SACRED: Goa’s village farmers worship the king cobra or Nag Dev on Nag Panchami day during the monsoon, They know that snakes keep the rodent population down to save the crops
BY RAJAN NARAYAN
AND a few stray thoughts and a few observations for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when there was another car crash in which two senior citizens died and their daughter and granddaughter are battling for life in a hospital. This is part of a series of over half-a-dozen tragic car crashes which Goa has witnessed over the last one month.
Starting with the death of the former block president of the Congress party from Loutalim in south Goa Priscilla D’Cruz, whose car with all its four occupants fell into the Zuari river. The much loved family from Loutalim never expected to meet a watery grave. This accident came on the heels of another family in an SUV from Cortalim which crashed into the railing of the Zuari bridge and falling into the river in early hours of Thursday. There were no survivors. This is in addition to other tragic traffic accidents like the death of a police constable at the Atal Setu bridge who was run over by a tempo.
In the case of the senior couple who died on their way home from the airport on Monday morning, Aug1, they had just landed from Dubai. Ironically, they had come to Goa to attend a funeral of one of their grandchildren. The grandson of the victims Joaquim Rodrigues, 72 and Leena Rodrigues, 74, their 52 years old daughter Jessy Rodrigues and 16-year-old granddaughter, were all in the taxi when it crashed. The taxi driver Benny Pereira, 54, from Chinchinim, who had been hired by their grandson to pick up the family, dozen off and hit a road divider on the Navelim-Cuncolim highway early on Tuesday. The driver survived, according to him he had started from Carmona at 3am and after collecting his passengers at the airport dozed off near Navelim on the 4-lane highway joining Navelim to Cuncolim. The hit the central divider separating the lanes on the right hand side and then hit a compound wall on the left side.
A hyperactive Director General of Police Jaspal Singh has been attributing the spate of car crashes to drunken driving. In the latest incident of the senior citizens from Dubai the driver was not drunk. It has been repeatedly pointed out by Goan citizens that it is the state of the roads in Goa which are much to blame for many of the tragic accidents taking place. The prestigious Atal Setu project which was a dream come true for the late Manohar Parrikar has more potholes than motorable stretches of road.
We recall that on the eve of his death on May 13, 2021 Manohar Parrikar with tubes running through his nose, went up to the Atal Setu bridge with the war cry of “Josh bhi hai aur hosh bhi hai!” Regrettably, both josh and hosh didn’t last long. Even Babush Monserrate has been complaining about the state of the roads in Panjim and Taleigao. The MLAs of the local constituencies are involved in choosing the contractors for building and repairing the roads. In this case Babush and wife Jennifer are the MLAs of Panaji and Talegao, respectively. But they could not take any action against the contractor as they pretend because NMV Constructions, owned by Venkata Rao, is closely related to now former vice-president of the BJP Venkaiah Naidu.
Zuari bridge which is part of the National Highways Project, presided over by Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari, has witnessed several tragedies. The old Zuari bridge is in such a fragile state that like the old Mandovi bridge it might collapse any day soon. The 8-lane new Zuari bridge was supposed to have been commissioned and completed by August 15 for the BJP’s celebration of the 75th Amrit Mahotsav on India’s Independence day.
It should not come as a surprise that the contract for the new Zuari bridge has been granted to Dilip Buildcon Ltd from Yogi Adityanath’s Uttar Pradesh. Nitin Gadkari on his part is more concerned over the 100 metre high towers to come up on the new bridge which will serve a shopping complex and have a revolving restaurant at the top. There is no sign of even one lane of the new Zuari bridge being completed by end-2022. What is important is not the construction of the 8-lane expressways but to ensure proper maintenance of existing infrastructure of roads in Goa.
The PWD superman Nilesh Cabral first bought a machine which was supposed to repair potholes. It proved to be a total disaster. Now according to citizen Stephen Dias they have bought a new machine from a new contractor which might prove to be a little more effective. With Venkaiah Naidu no longer being the vice-president of India the protection so far enjoyed by NVR Developers may end.
UNIQUE TRADITIONS OF GOA
AND a few stray thoughts on the unique festival traditions of Goa. This is not limited to the harvest festival in Taleigao which is really a Portuguese legacy. When Admiral Afonso de Albuquerque was defeated by Adil Shah, the Portuguese soldiers had to retreat with their fleet into the Mandovi river. By then the sandbar had come down and they could not return to their headquarters in Cochin. Every year the Aguada sand bar reaches a point when navigation is impossible and when no ships may enter or leave the river.
Later after getting reinforcements from Cochin and the sandbar had lifted the Portuguese managed to oust Adil Shah from what is even now known as the Adil Shah Palace. It is as a mark of gratitude that the Portuguese conferred the honour to Taleigao of being the first village in the state to harvest crops. To this day in an elaborate church-organised ceremony the sheaves of corn (paddy) are taken in a procession to the Raj Bhavan for the governor. For Goan Hindus is it not Diwali or Dassera or Rakhi Bandhan or Durga Puja which are main festivals for celebration. For the Konkan coast the more important Hindu festivals are e Nag Panchmi and Ganesh Chaturthi.
Tulsi Vivah is considered more significant than Diwali by Goans. But this only true of the Gaud Saraswat Brahmins. For the rural tribal communities of Goa it is Nag Panchmi which is an important festival. They are the traditional farmers of Goa and know the important role played by reptile or snakes including king cobra. It is snakes which keep feed on the rodent population and keep the crops in the fields safe. That is way since time immemorial farmers have treated snakes and the king cobra as worth of reverence. Children learn early in life to handle snakes and never to kill them.
Hence, the celebration of Nag Panchami, which was on Tuesday, August 2. Goans have an interesting ritual on every Nag Panchami whereby the entire extended family comes together in the ancestral home, here they make a clay image of Nag Dev or king cobra and worship it together in puja; in the evening after sunset the clay image of Nag Dev is taken in a procession to the fields – which they consider the king cobra’s natural habitat.
We discovered the importance of Nag Panchami to Goenkars by accident. When a business associate told us all his employees were on leave on the day because of Nag Panchmi. When I asked him what was so important about Nag Panchmi, he told me that traditionally in rural Goa the Nag or king cobra is respected and revered as the protector and guardian angel of their livelihood. Except that the existing political versions of the king cobra are actually venomous vipers who destroy agricultural land and convert them into concrete jungles.
Nag Panchami is hardly noticed in urban areas in Goa because unlike in other parts of the country, there is no tradition of snake charmers trying to make a killing by taking baskets of snakes from home to home for blessings. Ironically, ignorant housewives offer the snake in the basket milk, without understanding that snake is the natural food of the reptile family and all the milk showered on it eventually means the victim snake will die of pneumonia or be killed by its owner after his money has come in. Nag Panchami may be celebrated in a very low key fashion and is largely limited to the villages of Goa where there is an agricultural heritage.
This heritage has been destroyed by the trio of Babush Monserrate, Sudhin Dhavalikar and now the biggest monster of them all, current Town & Country Planning Minister Vishwajit Rane. The chairperson of the North Goa Planning & Development Authority is now Jennifer Monseratte and plans are likely on to convert the Kadamba plateau into a Navi Mumbai or Navi Goa. At the expense of whatever is left of the hillocks and greenery of the Kadamba plateau which has now become a Gera nightmare. I am sorry that leading tennis stars like Leander Paez are supporting the destruction of the Kadamba plateau. We may also mention in this connection that architect Charles Correa was not the saint he is projected to be, he violated CRZ rules while building the bungalows for himself and his friends by the river Mandovi riverside riverside at Verem.
AND a few stray thoughts of the continuing land grab that is going on in Goa. This includes the huge villa built by Naina NC , daughter of Nana Chudasame, former mayor of Mumbai who is a leading BJP spokesperson. Her massive villa falls within the heritage zone of the Se Cathedral in Old Goa. This was confirmed in a written reply to Luzinho Faleiro, the Rajya Sabha Trinamool MP in Parlaiment itself. Another land grab is to do with Smriti Irani and her daughter’s Silly Souls Bar and Restaurant in Assagao. In the last decade the beautiful village of Assagao, which included several smaller villages like Bardez, have gone upmarket to the extent that it is competing with Baga and Candolim as a shopping and party destination for world travellers.
All the old heritage homes have been taken over by outsiders or baile from Delhi, most of them being politicians or their relatives or business or political friends. It has been revealed that the contractor for the Old Goa illegal villa and Silly Souls in Assagao is the same person. The State government has set up a special investigation team to probe such illegal grabbing of land. So far the SIT has identified a hundred properties illegally transferred to outsiders or non-Goans. In 35 of these cases first information reports have been registered. It is becoming increasingly clear that a huge syndicate inclusive of politicians, police, bureaucrats and T&C Planning officials themselves are involved in the land grabs going on.
Traditionally, it has been difficult to illegally transfer land in Goa. This is because the Portuguese through their Uniform Civil Code had instituted a very strict system of checks and balances. This included the Registrar of Records in the Revenue department that every change in the ownership of a property was registered. This does not happen when you buy a property on agreement for sale. It only happens when you enter into a sale deed.
Most buyers from out of Goa do not bother to do an inventory check or register their property to escape paying stamp duty. Once you have registered your property you can go to the mamlatdar and ask him to change the name of the original owner of the property in the registrar of land records. In addition to the land records the Portuguese had a system called matriz where every local community like the villagers and the comunidades kept a record of the ownership of the property. There were in fact four layers of checks. According to the Uniform Civil Code on the death of a spouse only 50% of the property is inherited by the children. The remaining 50% belongs to the surviving spouse. The surviving spouse is free to dispose his/her part of the property however they wish. So when a sale deed is drawn up the provenance of the property is recorded from the great grandfather to the existing owners. It is not widely realized that the agreement of sale or even the sale deed issued by the registrar is not worth the paper it is written on. It is for you to ensure that you do a title check which may only be done by a lawyer familiar with Portuguese. What is scary is that the present scamsters seem to have invented new inventory records to illegally sell large parts of property. Amongst the victims was a former Goan Olympian who had settled in the USA. She got her property back after eight years of litigation.
AND a few stray thoughts on the Central University Entrance Test (CUET) which has been introduced by the Central government to replace the multiple separate exams like National Eligibility Test (NET) for admission to medical course. And the JEE (IIT-Joint Entrance Exam) for admission to the top engineering colleges. The Central government has replaced them with CUET which is a common entrance test for entry to more than 300 Central universities. The distinctive advantage of CUET is that you can choose a multiple choice of courses. For the first time as in the developed countries you can combine music with mathematics and not be restricted to physics, chemistry, biology for medicine and physics, chemistry and mathematics for engineering.
The students will have the option of joining any of the 300 Central universities depending on their merit. So far already 3.5 lakh students have registered for the online multiple choice test to be held on September 14. The university which has attracted the largest number of applications is the Benaras Hindu University. On an average each university has attracted two lakh applications and it may grow by the time the exam is held. The flip part is in the process is higher secondary has been devalued as you need only 50% marks to qualify for the CUET. Earlier even for the NET you needed 98% in the Higher Secondary.