By Rajan Narayan
GOANS who registered their birth in Lisbon in Portugal are in a state of shock. This follows the decision of the Union External Affairs Ministry to revoke their Indian passports. Goans have been registering their birth in Lisbon not out of any love for Portuguese or Portugal. They have been doing so as Portugal is a member of the European Economic Community (EEC).
So much so they get a Portuguese visa as they have registered their birth in Lisbon, it’s a passport to all European countries in UK. The EEC does not require individual visas to travel and work anywhere in Europe. Till recently, the UK was also part of the EEC. This was taken advantage of by thousands if not several lakh Goans seeking migration to the UK and other EEC countries.
They offered better job opportunities than available back in Goa. Most of them are in the UK and particularly in London which has a large number of Goans. They migrated from Goa via Portugal to UK. Not all of them have succeeded in getting UK citizenship. For those who are not citizens of UK their jobs are in stake, especially after UK decided to leave the EEC. They were no longer guaranteed that upon their migration they would be guaranteed work permits in the UK. Since Portugal is no longer a member of the EEC.
Till recently the External Affairs Ministry only revoked the Indian citizenship of those who had acquired Portuguese citizenship. It did not consider registration of birth in Portugal as change of nationality. However, now the External Affairs of Ministry has made the registration of birth in Portugal as an act of acquiring Portugal citizenship, and thousands if not several lakh Goans will lose their right to stay in Goa. The people who stay in Goa are non-residents of India, people of Indian origin. This is part of the price that the Goans will have to pay for registering their birth in Portugal. When Goa was Liberated in 1960 Portugal did not accept the fact that Goa had become part of India.
PRIOR TO LIBERATION
IT ruled that Goans born in Goa prior to Liberation would be entitled to Portuguese citizenship. They also extended this benefit to the children and to the grandchildren of all those residing in Goa. So large numbers of Goans chose to registered their birth in Portugal to take advantage of Portuguese citizenship, for I has been pointed out earlier that a Portuguese visa would allow them to work anywhere in Europe. Goans registered the birth of their children and grandchildren in Portugal to take advantage of the Schengen Visa.
Interestingly, most of those who registered the birth and that of their children are now senior citizens in their 70s and 80s. Overnight their citizenship of India has been revoked. This comes as a shock to many of them if have haven’t gone out of Goa, leave alone migrated abroad. It is for the benefit of their children or grandchildren that they registered their birth in Portugal. It is not just the ordinary residents of Goa but also Goan politicians like Churchill Alemao and senior police officers, who have reportedly registered their birth in Portugal.
Portugal is a very poor country compared to the other European countries. So their job opportunities in Portugal are limited only to the highly skilled like computer professionals, they have good job opportunities in Portugal. But the attraction of registering their birth in Portugal was that they could offer their skills to countries across Europe, including the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom was a heaven for Goans because post-Liberation they become very fluent in English. Since the language spoken in the UK was English and they could easily find jobs in the UK. It’s another matter that most of them have menial jobs like keeping Heathrow Airport spick and span.
WHEN we visited London twice in the 90s, I was shocked to discover several Goans sweeping the airport and refreshment rooms and toilets of the airport. Jobs they would never do back home in Goa, but then the money was good in the UK even for menial labor. There is dignity of labor there. Manual and skilled labor like plumbing and carpentry attract very high earnings in the UK.
The local British are very reluctant to do menial jobs in the UK. Just as in Goa, where the menial jobs and labor-oriented jobs are not popular with local residents. Local residents everywhere prefer secure cushy government jobs. But there is a limit in the employment to government jobs. I recall a former photographer of OHeraldo, Lui Gudinho, migrating to London and flourishing there. He himself was an employee of Sesa Goa and good at electronics. His wife Elly was a trained nurse working at the GMC. Both of them managed to get jobs at the UK. They were able to well educate their children.
UK was very attractive to Goans because of the social welfare cover they received. If you become a citizens of UK you are entitled free medical aid for any kind of sickness under the National Health Insurance Scheme. Even cancer and major operations of the spine and the heart are entitled to the best of medical treatment. Never mind that the majority of doctors and nurses in the UK’s National Health are citizens of Indian origin.
You may be aware of another plan. Every person who gets employment even as a temporary worker in an office is asked to contribute 30% of income towards social welfare. But in turn, when he is unemployed the state gives him a compensation of 70% of his last income earned. I have seen people of Indian origin boasting in London that they have lived on social welfare all their life.
Many of the businessmen in UK are of Indian origin. The corner Gujarati store is extremely popular. There are several hundred Indian restaurants which again offer employment. It is the wide social welfare network which is the major attraction in the UK and Europe. There are many Goans who migrated to France like the late Fr Freddy who was in charge of the Bambolim cross. It was Fr Freddy who built the church next to the Bambolim cross. The cross is venerated prayers here seem to be an insurance against accidents. Fr Freddy had strong contacts in France and this enabled virtually all the residents of Siridao, at least the Catholic Goans to migrate to France.
SIMILARLY, there are non-Goans who are working in all the other European countries. This is primarily due to social security they enjoy in this countries. UK was still preferred doubly as in the other countries they had to learn the local language be it French, German. The French for instance are extremely possessive of the French language. Even if they know English they will not talk to you in English and will insists on you learning French.
Goans took the easier option of going to the UK as language is not a problem there. The worst victims of the decision of the Centre to consider registration of birth and surrender passports are senior citizens. Their children and grandchildren have long since migrated abroad. The Goans who are senior citizens are so used to Goa that they do not want to join their children abroad. I have seen the fate of senior citizens of Goa in London. They often contemplate the life of loneliness as their children, both husband and wife, are busy trying to get a living wage and educate their children. The children have a future whereas their parents are the past.
The senior citizens get hardly attention from the children abroad. So many have returned to their ancestral homes in Goa where some of them die of loneliness. The government should not give retrospective affect to the new rule that registration of birth is an automatic disqualification for those who registered their birth in the UK. This will at least protect the interest of the senior citizens. The children may or might not come back as they already established in the country they migrated too.
The senior citizens they have no choice as Goa has been their home and continue to be their home. Many senior citizens for the sake of their children registered their birth in Portugal but have never been out of the country. They have done it purely because they thought their children and grandchildren would have a better future outside Goa.
However, all this is changing with more and more educative Goans getting jobs outside Goa but in Indian cities like Bengaluru, Pune, Mumbai and elsewhere. The tragedy is that while Goa has a number of higher learning institutions like BITS Pilani and IIT, not much jobs have exist or are created in Goa. With the exception of the hospitality industry. Even in the hospitality industry most of the employees are from outside Goa.
It is necessary to put up non-polluting industries in Goa to compensate for the cancellation of the Indian citizenship of Goans who have registered themselves in Portuguese.