PROTECTED: Agricultural lands were protected by the scrapping of the regional plan of 2011 presented by Atanasio Babush Monserrate, but those who agitated and got the plan scrapped don’t seem to be concerned now if the Mhadei river which is the Mandovi river in Goa dries up bit by bit and turns into a creek or a gutter!

By Rajan Narayan

Have Goans stopped caring for Goa? Do they realize that they will have less and less water if the Mhadei river headwaters are diverted to Karnataka? The casinos will be parked in a dead Mandovi river gutter or creek or come ashore, and of course the movement of ore by barges will have to stop. Such an imminent possible economic disaster does not seem to invoke too much concern in Goa among Goans! Compromising and turning a grey or blind eye is everything.

THERE was a time in Goa when I remember Goans came out to protest in large numbers whenever they felt Goa’s interests were being compromised with or sacrificed. Both Catholics and Hindus came together to prevent the merger of Goa with Maharashtra. It was presumed that because Hindus were in the majority, Goans would vote for a merger with Maharashtra. The fact is that it is the Hindu vote which swung statehood for Goa and this was achieved by patriotic niz Goenkars the Hindu VM Salgaocar, Chandrakant Keni, Uday Bhembre and the Catholic Jack Sequeira coming together to get Goans to vote against the merger with Maharashtra in 1967.
Then there was the language agitation. Though everyone accepted that Konkani is the mother tongue of 98% of the people of Goa it did not enjoy official language status. This is because it did not have a recognized standardized script like Maharashtra had. The GD Kosambi group formulated a script for Konkani in the Devanagiri script. A number of Konkani academics and writers started writing in Konkani, scriptures as well as novels and poems. By now there was a demand that Konkani should be made the official language of Goa in 1985 – and not Marathi (although many Goans were educated during the Portuguese years in Portuguese and later in Marathi schools).
A huge agitation came up for Konkani to be the official language in Goa with both Hindu and Catholic Goans participating in it. Despite the opposition from the Marathi group in the Pratapsingh Raoji Rane cabinet, a resolution to declare Konkani as the official language was passed with a little pressure from then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

WHEN Babush Monserrate joined the BJP in 2005 and was appointed the Town & Country Planning minister there was a huge public protest. Babush has single-handedly literally sold all the agricultural lands of Taleigao and its vicinity to various builders. Babush broadened the roads in his own then village Taleigao at his expense so that builders would get access to put up multi-storied constructions the uncultivated paddy fields of Taleigaokars. The story goes that Babush called all the builders to his residence and told him to color the TCP map in whatever fashion they liked. So all the green disappeared in favor of settlements and commercial exploitation.
So much so most everyone else but the building lobby were outraged and the Goa Bachao Abhiyan was founded with Dr Oscar Rebello as chairperson. Architect Dean D’cruz and his colleagues went from village to village explaining the consequences of implementing Babush’s monstrous urbanizing regional plan. The then Chief Minister Digambar Kamat was forced to scrap the plan and an expert committee was appointed under the chairmanship of Charles Correa and former chief town planner of India Edgar Rebello to formulate a more suitable new regional plan keeping in mind the people’s larger interests. There were objections to this plan too but certainly, the worst effect of the earlier TCP proposed by Babush Monserrate was avoided.

IN the light of all the above observations we are shocked that when Goans earlier showed so much enthusiasm and spirit in protecting the interests of Goa first, they now remain silent when the BJP’s Central Home Minister Amit Shah publically declared that the BJP government at the Centre had handed over the Mhadei River to Karnataka.
We know the Mhadei river is located in the hilly catchment forested areas in Karnataka’s Western Ghats and it is here the headwaters arise to flow majorly into Goa to form the Mandovi river all the way to the Arabian sea, the source of fresh riverine water and so many waterway activities in Goa including agriculture. The Mhadei is really the Mandovi river of Goa. If the headwaters are diverted in Karnataka in time to come the waters in the Mandovi river will dwindle and dry up to dangerous levels and there may be no Mandovi river left.
Hitherto it has been Mandovi river sources which supply drinking water to several parts of Goa, even agriculture along the river Mandovi will be affected. The effect of handing over Mhadei head waters to Karnataka is akin to taking away Goa’s water resources, destroying the Mandovi river and consequently the livelihood of the Goan people.

DESPITE all this staring Goans starkly in the face they are not concerned? Are they rats willing to run away? Forget about public protests there have been only feeble protests from Congress, AAP or the MCP or any other party. Even the so called Goa Revolutionary party which makes so much noise otherwise is helpless.
The battles against diversion of Mhadei to Karnataka have been on for years. We have seen several huge morcha against this led by former power minister of Goa, Nirmala Sawant, environmentalist Rajendra Kerkar and others who love Goa uncompromisingly. Alas, when the axe actually fell, there was not a whimper. Are the people of Goa so frightened of Amit Shah that they feel they may get arrested and locked up behind bars if they protest against this latest insensitive act of exploiting Goa for political reasons by the Central government? Nobody can take on Amit Shah?
Both the states of Karnataka and Goa are ruled by the BJP. Within the BJP everything is decided by the High Command which affectively means Amit Shah. Amit Shah is not concerned about the welfare of any small individual state governed by the BJP. He is only interested in the larger picture of ensuring that Narendra Modi wins parliamentary elections again next year in 2024. For him the Lok Sabha seats in Karnataka and the assembly are more important than the larger and smaller interests of Goa. In any case he knows that Goan MLAs whichever party they may elected on can be bought up. Goa is a kharedi yatra state.
There is one other aspect which should perhaps be considered. When I discussed the issue with some of my Mhadei activist friends they claimed that Goa’s leaders have all become old, that Gen Next in Goa in Goa is just not concerned. Perhaps this explains why there have been no or lackluster protests from Goan leaders like Oscar Rebello or Claude Alvares or even Edgar Rebello and all those who were really concerned about Goa once upon a time.
There is also the demographic factor. Since the BJP came to power in 2014 a large number of Goans, particularly Catholic Goans, have been migrating abroad. So much so the proportion of the Catholic population has fallen from 40% in 1980 to 16.40% today. This explains why St Andre which is the traditional Catholic constituency voted for a non-Catholic party of the late Vishnu Wagh and Manoj Parab now.

AMIT Shah’s confidence that the BJP will win the south Goa seat is based on the sharp decline in the Catholic population in Salcette. The sad part of it all is that Goans have become a minority in their own state. A leader of one of the Kannadiga groups claims that there are 18,000 Kannadigas in Goa. To this you may add all the permanent migrants from Andhra Pradesh and the other states and any day soon migrants may exceed the population of native Goans locals. The only obstacle to Amit Shah’s attempts to saffronise Goa are the two major minority communities — the Catholics and the Muslims. The face of Goa is changing quickly and steadily.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

63 − = 57