By Our Special Correspondent

IT was a week to remember. When President Rajnath Kovind came to Goa and Panaji to kick off the year long 60th Liberation celebrations of Goa, the country smallest state which got its much belated independence from Portugal on December 19, 1961 after several rebellions by freedom fighters and some bloodshed. President Kovind was on a two-day visit to Goa at the invitation of Chief Minister Pramod Sawan. The president was all praise for Goa as an exemplary small state of the country in his speech at the Dayanand Bandodkar grounds in capital city Panaji on December 19, 2020.

 The well-organized cultural evening was attended by Goa Assembly ministers, MLAs, especially invited guests including freedom fighters who are still live to recount stories of valor and how they lived through the freedom fighting years of Goa. President Kovind’s two-day visit was surrounded by tight security as he first went to lay a wreath at the Martyrs Memorial at Azad maidan and then proceeded down the main thoroughfare of capital city Panaji to Dayanand Bandodkar marg to arrive at the DB grounds for the main function. He was accompanied by First Lady Savita Kovind as also Governor of Goa BS Koshyari and Chief Minister of Goa Pramod Sawant with wife Sulakshna Sawant, along with AYUSH Minister Shripad Naik, Leader of Opposition Digambar Kamat, Protocol Minister Mauvin Godinho and others.

There was strict protocol of security with all being admitted into the restricted area being security checked, and instructed to sanitize their hands.The chairs too were placed at a comfortable distance with iron barricades around. After lighting he lamp and address President Kovind in his speech traced the pre-Liberation history of Goa a little and spoke of many things including the fact that although Goa had a late start it has the highest per capita income and is making progress in the fields of education, pharmaceuticals and several other directions courtesy the efforts of successive governments.

In this respect he singled out former Congress chief minister Digambar Kamar as a stalwart leader of Goa, while praising present chief minister Pramod Sawant for taking pains to execute the national government’s programs of Atmanirbhar and Swayampurna Bharat so that the country could become self-reliant.

Others who spoke included Chief Minister Pramod Sawant who greeted the people on Goa’s 60th Liberation although strictly speaking this year is the 59th Liberation anniversary counting down to the 60th anniversary next year on December 19, 2021. However, the year long celebrations sees Panaji decorated with flags, lights and  tableau presentations at vantage points of the city. He pointed out that it apart from celebration evens his government is also looking towards better infrastructure in rural areas. In this direction the recent victory in the Panchayat elections will help the government.

The CM said the  key to Goa’s development lies in Swayampurna Goa and in his Liberation speech he complimented Goans for being positive and shunning negative, divisive and anti-national behavior. He reiterated that the government had done its best during the Covid-19 pandemic and will further strengthen its efforts in assisting farmers amongst other things. In general, he said, it is time to look forward and not backward.

Mercifully it wasn’t a prolonged function, starting at 6.30pm (scheduled 6pm) or so and ending by 8 pm, although the cultural program continued a little longer with a smaller audience. The fact that although this was a public event and the chief minister had in newspaper advertising thrown it open to the public, it was clearly a  closed event open only to invitees.

While leaving the venue saw several persons who had come to join in the celebration and cultural program but were turned away for want of an invitation! Fumed a familiar Dr Pinarin Vijayan who was whiling away time in his car opposite the DB grounds, “I don’t have an invitation but the Liberation advertisement in the newspapers didn’t specify that the function was open only for invitees. I got the impression that my wife and me would be able to see the cultural program at least but there are so many security policemen here to stop us and they won’t even let us leave until the entire event is over and the president gone, so we are trapped here!”  

To say the least here discretion could have been the better part of valor in this respect and many Ponjekars were heard expressing their ire about the needlessly megolamaniac  security for a president who is not even under threat for anything! Goa is so safe for all! So why so much security hallabaloo to make ordinary citizens on the road feel like there is a curfew on? Surely people have as much right as the government to celebrations funded by public money? Point to consider.

Plus, there is the rub that  Chief Minister Pramod Sawant’s government has reportedly collected on a gift of Rs100 crore from the Central government for the 60th Liberation anniversary celebrations which many insist should take place next year and not this year in anticipation! Some want to know if any of the funds would be used to  streamline roads and pavements in capital city Panaji which are in a terrible state of disrepair? And will the St Inez Creek be cleaned up any day soon as promised by the local MLA in his electoral promises? Or will all the money go down the drain as usual on copious artwork decorations, mock statues and  concretizing of memorial gardens in Goa’s urban spaces?

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