BATTLE ROYAL: Cortalim will witness a bitter battle between the widow of Mathany Saldanha, Alina Saldanha, who recently shifted from the BJP to the Aam Aadmi party, while Olencio is the Congress candidate.
By Gary Azavedo
Olencio Simoes is the nephew of the champion of the Ramponkars, Mathany Saldanha. Olencio, who was expecting the ticket for the Cortalim constituency when Mathany died prematurely, continues to be committed to the cause of the traditional fishermen and protection and preservation of Goa’s fragile coastal ecology.
GOAN OBSERVER (GO): Why is Olencio Simoes the best candidate for the Cortalim constituency?
OLENCIO SIMOES (OS): In 2012, at the age of 25 years, I had joined Goenchea Ramponkarancho Ekvott (GRE), which was the first traditional fishermens’ organisation formed in the year 1973, and the National Fishworkers Forum (NFF) formed in the year 2013 which is the biggest federation of fishworkers of India.
Ever since, I have been fighting to protect the livelihood of the fishworkers, the coastal environment of Goa and the coastal states of India. I currently hold the post of general secretary of the GRE, the All Goa Fishermen Union (AGFU) and the NFF which have been instrumental in suggesting, fighting and recommending positive changes towards the environment, viz protection of the areas, protection of mangroves, fight against depleting sea resources, rampant misuse of natural resources, unsustainable development, etc.
I was instrumental in forming the Goa United Workmen Union (GUWU) and was elected as president in 2019 to raise the voice and address the grievances of the workmen for a better standard of living, to obtain optimum output. I am also the joint secretary of Goencho Ekvott which is an environmental NGO instrumental in fighting the three linear projects in Goa.
I have my Bachelor of Arts (BA) majoring in Sociology, Bachelor of Business Management (BBA), Masters in Business Management (MBA), Bachelor in Physical Education (BPEd) and I am currently pursuing a distant Masters in Physical Education (MP Ed). As teacher by profession who quit his job in 2015, due to lack of time to focus on social activism, I have ideas and concepts that will bring about a change in terms of infrastructure, up-lifting of the marginalised and discriminated sections of society, education, policy changes, etc.
However, I have found it difficult (but not impossible), to implement the same due to the high-headedness and undemocratic process of subsequent governments in the state and the country.
Some of the changes/agitations I led along with fellow activists are as follows:
- I was instrumental in the fight against illegal dredging by MPT in Goa. I along with Old Cross Fishing Canoe Owners Co-operative Society Ltd (OCFCOCSL) took MPT to the National Green Tribunal (NGT) and have been instrumental in unearthing the scam which was done in connivance between national and state governments. The fight led to a successful stay order against the illegal dredging, putting big time corrupt politicians under the radar.
- I fought against the illegal demolition order of 400 houses of the fisher folk of the Vasco coast. Along with other fishermen I filed a writ petition in the Bombay High Court at Goa. Here again we were successful as the High Court and NGT set aside the demolition order of the government.
- I have been instrumental in bringing a ban on destructive methods of fishing, viz bull trawling, LED light fishing and the use of high-speed engines in Goa and in India, something for which I was arrested on May 12, 2016. My constant pressure on governmental authorities via strikes, lockouts and dharna forced the government at state and central levels to ban the use of LED lights and bull/pair trawling in India’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and in territorial waters.
- I have attended consultations on fishworkers issues between India and Pakistan in New Delhi. I represented Goa at Capacity Building Workshop on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
- I am the founder member and general secretary of All Goa Fishermen Union (AGFU). A union wherein the traditional fishermen and mechanised fishermen of Goa, joined hands after almost 46 years of fighting against each other. I was instrumental in negotiating and resolving the two fisher parties to fight for a common larger cause.
- I was actively involved in the fight against CRZ violations in coastal areas, especially in Velsao, Cansaulim, etc. Due to my intervention, the satellite port project at Betul was scrapped. I led a strong opposition on marinas which were eventually scrapped at Sancoale and kept on hold at Siridao. I was successful in opposing mechanised beach cleaning in Goa. I was instrumental in opposing seaplanes in Goa which would prohibit fishing or other related activity. Thus, severely affecting the livelihood of the traditional fishermen.
I was instrumental in increasing subsidies for the poor and the marginalised fishermen of Goa. I opposed the ‘Blue Flag’ certification in Miramar beach in 2019 which was eventually dropped. I opposed tetrapods at Velsao beach because this would only accelerate beach erosion. Terapods will only destroy our sandy beaches – as has happened in Kerala, Chennai and Pondicherry.
- I was involved in the historic eight-day public hearing at Vasco da Gama and was successful in placing objections to the three expansion plans of Mormugao Port Trust (MPT) — which are the Sagarmala plans in Goa. I successfully firmly opposed MPT plans to take over the entire Khariwado
beach for POL jetty.
- I am one of the pioneer members of Goa Against Coal movement. Also one of the pioneer members of Our Rivers, Our Right movement fought against declassifying six rivers in Goa. I am an active member of the Goencho Avaaz fight to scrap Regeional Plan 2021. I formed the Goa Against CRZ18 movement to protest against the latest dilution of CRZ Notification 2011. In 2020 I joined the NGO Goencho Ekvott NGO, wherein I was appointed as the joint secretary, and I fought vociferously the three linear projects in Goa. I was re-elected as vice-chairperson of NFF at the annual general body meeting at Ernakulam, Kerala, in 2019.
- I represented India at the World Social Forum (WSF) at Helen Joseph St. Newton, Johannesberg, South Africa wherein 90 countries and 400 trade unions attended the meeting. I deliberated at the forum regarding the ill-effects of Blue Economy in India which is named as Sagarmala program.
- I organised a formal interaction between the honourable Members of Parliament (MP) and the traditional fishing communities, their unions, and local community leaders from across the country at the Deputy Chairman Hall, Constitution Club, Delhi. The program was titled “Coastal Regulations: From Protection to Destruction, An Interaction with Parliamentarians.” It highlighted the objections to the Draft CRZ Notification 2018 and the repercussions of infrastructure development projects like Coastal Industrial Corridors, Sagarmala, Bharatmala, economic zones, power plants, petroleum and manufacturing plants along India’s coastlines on the lives and livelihoods of fishing communities. I participated in the national protest on proposed shipping corridor in all coastal states of India from Kutch to Kanya Kumari.
- GRE organised a mega meeting at Lohia Maidan against the CRZ Notification 2019 demanding to withdraw the new CRZ Notification. I demanded to postpone the public hearing of CZMP which was to be held on July 2, 2020. I led a strong campaign against the faulty CZMP plan and took the government to the court. Thereby, striking down the entire process of the public hearing and asking the government to re-do the entire process.
- I was actively involved in the people’s march against CAA, NRC and NPR movement in Goa. I firmly opposed the land acquisition at Pale and Issorcim for double-tracking in 2018.
- I was actively involved in helping people during the on-going COVID pandemic crisis. I also raised the demand for containment zones and testing facilities in Cortalim.
- I was instrumental in negotiating the historic decision taken by the management of the Zuari Agro Chemical Limited (ZACL) which is the oldest chemical industry in India for free testing of COVID-19 for their workers which could, in turn, save the lives of many in the industry.
- I was awarded the first Goenkarponn Award 2018 for “committed life service towards betterment of Goa.” Besides, I was awarded the first place on World Environment Day 2021 by the Salesian Sisters of Mumbai Province for growing screw pine shrubs to arrest sand erosion on our beaches. I have worked for 10 years for the people of Goa and I have actively participated in TV debates giving opinions and suggestions to the government in the interests of the state.
I wish to work toward making electoral changes in the state of Goa so that Goa can have better governance and work towards policy changes. So that there can be a balance between the economy and social well-being of every individual in Goa.
GO: In 2017 you had contested as an AAP candidate but lost that election. What were the reasons for your defeat?
OS: It was because they (AAP) were hobnobbing with the BJP’s agenda and propaganda aiding in destroying the secular principles of our Constitution of India. AAP and Arvind Kejriwal have shown their clear affiliation and support to BJP right from India Against Corruption (IAC) movement till date, as he has supported Article 370 which bifurcated the state of Jammu & Kashmir. Also the recent silence on the communal violence in northeast Delhi in February 2020 and the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) Bill has showcased that still waters run deep.
Arvind Kejriwal has misled the people of Delhi as his party fought the election promising the Jan Lokpal Bill, Delhi Swaraj Bill and full statehood for Delhi, but he has diverted peoples’ issues to mere freebies. Arvind Kejriwal is clearly backed by the RSS right from India Against Corruption (IAC) movement and the formation of AAP which is working in the style of Narendra Modi. Modi is roaming around the world to sell India and Kejriwal is roaming around India with tax-payer money to finish India.
Why are the CMs Mamata Banerjee of West Bengal, Naveen Patnaik of Odisha, Nitish Kumar of Bihar, Pinarayi Vijayan of Kerala, Kalvakuntla Chandrashekhar Rao of Telangana and Jagan Mohan Reddy of Andhra Pradesh not roaming around to expand their party? Why is only AAP roaming entire India? Because it is the BJP who is supporting him (Kejriwal) with the entire machinery.
I am disappointed with the Arvind Kejriwal government that reiterates honest politics but it is has not practiced it. We need to figure out why prominent leaders like Prashant Bhushan, Yogendra Yadav, Ashutosh and many other founder members of AAP have left the party in a jiffy and the same holds true for Punjab where the Opposition leader Sukhpal Khaira quit the party along with two MLAs.
The development model is a “jumla” in Delhi as the government health care system has failed and Delhi has witnessed more than 25,000 deaths during this on-going covid pandemic. The distrust was surfacing when I observed that AAP proved itself to be communal as well as corrupt, as their ZP candidate in Benaulim won on a fraud OBC certificate. The Kejiriwal-led government could have prevented the recent church demolition in Delhi. His indifferent attitude shows clearly that AAP is compromised on its ideology and principles.
During Kejriwal’s recent visit to Goa, the Delhi CM Kejriwal spoke of freebies and electricity but side-lined the core issues of double-tracking, river nationalisation, CZMP, coal and several main issues of Goa. If a Konkani academy could be set up in Delhi then why cannot they at least rebuild the church in Delhi? It stands clear that they are contesting again just like in 2017 with the sole intention to divide the secular votes in Goa. AAP is never serious about winning the elections. It is only interested in getting six per cent vote share to get the national party status. They never supported my campaign.
GO: Why did you choose the Congress party instead of the other parties also in the fray?
OS: First of all Congress is a movement formed 135 years back to give India freedom against British rule. Congress has built this nation brick by brick. I firmly believe in Rahul Gandhi and his policies as he is like his late father and former prime minister, Rajiv Gandhi, who believed in youth empowerment – it was Rajiv Gandhi who reduced the voting age from 21 years to 18 years!
GO: What are the problems plaguing Cortalim constituency which present and past MLAs have failed miserably to address?
OS: It’s a shame that even after 60 years of independence, people are suffering for want of basic amenities like water, electricity, road, sewerage treatment plant, garbage plant, pre-primary education, etc, which the MLA has miserably failed to provide even after 10 years, and specially when her party was ruling both at centre and state.
GO: What is your vision and manifesto for the Cortalim constituency?
OS: My manifesto for Cortalim constituency is as follows:
1) 24X7 water supply and new water connections to be provided to all houses on priority basis
2) Laying of underground cable line throughout Cortalim constituency
3) Sewerage Treatment Plant (STP) throughout Cortalim constituency
4) Garbage plant and regular door-to-door collection of wet/dry garbage
5) Job reservation for people of Cortalim constituency at Verna and Sancoale industrial estate
6) Accident-free and along with proper sign boards and pothole-free roads
7) Solar village at Quelossim
8) Declare Quelossim, Consua, Cuilem as tribal villages
9) Declare heritage houses in Cortalim
10) Door-to-door facilities from the MLA’s office for all senior citizens/handicapped/needy
11) Provision of free WIFI at all market complexes, schools, churches, temples, mosque, stadiums and health clinics
12) Provision of agricultural machinery viz tractors, weed cutters, harvesters and multi-crop seed-sowing machines to every Panchayat for ease of farming throughout the constituency
13) Plantation of 1,00,000 saplings throughout the constituency to reduce carbon emissions
14) Provision of economical housing for poor SC/ST/OBC families
15) A fire brigade sub-station near Kala Bhavan
16) Collaboration with cultural department for weekly beach entertainment shows in order to encourage local musicians/artists in Arossim and Velsao
17) Identification, rejuvenation and beautification of all water springs within the constituency and converting them into tourist spots
18) Organisation of competitive sports tournaments (ward/village-wise) in collaboration with Directorate of Sports & Youth Affairs, Goa. Winners of these tournaments will be supported and encouraged by the State to pursue a career in their respective sport
19) De-silting and revival/rejuvenation of all wells, ponds, nullah and lakes throughout the constituency
20) Bio-toilet facilities for all houses who do not have toilets
21) All open drainage will be covered with concrete slabs
22) Electrification of all roads and footpaths throughout the constituency
23) Water connections to be provided to all houses on priority basis
24) Restoration of all fields and wells in the Cortalim constituency
25) Upgrading of all dilapidated Balwadi schools
26) Promote homestay sustainable tourism which will benefit every household in the constituency
27) All government schemes will be bought to the doorstep of every constituent
28) Free health checkup for everyone to help fatalities due to chronic diseases and Covid-19
29) Beach nourishment at Velsao to Arossim so as to reduce erosion
30) Food court and organic farmers market at every Panchayat venue.
Matter to be taken to the Central government:
1) De-notification of MPT jurisdiction over inland and coastal waters in Cortalim constituency
2) Scrap double-tracking at Arossim, Cansaulim, Velsao, Pale and Issorcim
3) Stop dilution of Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) and scrap the CRZ Notification 2019
4) De-notify six rivers of Goa (River Mandovi, Zuari, Chapora, Mapusa, Cumbharjua and Sal) from the Inland Waterways Act, 2016.
5) Withdraw the autonomy given to MPT under the Major Port Authorities Bill, 2021
- Rejuvenate the fields at Honddadi-Sindolim
- A museum depicting the life of St. Joseph Vaz at the St. Joseph Vaz Sanctuary
- A service road running parallel to the highway/flyover/underpass which will reduce motor accidents at Kala Bhavan connecting Sindolim
- Up-gradation of the Primary Health Center;
- Construction of a multipurpose sports complex near Kala Bhavan
- Completion of the construction of Kala Bhavan which has been neglected for the last eight years
- Outdoor gymnasium-cum-garden at Leo Park Colony, MES
- Footpath near Caitan Ferrao’s house in Sindolim
- Restoration of fields in Simpal
1) Provision of bio-toilets to end the menace of open defecation and safety of women
2) Rehabilitation of encroachers in a phased manner in Zuari Nagar
3) A service road running parallel to the highway/flyover which will reduce motor accidents at MES junction
4) A service road running parallel to the highway/flyover which will reduce motor accidents at Upas Nagar
5) A service road running parallel to the highway/flyover which will reduce motor accidents at Kala Bhavan
6) Construction of Primary Health Clinic at Zuarinagar
7) Construction of a road connecting Mahalaxmi Colony, Zuari Nagar
8) A market complex-cum-gymnasium-cum-stilt parking in Zuari Nagar
9) Outdoor gymnasium-cum-garden at Kiran Niketan Primary School
10) Outdoor gymnasium-cum-garden at Housing Board colony
11) Provision of land for Muslim cemetery and Hindu crematorium
12) Construction of a multipurpose sports complex at Zuari Nagar
1) Scrap the mini-India project
2) Construction of Primary Health Clinic
3) De-silting and revival of nullah in Quellossim
4) Repairs of sluice gate and bund
5) A service road running parallel to the highway/flyover which will reduce motor accidents near Toyota showroom
6) A service road running parallel to the highway/flyover which will reduce motor accidents near Kesarval hotel
7) Restoration of the Kesarval spring
8) A Panchayat Ghar at Quelossim
9) A sports ground at Quelossim
10) A farmers market
- A service road running parallel to the highway/flyover which will reduce motor accidents at Thana junction
- A service road running parallel to the highway/flyover which will reduce motor accidents at Voddant/Consua
- Up-gradation of Primary Health Center in Consua
- Up-gradation of all government schools in Cortalim
- Construction of a memorial and statue of Tristão de Bragança Cunha at Consua
- Road access near Dumelina Gomes house
- Gutters covered with slabs at Curpavaddo near Bregilia Carvalho’s house
- Restoration and beautification of Zambal Spring
- Road access in Nova Palmar
- Road access near Santosh Naik’s house in Pajentar
- Road access near Angela Fernandes’ house in Patxea Bhatt
- Footpath near Valino Carvalho’s house in Consua
- Repairs of sluice gate and bund
- Farmers market
- Toilets-cum-changing room at Arossim beach
- Taxi stand-cum-rest room near Heritage Hotel
- Renourishment and plantation of Ammophila (beach grass) in order to slow the process of beach erosion at Arossim beach
- Scrapping of all licenses provided to Competent Automobiles for construction of a five-star hotel in contravention of CRZ
- Road access in Sukbhatt near Matthew’s house
- Road access in Ranale near Thomas’ house
- Rail underpass at Arossim
- Rail underpass (RUB) at level crossing number 25 near primary school at Cansaulim
- Construction of a market complex in Cansaulim
- Toilets-cum-changing room at Cansaulim beach
- Taxi stand-cum-rest room near Park Hyatt
- Re-nourishment and plantation of Ammophila (beach grass) in order to slow the process of beach erosion at Cansaulim beach
- Road connecting Corttarvaddo to Alice Almeida’s house near the proposed Cansaulim market complex
- Road near Godfrey Corriea’s house
- Joggers-cum-cycling track on either side of Verna road
- Road access in Cottarvaddo near Antonio Colaco’s house
- Outdoor gymnasium-cum-garden of the neglected garden in Baga Vaddo near Pascolina Braganza’s house
- Repair and de-silting of nullah near Natalin Dias’ house in Cottarvaddo
- Road access near Conceisao Xavier’s road in Costavaddo
- Road access from Kumsar to Josefin Souza’s house
- Foot bridge near Cansaulim market for ease of railway line crossing
- Farmers market
- Joggers-cum-cycling on either side of the road near Three Kings Way restaurant to Kutmon
- Road/anti-skid pavers till Issa Carvalho’s house
- Road/anti-skid pavers from Issa Carvalho’s house in Ossoilem until Purdence’s house
- Road/anti-skid pavers in Battim till John D’Silva’s house
- Hot-mix of road near Anita Mohandas Naik’s house
- Repairs of sluice gate and bund
- Toilets-cum-changing room at Velsao beach
- Regularization of all fisherpersons’ houses at Velsao
- Road access in Kattem
- Repairs of sluice gate and bund
- Rail underpass at Velsao
- Toilets-cum-changing room at Hollant beach
- Ramp-cum-shed for docking of fishing canoes at Hollant
GO: What are your views on tainted politicians (with serious criminal and corruption charges against them) being given tickets to contest the forthcoming assembly elections?
OS: I firmly believe that the tickets should be given to law-abiding citizens.
GO: What are your views on family raj and dynasty raj in politics?
OS: I believe that we should groom new capable visionary leaders and give a chance to new faces, then only we can take Goa in a new direction. It depends on the party and the candidate, how capable he or she is!
GO: What are your views on frequent defectors being given tickets to contest the forthcoming assembly elections?
OS: Those who played with the emotions of voters and future of Goa should never be forgiven. They should be sent back home as they were never interested in the welfare of Goa!