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How Much Goa Has Changed In Sixty Years

Nandkumar M Kamat

From July 28 after completing 60 years I joined the growing number of senior citizens in a state where my birth took place as a Portuguese citizen, in a  village  liberated by the brave, friendly soldiers of Sikh infantry and where I woke up, reborn, reintegrated with motherland  on December 19, 1961 as a free Indian citizen.

As I cast a retrospective glance on past 60 years, I can’t recognise the new, transformed Goa. It’s true that demographers are worried about falling birth and death rates, increasing emigration and migration rates and perplexed at rapid rate of urbanisation with Goa achieving more than 65 percent urban population, highest in country. I fail to recognize the city of my birth Panaji which has transformed in 60 years. I get lost while looking at Calapur- Santa Cruz where I grew up, getting submerged under ugly, eyesore, unplanned constructions.

I recall the purchasing power of one rupee about 50 years ago. Our family physician, freedom fighter late Dr Raghunath Prabhu Nachinolkar had a small dispensary near Santa Cruz church. After 25 years of practice he increased his fees from Rs 2 to Rs 5. Today even after spending lot of money it is difficult to get a proper differential diagnosis as we are made to run from one place to other. We had such physicians even 40 years ago who could be woken up late at night and never bothered about their fees.

Over 60 years along with demographic transition, rural to urban transition, we can see the transition in morbidity and mortality- more people are dying young due to life style related diseases now, as compared to death due to tropical diseases in the past. Over the past 60 years there is palpable nutritional transformation as modern Goa, urban Goa, the new Goa with affluent, mall loving consumers is heavily patronising “fast foods” over home cooked “slow foods”.

Look at the undernourished, malnourished students entering different institutions of higher education. Over past 50 years we see contrasting pictures- large number of stunted boys and girls with less than normal height and weight and increasing number of the obese. Reports of female breast cancers, ovarian cysts, fibroids were rare 60 years ago but now the specialists have their hands full with early diagnosis of rising number of such cases indicating certain new factors precipitating this morbid development. Over 60 years urbanisation became an assault on joint family system as people migrated to 65 new towns.

The best example is the barren Porvorim plateau. It was a sprawling pasture with beautiful seasonal ponds and wildflowers 50-60 years ago. Now it competes in its sprawl with capital city. Goa is a proud success story in physical and material development and in conquest of hunger and thirst, eradication of poverty and illiteracy. But the momentum imparted by Dayanand Bandodkar, Shashikala Kakodkar (1963-79) and Pratapsingh Rane (1980-89) to throw doors of education open to masses instead of confining to classes was not maintained in past 20 years. It was All India Radio which entertained and united Goans after liberation but the new media revolution with digital devices overwhelming the population has now created new social, cultural, ethical and psychological issues.

Over 60 years it is most heartening to see the radical and revolutionary transformation in educating the women in Goa. The gender transition in higher education in Goa post 1980 should be a matter of pride for the whole country. But this revolution was not matched by any regime with a befitting policy and programme of hundred percent employment of all educated women. With almost half of the voters being women and more than 25 assembly constituencies dominated by women voters, even 55 years after constitution of first legislative assembly of Goa we see hardly 1-3 women MLAs getting elected. The same picture is seen in elections to college and university student’s councils where boys take all the posts with female students timidly backing out despite their overwhelming voting majority.

Disproportionate representation to female students from XI to Post Graduate level of education in various statutory elected councils and committees is convincing evidence of gender bias in this affluent state. More than bias it could be a fear of women capturing the power structure dominated by men since liberation of Goa and seeking to rise to the top. Women can never dream in still orthodox and conservative Goa to get proportionate representations on various temple or parish committees, communidades, co-operative societies or other registered organisations.

Over 60 years Goa’s politics has changed from issues like identity and language to race to form capital from land assets. Politics in Goa now has been reduced to struggle between various economic interests to possess and control as many parcels of land as possible. This struggle is manifest in different agitations and people’s movements. Far less land, just 450 sq. kms as compared to 60 years back is now available for any future development of Goa. Dozens of new cartels and mafias have their strong footholds boosting the underground parallel economy beyond the control of police and intelligence departments. Their subtle infiltration through smart proxies in policy making bodies, government, the administration, the elected bodies and public institutions has gone unchecked due to strong political connections and outstanding public image building.

The best example was the recent exposure of the interstate cartel dumping chemically treated fish in Goa despite the trade going on for decades. From existing 380 revenue villages in Goa which have undergone transformation more than 100 suburban villages like Santa Cruz, Merces, Chimbel, Moira, Parra, Curti, Bori, Nuvem, Raia, Navelim, Colva, Calangute, Candolim, Chicalim, Cortalim etc face very uncertain and bleak future.

Nothing to be called “Goan” would be left in these areas within a decade. This disastrous landscape and cultural simplification, the new monoculture would wipe out all that we experienced as we got liberated with new hopes and aspirations. The biggest injustice done by powers at centre and in the state is deliberate exclusion of one of world’s most vulnerable agropastoral community, the Gouly-Dhangars in Goa from central ST list on basis of ridiculous social terminology. The Goa which I see, feel, experience after 60 years alienates me in my own land as I see the new picture of expulsion of official language Konkani from public space, educational campuses and local governance.

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