RETALIATION: The 700-strong police force stationed at Melaulim village were chased away by a 200-strong group of women protestors! The police struck back with a brutal lathi charge in which many of the women were injured. There are also reports that Shailendra Velingkar, the son of former RSS chief Subhash Velingkar, was arrested and brutally assaulted in police custody, so much so that his hearing has been affected.
BY RAJAN NARAYAN
AND a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when the Supreme Court attempted to trick the farmers on strike on the outskirts of Delhi to force the Narendra Modi government to withdraw the three controversial bills. For a Saturday following the week when Saturday, January 16 marked the anniversary of the victorious Opinion Poll. For a Saturday following the week when Valpoi MLA and Goa Health Minister Vishwajit Rane turned against the location of the IIT campus in Melaulim village.
SC TRICKS FARMERS
AND a few stray thoughts on the Supreme Court trying to take the agitating farmers for a ride. The Supreme Court admittedly carried out its threat and ordered a stay on the implementation of the three controversial farm laws. The SC also conceded another of the important demands of the farmers, which is for the continuation of minimum support price for 23 agricultural commodities. This means that if the price of any of these commodities falls below the MSP, the government is obliged to purchase the farm produce at the rate it had announced before the harvest. This provides insurance to the farmers during calamities such as a severe drought or an excess of production which brings down prices below MSP.
But it is clear that while the SC is throwing a few crumbs at the farmers, it has actually taken the side of the government. All this while the farmers have been talking directly to senior representatives of the government. The SC has now constituted a committee of four alleged farm experts with whom the agitating kisan are expected to discuss their problems.
Interestingly, the committee will have no right to take any decision on behalf of the farmers’ demands. The committee will only consult with the farmers and submit its reports to the SC. So finally it will be the SC which will decide on the primary demand of the farmers for cancellation of the three farms laws. Not surprisingly all the four members of the committee set up by the SC are supporters of the new farm laws!
Bhupinder Singh Mann, who is the president of the BJP farmer’s union, has in fact submitted a memo in favour of the new farm laws. Ashok Gulati, the economist, Pramod Kumar Joshi, far and food policy expert and Anil Ghanwat, the president of the Maharashtra-based farmer body, have all supported the new laws.
Anil Ghanwat, who represents the sugar lobby, however, has asked for protection of the Sharad Pawar-controlled sugar co-operatives in Maharashtra. The farmers have rightly rejected the committee appointed by the SC. They have pointed out that it does not comprise anyone with an unbiased open mind on the farm laws and representatives of the farmers have not been included. A farm leader has sarcastically pointed out that the Vigyan Bhavan where the talks will be held is large enough to accommodate all the heads of the farm unions agitating against the new farm laws.
The Modi government has filed a fresh petition asking for a ban on the proposed tractor rally being planned by the farmers on Republic Day in New Delhi.
TRIUMPH OF SECULARISM
AND a few stray thoughts on the
TRIUMPH OF SECULARISM’ which symbolises the victory of the anti-merger forces in Goa’s historical Opinion Poll. Though there were demands for merger of Goa with Maharashtra from various parts of the country, Goa is the only state where an Opinion Poll was called for and conducted on January 16, 1967. The Opinion Poll was held on the insistence of the then prime minister, Indira Gandhi. Indira Gandhi had pointed out to the Maharashtra lobby which wanted merger that her father, Jawaharlal Nehru, has promised at the time of Goa’s Liberation that it will be for the people of Goa to decide whether they wanted to be an independent state of India or merge with the neighbouring state.
This took a lot of courage on the part of Indira Gandhi as the Maharashtra lobby was very strong headed by Y B Chavan, defence minister of the country then. The Catholic population of Goa at that time was around 40% of the total population. With the Hindu population comprising the rest of the 60%, the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) was confident that those who wanted merger with Maharashtra would win. The MGP was formed, in fact formed by some senior Maharashtra leaders with the sole objective of merging Goa with Maharashtra. Which is why the very name of the party is Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party.
But it did not work out the way the MGP wanted as a large section of the Hindus of Goa were equally opposed to the merger of Goa with Maharashtra. The final decision on holding the Opinion Poll was taken at the Bengaluru session of the All India Congress Committee which was attended by the “Father of the Opinion Poll” Jack Sequeira. Unfortunately, due to the pressure from the Marathi lobby the choice offered by the Congress was only between merger and retaining Goa’s status as a Union territory.
While Jack Sequiera undoubtedly played a very major role in the Opinion Poll, we cannot forget the contribution of the leaders of the Hindu community like Uday Bhembre and Chandrakant Keni. Above all I have put on record the major contribution made by the late industrialist VM Salgaocar, who virtually single-handedly financed the expenses of the anti-merger movement. Even at the risk of sacrificing his business interests and the pressure on him from both from the Goa and Maharashtra governments. In fact, the Maharashtra industries minister was taken to meet the late VM Salagocar, by the pro-merger Vishwasrao Chowgule of the Chowgule family who was not a Goan in any case! After listening to the Maharashtra industry minister’s offer of the incentives that would be provided and the advantage of a large market, VM Salgaocar turned around and simply said “But then there would be no Goa!”
The victory in the Opinion Poll showed Goa at its best when Hindu and Catholic communities came together to protect Goa unique identity in India. In fact, it is my experience that whenever Hindus and Catholics have come together against any injustice the people have always won. The examples include the Goa Bachao Abhiyan movement against the RP 2011 drafted by Babush Monserrate which he sought to sell Goa to builders from Delhi and Mumbai. The other examples are the Nylon 66 polluting project, the SEZ agitation and in the latest instance the opposition to the location of the IIT complex in the vicinity of Melaulim village – these are all examples of Hindu-Catholic unity and how it works.
I personally believe that besides statues of leaders like Jack Sequeira, there should also be a statue of VM Salgaocar, symbolising the spirit of secularism which has always saved Goa from those who wanted to destroy its identity.
My book on the history of the Opinion Poll titledTriumph of Secularism’ is available on our website www.goanobserver.in.
AND a few stray thoughts on Health Minister Vishwajit Rane doing a U-turn like the late Manohar Parrikar. There has been a war raging between Chief Minister Pramod Sawant and Vishwajit Rane on the Covid-19 pandemic issue in the state. Vishwajit Rane, in conformity with directions from the Union Health Ministry had demanded a lockdown or curfew between 9pm to 6am on New Year’s eve. Pramod Sawant refused to impose any restrictions for obvious reasons.
On the contrary the red carpet was rolled out for domestic tourists and not only night clubs, hotels and casinos, even the beaches of Goan were chok-a-blok over New Year’s eve, 2020. w ere , even the and hotels but even the beaches were choked on New Year’s eve. In any case, domestic tourists have never been able to resist the temptation of coming to Goa to imbibe the cheaper booze in comparison to the neighbouring states.
To their delight Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant even started talking about legalising ganja on the eve of New Year. So they could not only get drunk but also smoke ganja without police arresting them.
NO action was taken against domestic tourists for ignoring the Covid-19 guidelines. Both in night clubs and on the beaches tourists did not wear a mask or maintain any physical distance. Since the incubation period of Covid-19 is 14 days we expect to see a huge increase in the number of Covid-19 cases in Goa before the end of the month. The number of cases on Tuesday were 95 and will soon pass the century mark.
Many of the tourists who enjoyed their New Year in Goa may also be infected by the contagion. The biggest fear is that Goa may witness a new Covid-19 wave. But to get back to the IIT issue, Vishwajit Rane has come out openly against setting up of the IIT campus at Melaulim which falls in his Sattari constituency. This is a continuation of a cold war between Pramod Sawant and Vishwajit Rane. The CM himself is worried as 18 more villages are backing the tribal communities of Melaulim. There is also a demand for withdrawing the FIRs filed against the protesting locals.
Vishwajit who had earlier supported the project in the belief that it will bring development to the area, but he has finally decided to listen to “his peoples’ voices.” He has demanded that the IIT project be shifted out of Sattari and Usgao to any other locations. The Goan IITian cyber security specialist, Sameer Kelekar, now resident in Bengaluru, has suggested half-a-dozen alternative locations. He has pointed out that there is enough space in Farmagudi next to the government engineering college for setting up the IIT campus.
BJP ACTION REPLAY
AND a few stray thought on the fears among the liberals is that there may be an action replay of what happened in the US if Narendra Modi again comes to power in the 2024 general elections. It may be recalled that as many as two million supporters of Trump took over the Capitol in the US while, the sessions of the Senate and the House of Representatives was going on. They were instigated by Donald Trump to stop the vice president who was presiding over a joint session of the Senate and the House of Representatives to confirm that Joe Bidden and Kamla Harras had won the US elections. The police instead of protecting the Capitol were seem taking selfiees with the heavily armed supporters of Trump. Trumps goons even vandalized the office of the senators and even sat on the chair of the speaker. Trump’s heavily armed supporters reportedly threatened the members of the house with guns. Part of the problem is that anyone can buy a gun in the US without any controls. The National Guns lobby is so strong that attempts to regulate the sale of weapons have not succeeded. Unlike in the case of the US, where no President can serve more than two terms, there is no such limit in India. There is no denying the fact that Modi has a large support base. Unfortunately the opposition Congress is virtually dead and there seems to be no alternative to Narendra Modi for the 2024 General elections. There is even the Modi government has virtually taken over the SC by appointing Modi’s nominees to the post of Chief justice of the country. Indeed one of the lawyers representing the agitating farmers, Dushyant Dave, has bitterly criticized the Chief justice for the verdict on the cases filed by the farmers.
COVISHIELD ROLL OUT
AND a last stray thought on the Covishield vaccine developed by Oxford University and manufactured at the Serum Institute of India in Pune finally been released. A purchase order for 1.1 crore doses of Covishield vaccines was issued on Tuesday. The flights carrying the vaccine supply and for transportation in refrigerated vans have taken off from the premises of the company. Administration of vaccines is complicated as they have to be stored at a temperature of -8 Celsius.
From the refrigerated vans the vaccines will be taken to hospitals in special boxes to maintain temperature. In the first phase three crore health workers will be administered the vaccine in the country. Next on the priority list are senior citizens and those with critical health problems. Goa will get 23,000 doses of Covishield by January 15, on the eve of Goa’s Opinion Poll anniversary. The number of initial beneficiaries will be 11,500 health workers. Aam aadmi will have to wait their turn for at least two months to be administered the vaccine.