DIGITAL: With the world going digital every candidate should set up training centres like the Manipal Institute of Computer Education (MICE), to empower young people to meet digital world challenges

By Rajan Narayan

Elections should be targeted at the welfare of the voter. Elections are not about protests, money and muscle power. Modern elections should focus on digital education, healthcare and the rehabilitation of those who lost their jobs in mining. The goal of all parties should be to preserve the unique and distinct identity of Goa.

I WAS in Brazilia, the brand new capital of Brazil, in 2006. Brazil is the poorest country in the world. I was accompanying the then Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh on his visit to the first BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, China) summit on economic affairs. Amongst the agreements signed was one on the huge imports of sugar cane into Brazil from India. Not to make alcohol but to make ethanol which costs half the price of petrol and fuels all the vehicles in Brazil. This is a dramatic example of constructive initiatives which governments can do.
I stepped out of the hotel to explore the neighbourhood in Brazilia. A few hundred metres down the road I saw a group of people walking single file down a pavement – not in the middle of the road to disturb traffic – they were holding placards of some protest. Looking more closely I discovered they were campaigning for the candidate in the forthcoming elections. There was no slogan shouting. There was no jamming of traffic.
Yet they had made their choices of candidate clear. They even stopped at traffic lights so that pedestrians were not inconvenienced. There were no banners obstructing division of four wheelers and two wheelers and no mega cut-outs of political leaders of rival parties. Very sensible. For the cost of a banner you can supply three poor children smart phones for e-learning. For the cost of giant cut-out of Mamata-didi you can provide an internet connection to a government school which is not able to function in the digital age of e-learning.

CAN we at least tell our aspiring people’s representatives during the run down to elections to demonstrate that they are committed to serving the people? Forget about protests against import of coal through MPT by Gautam Adani. Don’t cry yourself hoarse over the double-tracking of the South West Railway. Don’t scream about the 420 megawatt power station being put up in the middle of the Mollem wildlife sanctuary.
Of course these things are important. They will alter the climate of Goa drastically. Already there has been massive beach erosion at Sunset Point at Betalbatim, where olive ridley turtles used to come but have stopped now, so also in the case of Galgiba and Mandrem beaches in north Goa which see large invasions of reckless tourism.
Go to the courts. File public interest litigation. There are several cases where Goans have successfully stopped projects which would affect the environment. Union Minister for Highways & Transport Nitin Gadkari would like to build expressways like the one between Pune and Mumbai, which has cut travelling time between the commercial capital and Pune to two hours, compared to the earlier eight hours.
Nitin Gadkari allegedly makes his money through kickbacks on mega building projects and he has proposed an expressway between Goa and Mumbai which will reduce travel time to four hours. It will also have other frills as proposed for the Zuari bridge, it will be a two-tiered bridge with separate areas in the eight-lane expressway for shopping, handicrafts stalls, malls, cafeterias and much more cheap thrills which tourists seek. All this will be added value for the bridges and highways Nitin Gadkari wants to build for they will be a goldmine. Imagine sitting in a 50-metre high tower featuring a revolving restaurant. This is on the cards for Zuari bridge.
Fortunately for Goans the Bombay High Court rejected Nitin Gadkari’s proposal for an expressway from Mumbai to Goa. The High Court told him to repair the potholes on the existing highways in Goa first. Gadkari was the author of the Mopa airport which will benefit Maharashtra more than Goa. Because Mopa is half-an- hour away from the Vengurla and other virgin beaches which the government of Maharashtra wants to develop as alternative beach tourism destination. Maharashtra has no money to build an eight-lane highway connecting Mopa with Maharashtra and to south Goa. So Nitin Gadkari very generously offered Central funding for building this highway. The casualty will be all the green paddy fields and fruit orchards of a village landscape which has provided food for local people for generations.

CAN we suggest to our political candidates in Goa that they do not waste their time in protests against the current government. Can we suggest to them that they stop defacing the banners, posters, billboards, flags, etc, of each other? As Chief Minister of West Bengal Mamata Banarjee pointed out this is not part of the Bengali culture. This is not part of the Goan culture either.
This is money culture brought in by the BJP talking. It is also the contribution of Prashant Kishor’s I-PAC and Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi party. They are not content to be tall leaders in real life. They want to build monuments to themselves like Mayawati did in Uttar Pradesh where she build hundreds of statues of herself, her mentor Kanshi Ram, and her party symbol of the elephant. Or as even Mamata-didi did when she painted everything blue, the color of the party in West Bengal.
What are the immediate problems of Goa? The major problem of Goa is jobs for the youth. There was a time when parents would not let children touch a smart phone. But now they have no choice but to give one even a five-year-old in kindergarten, because in the covid era we are into e-learning. So young kids have to do lessons on the smart phone. No doubt by the time they are 15-year-olds their eyes will be so bad that they would be wearing heavy glasses.
With smartphones in their children’s hands parents will not know whether their kids are doing their lessons or playing fatal games like Tik Tok. Where you have to kill a whole group of people and get rewarded for it. This is what is promoting all the violence in the younger generation today. With children shooting their parents or they friends. It would be much better if our candidates give each school television sets so that they can have zoom meetings instead of lonely e-learning on smart phones? Can they supply internet connectivity to government schools so that teachers can directly connect with the children? Can our candidates do constructive instead of destructive activities?

EVEN more important is that over five to six lakh young Goans are unemployed in the State of Goa. This is partly because of the closure of the mines which has affected three lakh families. This is also due to the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns which saw the shutdown of the tourism industry in Goa for two years. Even when the lockdowns were relaxed restaurants and hotels could only function at one-third of their capacity. This applied even to government offices and media offices. Today too only one-third of the staff report to work every day. Because of the rule of observing one metre distance. Though nobody is observing it and such strictures only serve an excuse for managements not to pay their staff. Many employees are asked to work from home and this requires that they have a computer at home with internet connectivity.
More serious is the fact that everything has become digital. If you have to register your sale deed you do not have to go to the office of the sub-registrar, you may do it online. If you are getting married you do not have to make the first trip to the Registrar of Marriages. Do it online. If you want to renew your passport, provide all the details online. If you want to pay your power and water bills do it online. The biggest demand for jobs is for people who are digitally literate.
The Manipal of Computer Education which is run by the Manipal Trust has a dozen branches in Goa. The trust is run by Mohan Das Pai who was the HR director of Infosys. It is a charitable trust which charges only Rs5,000 to Rs10,000 for a three to six month course in digital marketing. It also offers courses in web hosting and design. It offers courses in coding which is what helps you create an App.
There are thousands of young people who have come out with a new app and become unicorns. These unicorns are not the legendary animals with one horn but young people who have earned a million dollars on their Apps. This is a world of influencers and digital blogs. What I-PAC’s Prashant Kishor did to ensure the victory of the BJP in the 2014 elections was use digital media. This was even more effective after the Covid-19 pandemic with its lockdowns.

SO people are now relying entirely on their smart phones for catching up with everything including news. Newspapers had became more or less redundant with the deliberate spread of rumors that they transmit covid. The newspaper delivery boys would give you covid with the newspapers! Nobody watches television because they can subscribe to any program they want to on their smart phone. There is a new technology called online technology platform on which you can watch any film you want to. There is an alternative Bollywood called Netflix on which you can watch most of the IFFI films.
So we have to train our young people in digital technology. Let every candidate take a MICE franchise from the Manipal Foundation. Let them offer training facilities in digital education. For digital education you do not need degrees and post-degrees. If you are computer savvy even if you are an SSC failed you can learn coding. Our young women do not have to work as slaves in Goa Medical College & Hospital. We know a young women transporting patients for CT scans and MRIs and dead patients to the morgue, who has a graduate degree and has done a computer course. Now she is contract labour at the GMC earning a salary of Rs15,000 per month, in the hope that her job will become permanent and she will be a proud government servant.
It is not just digital learning that candidates can facilitate. Goa was famous for its traditional gold jewellery. There are many master craftsmen who are unemployed because of the lockdowns, with no income how are people going to buy gold? We know of at least one master craftsman who was a foreman of Zaveri’s in Bombay, who had a workshop which had 20 and more people working on designing jewellery. They are all unemployed now. He is willing to train Goan youth in jewellery designing.
The State Polytechnic at Altinho has a fashion technology department which has turned our hundreds of fashion designers and models. Incidentally, the department is headed by a Muslim woman because in Goa there has been no communal discrimination. The department enjoyed the patronage of the late fashion guru Wendell Rodricks.

MOST people in Goa today not know that before Liberation when there were no schools, the Church choirs were creating jobs for Goans. Yes, there were the Portuguese Lyceum schools where your children studied in Portuguese till the 10th standard, but there were no industrial training institutes or polytechnics. Only church choirs offered training in the entire range of musical instruments from the guitar to drums to clarinet, violin, mandolin, trumpets, etc. Every army regiment British and Portuguese needed a trained band of musicians. Hindi cinema too was desperate for trained musicians and it was Goa which supplied most of them.
The father of Pascoal Menezes who founded the CMM Group was paid in gold coins when he was a musician in Angola! This was the foundation of the CMM empire which started with a single pharmacy in Goa. Salvador Fernandes, who is the champion of weighting machines in Goa, also owes his education to his musician father who used to work for the British army in Pune. Regional Director of the Taj Group Vincent Ramos was born in a musician’s family, his father was a colleague of Salu’s father in the British army band in Pune.
And who can forget Anthony Gonsalves to whom Laxmikant Pyarelal dedicated the song “My name is Anthony Gonsalves?” Braz Gonsalves, Cris Perry and the famous Lorna were all products of the church coir. The man who has nurtured the music business in Goa is BF Furtado whose family is still the largest supplier of the grand piano and takes classes for aspirants who want to learn the piano. The head of the Oxford orchestra is of Goan origin, Patricia Pinto.

THE other real issue our political candidates may focus on is healthcare. Now that Health Minister Vishwajit Rane has bought hand-held, non-invasive machines to detect early breast cancer, they can sponsor breast exam camps. I understand that the new breast exam devices are non-radiation based machines which have to be merely pressed against breast tissue to show up even the smallest lesions in the breast.
Again, not only senior citizens but even pregnant woman suffer urinary problems. I am sure young Sharmad Kudchodkar, trained in the best urology institute in the country would be happy to hold urology camps. Goa’s leading echo-cardiologist Dr Francisco Colasco would be happy to hold cardiac camps. There are ophthalmologists also willing to hold eye check-up camps. Set up dialysis centres in each constituency because kidneys are failing by the day. Educate and protect the health of your people and they will automatically reward you with their vote.
Everything has gone digital. Senior citizens are digitally challenged. Set up facilitation centres for them where for a token fee they may learn how to register for IFFI to see films virtually or in person in the auditoriums. Save them the trouble of standing in long queues and file their income returns online. Pay their electricity bills for them on line. Renew their driving licenses online for them.
Already the revolution has started. Former mining areas are returning to agriculture. Organic agriculture is growing exponentially and markets are coming up to sell organic produce and eco-friendly consumables exclusively. Local markets all over Goa are becoming conscious of gauti vegetables and know about organic and inorganic. Our MLAS should offer tractors and combined harvesters to attract young people to do agriculture. Why should Goans have to eat the vegetables from Belgavi? Grow them yourselves in Goa. Learn about aquaphonic farming like a Sardar couple are doing out at their villa home in Dona Paula. Grow vegetables and breed fish for your own needs.
The voters of Goa are tired of the promises politicians make. Most of them don’t want to go to Valankanni because their more immediate requirements are jobs for their children. Indeed, they go to Valankanni and Shirdi Sai Baba and Ajmer Sharif dargah to pray for government jobs for their children. Nobody wants to go the Ajmer dargah now. The BJP scrapped the quota for Muslims to do their most important pilgrimage which is the Haj in Mecca-Medina. Which is the holiest of holy places for the Muslim community. Unfortunately, the pilgrimage is working partially because of the Covid-19 pandemic and lockdowns in any case.

INSTEAD of giving Goans pilgrimages give them jobs. Facilitate senior citizens who are digitally challenged for many of them are and get left behind in digital applications for services offered by government schemes. Collaborate with Mohan Das Pai to offer free digital training for whoever needs it. Or facilitate the designing of some artistic skills or craftwork or fashion designing or teach them coding and how to store data on clouds. When the computer is overloaded how to transfer data by buying time on a cloud!
Concentrate on the health of your voters. Few know how to use their DDYS insurance card. Also, any insurance company will give you a Rs5 lakh cashless cover for a premium of less than Rs20,000 a year, which may be renewed till you cross 80 years. Political candidates of all parties do something positive for your voters. And they will reward you. Just don’t bribe them to attend rallies, create job opportunities for them. They don’t want your biryani and your cop or your pilgrimages.
Seriously, Goans want to protect their environment. They don’t want unseasonal or non-stop rain like they witnessed in June this year. They want a peaceful, a shant Goa, a Goa where there is no love jihad. A Goa where they may wear torn jeans, a Goa where they may eat what they want including beef and pork. Goa has its own unique identity like every state of India. Nobody wants Goa to become another Mumbai or Delhi or Kolkatta.

One thought on “POLLS MUST HELP VOTERS!”

  1. Arvind Kejriwal will be the PM of India in near future. He is Honest & Intelligent. He will make Indians proud by making India a Developed & Corruption Free Country. Arvind Kejriwal Fulfill The Promises What He Makes. AK DOES WHAT HE SAYS.

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