By Rajan Narayan
AND a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when Goans are not safe even at their own workplace. For a Saturday following the week when the Goa Bench of Bombay High Court ordered the demolition of illegal structures on khazan lans. For a Saturday following the week when the `Goan Observer’ crossed 20 years of independent journalism. For a Saturday following the week when the state took a step forward to make public transport electric vehicle-friendly. For a Saturday following the week when the government threatened to cancel casino licenses if the applicant is convicted.
And a few stray thoughts on how Goans are not safe even in their homes and workplaces. The drunken manners of tourists who come to Goa are unbearable. Sachin Kurup, a resident of Pune in Maharashtra, who was allegedly drunk, is thought to have come to pick up a friend in a drunken stupor and he drove 50 to 60 meters inside the Maior Roma Resort and struck Remedia Albuquerque, 57, a resident from Vagator and owner of the resort. Remedia was mowed down by the Harayana-based SUV of the drunken driver while she was standing and talking on the phone at the reception counter of her resort. The reception of the resort, which is at the end of a slope, is close to the parking area.
The accident has once again brought to the fore drunken driving in the Anjuna-Vagator area. A delegation of residents from Vagator that came to the Anjuna Police Station on Sunday, November 12, at around 3.15 pm, an FIR was filed at the police station for failure to keep in check tourists who drink and drive the roads of Goa in the late and wee hours of the morning. One of the delegation members said the insurance of the SUV had expired in August this year and sought to know what action the police will take in the matter against the owner of the vehicle.
Another delegation member said the police have no proper alcometers to check drunken driving and the only thing they were good at is penalising helmetless two-wheeler riders. A lady delegation member said tourists feel they can do anything when they are in Goa and that it is becoming unsafe to ride or drive at night because of drunken tourist drivers in their own or rented vehicles.
When Goans drink they stick to the roads but another accident we remember is the Banastarim collision in August this year when a drunken driver from an affluent family mowed down more than five hapless people, resulting in the death of three, while returning from a party. Incidentally, the couple responsible for the Banastarim accident are now scot-free and got bail easily – this is what happens in the case of most accidents in which a rich man or woman is responsible. Such drunken driving is responsible for the death of Dr Oscar Rebello’s father. He was crossing the street at Campal promenade and an unidentified vehicle knocked him down. The driver of the vehicle escaped.
The tragedy is that in most cases where drivers are identified the police do not act in time. Admittedly, the maximum period of conviction has been substantially increased, but it does not prove to be deterrent for drunken driving. Goa does not have safeguards against drunken driving, particularly for tourists coming into the state to have a merry wild time. At least there should be public pressure for this kind of behaviour to be stop.
In the Vagator accident too the family of the resort had to go to the Anjuna police station to lodge a complaint. Goa police stations should keep a check on those who drink and drive. They don’t seem to very effective considering that such incidents are killing many people now and again. In this case of an SUV driving into the reception counter of the resort seems bizarre. In addition to the death of the woman concerned, employees of the resort at the counter were also injured by the out of control vehicle.
Remedia’s death came a few hours before the Narkarsuras were lit to flames to symbolize the triumph of good over evil of Diwali. This evil of drunk driving should not go in vain. There were an estimated over 200 calls relating to accidents over the Diwali weekend alone. Tourists think that Goa is a great place to drink and drive just because they can get away so easily. SUVs even make it to the beaches where they terrify others. Goans at least are little more responsible although the Banastarim incident has proved otherwise. In other countries like the UK even members of the royal family are hauled up and fined heavily if caught in any untoward adventures. In UK the owner of a pub is held responsible if their clients drink themselves silly and go home driving and get into an accident.
AND a few stray thoughts on the Goa Bench of the Bombay High Court ordering the demolition of structures on khazan land. Khazan lands are lands adjoining the sea during high tide. Most of them are used for cultivation or breeding fish and paddy for example grows very well in such land. The khazan fields are also traditionally for harvesting sea salt. This sea water salt is said to be naturally iodine rich and ideal for cooking purposes in Goan kitchens. Goans prefer it to refined white market salt.
Unfortunately, Goa local traditional salt pans have been affected by the refined salt sales pitch of the commercials salt industry and especially Tata salt. Local ventures have been abandoning the salt pans as unviable in recent years. Salt harvesting small businesses got a boost after the famous Dandi march of Mahatma Gandhi when he asked Indians to make their own sea salt locally. This was in defiance of the British ban on local making of salt and much of the salt was imported into the country.
Town & Country Planning Authority turn a blind eye on the rampant constructions coming up on khazan lands. CRZ rules very clearly stipulate that there should be no construction 500 meters of high tide line. The TCP has been undertaking and permitting development on khazan land in Merces.
In other parts of Goa too khazan lands are being encroached on for construction. It is therefore very timely that the Goa Bench of the Bombay High Court has ordered the demolition of khazan land construction in Merceds to set a good example for future land usage.
CANCEL CASINO LICENSES
AND a few stray thoughts on the government threat to cancel casino licenses if the applicant is convicted. This applies to Big Daddy casino on the Mandovi river where the owner Gopal Kanda has been allegedly arrested, convicted in a rape case to do with a former airhostess, and reportedly thriving in bail. He has however been acquitted now.
Many of the owners of the land-based casinos come from shady backgrounds. There are virtually dozens of land-based casinos which in violation of the rules are involved in live gambling. The casinos are a major threat to social networks in Goa. They encourage Goans to gamble and there are instances where Goans have gone broke and lost everything.
It is not true that only big tourists come to Goa to gamble. A lot of Goans also get addicted to gambling and for the last ten years their numbers have been growing. The fact that GST for casinos has increased to cover the entire betting has not been a major deterrent to the casino industry. More major steps are needed to curb and limit gambling. There has been a demand of a ban for Goans but we don’t know if this works. It is not enforced.
The first land casino come to Goa in the Carnaval owned by Sunder Advani of Ramada Hotel. It is long gap between the first casinos and the casinos monopoly shifting to the Jaydeep Modi’s Deltin Group casinos on the Mandovi river. The Deltin group owns most of the ship casinos floating on the Mandovi river. Casino Pride is owned by a different group. There seems to be no signs of casinos leaving the Mandovi River, though promises were made by the late chief minister Manohar Parrikar to clear the Mandovi river of this evil. The casino lobby is very strong being a major contributor to Goa’s tax revenue. The current Chief Minister Pramod Sawant has remained silent on the demand for removing casino from the Mandovi river.
`GOAN OBSERVER’ AT 20!
AND a last stray thought on the Goan Observer completing 20 years of independent publication and even if it is today out only online at goanobserver.in, The print editions of Goan Observer as a political weekly started 2003, it was in protest against the anti-people policies of the Goa government. When I edited the OHeraldo over 20 years my proprietor AC Fernandes made no demands on me. All that he would do is to come every afternoon to office and say “goencho logak barem kor.” But when he retired the sons wanted me to get them casino licenses.
I made them very clear that I would not be an agent for them. It all came to a sorry end for me and I had married Pankajbala Tara Patel in 2001 in a late second marriage and we started the independent political weekly of the Goan Observer.
The Goan Observer was started with hope and a prayer and very little financial support. I invested my one lakh gratuity and Tara came up with another lakh. We were fortunate to get the support of some of my top business friends in Goa. What made the difference to our revenue was the our desktop publications venture which we started with the publication of books, beginning with non-residents like Ben Antao who wanted a book published in Goa.
We had the distinction of publishing the autobiography of PG Kakodkar, former chairman of the State Bank of India. We also got involved in another desktop publication activities by bringing out the supplements of political parties. The Goan Observer survived and flourished for 12 years. Then came the Covid 19 pandemic and lockdowns and everything changed, especially with a hostile BJP in the saddle of power.
However, we have kept independent journalism alive and kicking for 20 years and although only online for the last three years. In the last one year when I have been sick off and on Pankajbala Tara Narayan n where I have sick it is Pankajbala Tara Narayan has sustained Goan Observer almost single-handedly. But Tara is not a political journalist and is probably is one of the best writers on subject of food and nutrition. When Claude and Norma Alvares came to visit me they complimented Tara Narayan and told her he liked her writing which was softer unlike my ranting.
I am considered a heavyweight journalist and unable to bring a soft touch because of my inherent combative spirit. I am more hard-headed than she is. I applaud how she has been bringing out the Goan Observer online through grit and hard work although the rewards are very slim now. Now that I am battling TB of the spine at the Goa Medical College & Hospital I am grateful to Tara and my admin Heena for ensuring the Goan Observer is uploaded online every Saturday. Hope for better days is evergreen in my mind and heart.