THE CANDLES BURN ON THE TRACKS… AMKA KOLSO NAKA!

revolt: There was a mass revolt against the doubling of the tracks of the South Western Railway to convert Goa into a coal corridor for the Adanis and the Jindals. Literally thousands of Goans blocks the tracks at the point in Chandor where the railway level crossing was being widened to accommodate the second set of tracks to increase the coal carrying capacity. In view of the mass protest the South Western Railway has decided to indefinitely postpone the double track.

CLARA VAZ of Aldona was one of the 3,000 plus Goans who attended the peaceful candle light rally protesting on the railway tracks of Chandor last Sunday night, November 1, 2020. It was one of the most eloquent protests in recent times when more and more Goans are questioning the kind of environmentally disastrous development Goa is being earmarked for by the ruling BJP government with State collusion…they want to know whose development, whose progress?
A first person account of the protest by one of the protestors…

From 10.30 pm Sunday to 5.45 am Monday, November 1 and 2, 2020, the people of Goa gathered in thousands on the Chandor railway tracks down South Goa. They had burning candles in their hands, and metaphorically in their hearts; some just hung on to their cell phones with the torch on beaming light upon an incredible scene. They were all there to protest against the decision of the State government to permit double tracking of South West Railway line which will turn life into a nightmare for villagers whose land and homes have been affected.

outwitting the police
First of all why is all this work happening at the dead of night when everyone is sleeping! Asked Ms Alina Saldanha, MLA from south Goa, in a video shot by In Goa News revealing the real truth that the double tracking of the railway for purely for the mass transportation of coal for the big shot industrialists of India (Adanis and Jindals for their coal and power plants in Karnataka). Based on Order No.37/128/2008/MAG/12392 signed by the Collector and District Magistrate Ajit Roy, South Goa, the South West Railway (SWR) personnel were given permission for temporary closure of the three-level rail roads in the three villages of south Goa and this permission was for the double tracking of a project.
It’s a project which has been building up tremendous us hostility and opposition in the hearts of Goans. So the call went out and Goans from all walks of life gathered Sunday night to keep a virgil and protest in their own unique way: Thousands of candles blazed to make it clear to the government what the people of Goa think of government’s priorities which are clearly not in the interests of either Goans or Goa’s green agricultural environment in which they have lived peacefully and harmoniously for so many generations.
The BJP government is in a hurry to change all that now so that the people of Goa suffer the same tragedies which the big metros of India suffer courtesy overcrowding, over construction and no primary infrastructure in place in Goa. Needless to say the protestors and their viewpoints went live on Facebook and other social media platforms right from the beginning to the end of the protest the next day dawn. Nobody could have missed it and least of Chief Minister Pramod Sawant’s government which has been trying to brush the protests underground with easy lies.
The protestors wanted the Collector to come and meet them with the assurance that the order for double tracking would be cancelled or revoked, but it was not to be. Various people appealed to the Collector to come and meet them at the venue of the protest in Chandor but he did not come. Then at 4.45 am come the dawn the disappointed Goans returned to their homes sad and defeated. But not before the Deputy Collector accepted a letter addressed to the Collector dated Nov 2, 2020, to please revoke the double tracking permission granted via Order No.37/128/2008/MAG/12392. The letter was signed by all the protestors and more who had gathered at the venue of the Chandor railway tracks on Sunday.
Needless to say in recent years Goa has become a hotbed of protests although it is the country’s smallest state. Goans who love their quiet, tranquil and holiday destination state do not want any big-time development of industrialization as has happened elsewhere in India with the result that they’re today suffering the tragedies of over flooding and epidemics of diseases rooted in unmaintained, rotting and overburdened urban ecosystems. The consequence is the common and poor working classes suffer the most and pay the price of lop-sided development and non-progress.

PROTECTING GREEN GOA
Understanding all this Goans have been protesting against Sonsoddo garbage issue, river pollution issue, wetland destruction issue, dumping garbage and overwhelming construction rubble on fertile agricultural fields issues, pollution of land due to leachate of effluents from chemical companies in industrial estate issues, cutting of hills for highway expansion issues, the dying of water bodies issues, pollution of potable water issues, narrowing and stagnating of rivers and creeks, underground saline water contaminating wells, etcetera. It is all linked with the abuse of natural resources and large consequent large scale degradation of Goa’s traditional riverine an agricultural landscapes. With the latest protest in many Goans are asking a key: Does Goa belong to Goans first or to a handful of powerful Indian industrialists who keep the pockets of the Central government politicians warm and hot with funds to play dirty politics time after time?
One protestor from Cuncolim village present at the protest wanted to know if in a functioning democracy power is in the hands of the people or not? If a government doesn’t listen to the en masse protesting voices of Goans, then is there a democratic government in Goa at all? Or is it a just a democracy for politicians only to win election after elections through bribery and corrupt electoral malpractices only to destroy the natural land resources of the people?
Although Monday was a working day the protestors took part in the midnight vigil/watch for over seven hours to make a statement and that is they will protect their land, their heritage homes and will not allow any laying of second railway tracks either in the day time or in the dead of night. Even though thousands of people were verbally appealing to the Collector, through the medium of social media, to come and meet with them, he did not come to the venue.
In one video recording by a news channel a senior citizen, a Goan gaunkar from South Goa, told the people that as per historical records, the land in Goa with its natural resources belongs to the gaunkar residing in the village communities aka communidade bodies of the relevant village and as such, legally, they are non-revenue villages. There are 223 villages in Goa. Another issue is that, historical records show that the Gaunkar governed Goan land and natural resources with utmost wisdom and logical sense. They used the tenets of Natural Law.

DOOM OF TOURISM
Protestors from the villages of Majorda and Chandor said that Goa is a place which is loved by all people everywhere. The reason we have so much greenery, forest areas, water bodies, man-made khazan lands, water catchment areas to feed underground water tables, hills, open spaces for animal grazing along with water bodies for them to drink and bathe, is because Gaunkars administered the land and natural resources with the interest of the “human plus the flora and fauna” in mind. In this system of governance, the flora and fauna lived without conflict of interest in their respectable habitat. The happiness of the citizen and respect for the flora and fauna of a nation must be the first building block towards any nation building.
Another senior citizen protestor, again a gaunkar from Mormugoa, said that the style of governance by Goan gaunkars was different and unique : Governing authorities, in every village, were selected from amongst qualified and competent gaunkars by process of a visible show of hands in a public meeting and not elected by process of secret voting. If the selected person was found to be incompetent or with doubtful ethical standards over a period of time, then he was replaced by somebody else more competent. This concept of gaunkari governance was transparent and maintained in physical records.
Now during the year 2020 an appeal is going out for an implementation of this age old system of local governance in the larger interests of Goans so that damage control can be done. Otherwise the destruction of Goa’s natural resources will continue to deteriorate and varnish and never be salvaged or restored again easily as perhaps it can be done today – keeping in mind that a lot of damage has already taken place to displace the Goan people from their land in the last few decades.
A protestor from Panjim said that every generation inherits the land and natural resources to enjoy the goodness and thereafter pass it on to the next generation. If land and natural resources are damaged then it will take hundreds of years for Mother Earth to repair the larger ecological damage and restore the status quo of the good conditions which existed at one time.
Another protestor from South Goa said railways have laid the tracks even before acquiring the land for railway tracks. Railway officials are saying that they have acquired the land 25 years ago and the land in Goa belongs to the government. Another protestor from Verna said five villages have opposed the proposal to set up a waste treatment plant at Verna plateau because here were 32 springs and 48 water bodies fed by the ecologically sensitive Loutolim-Verna plateau. This plateau sustains the lives and livelihoods of villagers and if it destroyed by a mammoth waste treatment plant people will suffer and pay the price bitterly in the years to come.

GIVE US INFRA FIRST
Another protestor Loutolim village protestor spoke about the mangroves in Rassaim, Loutolim, which have been destroyed for the railway project . Someone from Durbhat village in North Goa added that mangroves have been destroyed for so called urban infrastructure development. What is the idea of a locating a garbage plant on eco-sensitive land in Loutolim just above Sal river at Uddo in Verna? The land was acquired by the EDC for an electronic city at the time the deed was done! Then they called it an industrial estate and now they want to put up garbage plant on 2 lakh sq mtrs of land.
The Father of the Nation Mahatma Gandhi said “Earth can support human need – not greed.” There are so much wrong development and progress taking place in Goa even in eco-sensitive zones. It is high time an enlightened government and judiciary sorted out the problems of land use and abuse in micro and macro ways so that in the long run the common people of Goa do not suffer the consequences. Mahatma Gandhi also said “Even if it’s a minority of One, the truth is the Truth.”
The next protest is gearing up to take place soon and it will be based on the response of the Collector to the letter submitted to him via the Deputy Collector on 2 November, 2020, on the subject of double tracking by South West Railway.

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