitting mine owners for procuring even 1,000 percent of the authorized. Whatever the merits of the case it has to be admitted that suspension of mining has caused huge losses to Goa. The State has been losing over Rs3,000 crore on a count of royalty and other fees and taxes levied on the mining industry. The collateral damage by way of huge loss of jobs has affected the economy. It is estimated that directly or indirectly over three lakh mining employed lost their jobs. This includes not only those working in the mines but also those engaged in the transportation of the iron ore.
An entire economy had developed in the mining areas which included repair shops, restaurants and even jewelry shops patronized by dependents of those working in the mines. The government is responsible for its financial state because instead of forcing rich mine owners to compensate the mining dependent it has spent tax-payers money for subsidizing mining dependent workers.
NO MORE BIMARU STATE
AND a few stray thoughts on the Bihar government setting up virtually an embassy for an estimated 2 lakh Biharis working in Goa. According to visiting Bihar Minister of Industries Shyam Rajak, who is trying to promote and refurbish the old image of Bihar, 25% of migrants in Goa are from Bihar. Historically, Bihar has been among the most backward states in the country. Indeed, the entire Hindi belt consisting of Bihar, Haryana Rajasthan and UP were called the bimaru (sick) states. The Bihari people were forced to migrate to other parts of the country in search of rozi roti jobs. A large number migrated to Mumbai which had jobs for anyone willing to work hard. All the newspaper vendors in Mumbai are from Bihar. They control the newspaper distribution business to the extent that when owners of newspapers have financial problems they approach the main distributor for funds. The worst crises in Bihar was during the chief ministership of Laloo Prasad Yadav who even stole fodder meant for cattle. The former Bihar chief minister who looted and plundered the state of Bihar is serving a long sentence in jail currently. Even when Laloo Prasad Yadav, who kept claiming that Bihar would be ruled by him as long as there was batata in batatawada, made his illiterate wife Rabdi Devi the chief minister. He has not given up his ambitions for his children including his eldest daughter named Misha which is the name of the act under which he was arrested. Wars are going on between his 11 children about who should be the next CM of the state.
Fortunately, Nitish Kumar who has been running the government in collaboration with the BJP, has brought a lot of development to Bihar. He has succeeded in at least halting the migration out though not reversed it as in Biharis returning to Bihar in large numbers because Bihar is now no longer a bimaru state but has much to offer its people.
Most of the migrants pouring into Goa from various parts of the country including Bihar are landless labor. Most of them are illiterate and have never lived in big cities. For them shitting out in the open is quite normal. Most migrants who come to Goa do not know anything about fine living. They are not concerned about public opinion or reaction to their peeing on the roadside. In Goa of course we consider all migrants as “ghantis” with some justifications. Originally the expression was used for people who came from beyond the Western Ghats. Now it applies to all migrants coming into the State. Many of the cases of rape and molestation are committed by migrants in Goa.
The truth is that due to over 500 years of colonial rule Goans are more westernized than the residents of any other British ruled state. Unlike the British, the Portuguese took a lot of interest in sanitation and hygiene and was the first to set up a medical college, the old Goa Medical College in Asia. This may have been for the benefits of supplying doctors to their colonies in Africa and South East Asia but it also benefited the locals of the colonized countries. The ground reality is that while Goa wants migrant labor to do their dirty jobs for them it is not willing to create a decent infrastructure for their needs. Migrants too would like to live in pukka houses and use private water-facilitated toilets. It is a matter of shame that even in smart city Panjim migrants living by the St Inez nallah or Miramar beach vicinity perform their morning ablutions in the open.
It is not enough to conduct classes for them on to behave. Manners and etiquette are a reaction to how much money they can earn. Those who make enough money will educate their children who in turn will be concerned about advising their parents how to behave in public. The Bihar government and all other governments, including the Nepal government, should create low cost housing and toilet blocks for their residents who have migrated to Goa in search of greener pastures. The policing system too has to be changed as whenever a girl from the North Eastern states of India is accused of prostitution, the police ask her parents to come down all the way from the North Easst to collect her. It is a similar case with the Nepali girls who are engaged in the hospitality and casino business. Any chapter or mission set up by the Bihar government should function like the Office of the NRI Commission to help migrants who have virtually settled in Goa.
AND a last stray thoughts on the DD Kosambi Festival of Idea which was started by former chief minister Digambar Kamat. DD Kosambi was a multifaceted personality who was considered one of the best mathematician in the world. But Kosambi was also a historian and among the few Indians who wrote the history of the country from the Indian point of view. Kosambi was also a great Konkani lover and was responsible for the development of Konkani. It was to honor this leading intellectual that Digambar Kamat decided to start a festival of ideas in memory of GD Kosambi. The idea was to invite famous personalities from various fields to give talks which will benefit Goans, particularly the students community. The annual week long DD Kosambi Festival of Ideas was graced by giants like the late President Abdul Kalam, Infosys Foundation Chairperson Sudha Murthy, Nandan Nilenkani (Infosys chairperson) and many other remarkable scholars even from abroad. Under the BJP the DD Kosambi Festival has fallen in standards.
The first speaker this time is a wrestler from Karnataka who has won the Olympic gold medal. We have nothing against sports persons but the State could have called Sachin Tendulkar or MS Dhoni who are real sources of inspiration. The worst part of the DD Kosambi Festival this year is that after selecting fearless TV anchor woman Faye d’Souza it dropped her from the list of the speakers at the last moment. Faye d’Souza of Mangalore had earned a reputation as a tough, incisive anchor on Mirror Now and she was sacked by the Times of India management because she posed tough questions to the Commerce Minister. Apparently, the government was afraid she would bring up the CAA issue. This kind of behavior is unacceptable for in previous DD Festival of Ideas even those who were from the left and very critical of the government were invited.