NANDKUMAR M KAMAT
A strong pillar of the original ideological matrix of Congress party in Goa has fallen. A lawyer who understood the true meaning of political science and parliamentary democracy. Cuncolim lost a parliamentary warrior who used ideas as sword and arguments as shield. Otherwise there is no count of who joins and leaves this party, some shamelessly begging to rejoin after ruthlessly defaming it. He was only the third Goan politician after Purushottam Kakodkar and Eduardo Faleiro to earn the trust and confidence of the powerful Gandhi family. His resignation as state party president was unprecedented.
If his death has given a message to Congress party- it could be this- forget egos, shrink differences, stand united, fight with ideology, forget personal ambitions and hidden agendas, be studious, be effective as legislators, connect to people, listen to them, don’t retreat, don’t surrender, never be afraid. In death of Shantaram Naik, Goa lost an outstanding parliamentarian, a statesman, a very studious, polite, amiable and cultured personality who had no hatred of anyone in mind. He had no false airs about himself and approached anyone who had information on issues that he was working on.
Encouraged by late prime minister Rajiv Gandhi he kept strides with technological changes and easily adapted to computers, emails and social media unlike many others in politics still living in 19th century with superstitious, casteist and communal mindsets.
Manohar Parrikar who was hearing his speech during the function to felicitate nuclear scientist Anil Kakodkar, the recipient of first Gomant Bhushan award in August 2010 at Kala Academy made a comment in lighter vein that “even he couldn’t understand much of what Shantarambab said on atomic energy” thus indirectly acknowledging that the Rajya Sabha MP had taken great pains to prepare his technical speech.
Shantarambab was born in a warrior community, the legendary brave, patriotic Naik clan. Shantaram Naik had his roots very firmly planted in the red soil of Cuncolim where his ancestors had shed blood defending everything that Goa had stood for. He had often spoken about ignorance about history of Cuncolim among the students. So as a member, I was pleased to persuade Goa SSC and HSSC board to accept my resolution in our executive council meeting held on 24 January, 2018 to form a committee for inclusion of ‘Revolt of Cuncolim’ along with other local historic events in new history syllabus for Std IX. It would be a real tribute when the committee completes its work and gives justice to such historic events which define Goa’s secular, multicultural political identity today.
A legislator’s job is to legislate and not interfere with local authorities within the constituency. As a parliamentarian Shantaram Naik followed the book unlike many legislators who think that their main work is outside and not inside the house. He would phone me sometimes directly from New Delhi or from Margao and request details on issues on which he was working. He consulted me on a wide ranging issues such as Goa’s water security and the impact of diversion of upper reaches of Mandovi, the nature of controversy on SEZ and reasons for public opposition to it, the issue of regional plan, merit of ‘upgrading’ Goa University as central university and our last conversation was about shifting of the engineering section of Goa University from its original premises to the building of the Gymkhana built from his MPLADS funds.
He was apprehensive about his party losing the elections over the regional plan issue. So he requested me to give my opinion. On 21 December, 2006, I had emailed to him –“I am attaching draft of a statement which the Church authorities had submitted last year opposing the plan. The TCP department did not care to answer their queries. Then the details of RP-2011 were out in August 2006 which showed unrealistic land conversions and many megaprojects. Church has also opposed the final RP-2011 approved by TCP board in August 2006. Serious interpolations were made between July 2002- September 2003.
The basic objections to RP-2011 are regarding the land use plan given in Chapter 17 of the final report-and the very process used to prepare this plan. Almost 7000 hectares land is identified for conversion and privatisation. This includes green belts, forests, hill slopes, khazan lands etc. Unlike previous plan this time there were no presentations at gram sabha level and no special meetings of gram sabhas were held. Congress party high command needs to take the issue of non devolution of planning powers to local authorities very seriously.
The state government has not taken necessary steps to devolve the town and country planning powers to the local authorities. District planning committees were constituted belatedly by the former BJP government without any teeth. So at present neither the village panchayats nor the municipal corporations have any planning powers devolved to them under 73 rd and 74th constitutional amendments.”
Readers would notice that the issue of devolution of powers to local authorities under 73 and 74th amendments is still unacceptable and unpalatable to Goa’s self serving political class. On 25 September, 2009 I informed him about injustice done to a Goan scientist who was the first Goan girl to participate in special expedition to Southern Ocean and Larsemann Hills of Antarctica from 25th January to 1st April, 2006 onboard RV Akademik Boris Petrov.
During this cruise, she had collected water samples for the study of total suspended matter and its chemistry from various depths to understand the source and composition of the sediments within this part of the world ocean. She was also felicitated by Avedem villagers for reaching Antarctica. Despite her talent, merit, challenging work and experience she could not land with a job at a central government research organisation in Goa. She was ignored and a candidate from Kerala with no previous cruise experience was preferred.
After receiving my email Shantarambab called the woman scientist, discussed the matter with her and finally in subsequent interview she was hired on merit by the same institution where she flourished. He silently helped many deserving Goan women like this because he knew that future leadership of India would be on shoulders of talented women leaders. Goa would miss Shantarambab. Cutting across party lines people recognised meaning of his final departure. Such parliamentarians are rare nowadays.