In 2002, Damodar Mauzo took over the reins of KBM with firebrand members like Purnanand Chari, Walter Menezes, and Vincy Quadros on the team. “Though I headed the team, every member of my team was a leader in his own right. And the earlier committee led by Raju Naik had, to their credit, completed the dream project, Konkani Bhavan, that made every Konkani speaker proud.”
During Mauzo’s tenure the primary school and library were put in order which saw the number of students enrolling in schools double. The biggest achievement, at that time was the successful organisation of the first ever three-day All India Konkani Music Festival.
But according to Mauzo, there’s more to just organising events. “The unfortunate divide among the Konkani speakers need to be addressed with an unprejudiced mind,” he says. Further, he believes that since Konkani lives among the diaspora and uses different scripts, there is a need to enhance the understanding and inter-mingling among the Konkani speakers spread over different states. “It is said that the language is the soul of that territory and Konkani is the soul of Goa. You simply cannot love the territory and ignore its language. Awakening the love for language among the sons of the soil is of utmost importance,” he says, while urging KBM to work towards it, not with force but with love.
Also, Mauzo says that though Konkani is a compulsory criteria for jobs in Goa, it isn’t taken seriously. “We need to persuade and convince them through positive methods,” he says. Thus there’s a lot that Singbal and team have to tend to, he believes. “Promoting of reading habits among the youth and creating dignity of speaking Konkani at home and in public needs to be inculcated. The medium of instruction issue also has to be tackled carefully and prudently,” he says.
Mauzo says that Singbal who is a poet and writer in her own capacity has never tried to hog limelight. “She knows that the institution comes first. KBM is not just an institution. It is also a movement working to unite the Konkani speakers in the interest of the advancement of the language, culture and literature,” he says.
“She (Singbal) is aware of the lacunae and knows how to address them. KBM has already taken steps to take Konkani juvenile literature and Konkani music to greater heights. She has worked in the earlier committees and she knows exactly how to take the movement further,” he says.
A past president of KBM and an award winning author who has been crusading for the cause of Konkani, Uday Bhembre also believes that KBM under the leadership of Singbal has are many challenges. The two main objectives why KBM was founded was to protect the interest in Konkani and to create necessary infrastructure for education in Konkani, literature and cultural activities.
But Bhembre believes that in recent times the organisation is only concentrating on infrastructure and neglecting the side of protecting the interest of the mother tongue. “For three years the government has rejected all applications for opening new Konkani schools. Recently the government stopped the special grant that was given to Konkani and Marathi schools,” he says, adding that the silence is probably due to the government funding received to support activities conducted by KBM. “This dependence creates problems. Konkani Basha Mandal should get out from the dependence of the government as it can’t be bold enough to demand or criticise the government,” he reiterates.
Having high hopes on Singbal, Bhembre says that not only is she (new president) is very active, but she should make a concentrated effort to get out of this particular handicap. “If there are no more Konkani schools there will be no more Konkani students so there will be no use for preparing CD’s and books for the children,” he says.
Champion of several issues in Goa including that of Konkani, Arvind Bhatikar believes that Singbal has been a very dedicated and front-line activist in the promotion of Konkani language. “She is an entrepreneur and has launched many projects to commercialise the use of Konkani. She has been an active participant in KBM’s efforts to popularise Konkani songs, specially written and choreographed for children,” he says.
Like Bhembre, Bhatikar too believes that in the last few years, KBM has refrained from any front-line activity to promote primary education in Konkani and the use of Konkani as an official language by the government. “This haloed institution should not degenerate into only a spending agency for government grants by perennially remaining silent on issues that are vital for the preservation and growth of the Konkani language and culture. The fear of losing government grants should not make the KBM lose sight of the original objectives laid down by its founders,” he says.
And as Singbal’s election as the president coincided with the announcement of the new education policy of the government of India there’s immense responsibility on her to take up cudgels in support of primary education in Konkani and pressurise the state government to make available grants in aid only to primary schools in Konkani and other regional languages.
Bhatikar also believes that one of Singbal’s immediate task should be to introspect on the present activities. “The annual Yuva Mohatsav for the last many years and has spawned many young activists, writers, journalists etc. There needs to be an all round effort to groom talent spotted in these mohatsavs and to harness the talent in enriching Konkani language and culture. Similarly, the scope and expanse of ‘The Shenoi Goembab Kathamala’, needs to be widened,” he says.
Bhatikar thinks that Singbal should spend more time on the spread of pre-primary and primary education in Konkani and endeavor to arrest politicisation of education in Goa by the government.