Goans have completely failed the constitution because they have tamely surrendered their constitutional duties and rights
Nandkumar M Kamat
THE former Portuguese enclaves Goa, Daman, Diu and Dadra and Nagar Haveli missed 12 republic days. Freedom fighter Pundalik Gaitonde has written how the government led by Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru treated Goans as foreigners and Portuguese subjects and procrastinated on quick integration of the colonial pockets in the new republic but acted promptly to integrate Hyderabad and Junagadh. The Goan freedom fighters also were not serious to make any specific representation to the constituent assembly despite the general apprehension that the Portuguese enclaves would be left out in the deliberations. So from January 26, 1950 till January 25, 1962, Goans were treated as foreign citizens. The republic of India and the fledgling Indian state failed the seven lakh Goans during this period.
Goans more than matched this response by failing the republic in the past 59 years. Failing the republic means failure to hold the spirit of the Indian constitution and every legislation made under it in the name of the President. Goa is the only state in the republic to witness three forms of government – first the brief military rule, then the Union Territorial administration (1963-1987) and finally the statehood (1987 onwards). There are three levels of failure – failure to respect the international conventions to which republic of India is a signatory, these need to be notified by the state and acted upon, then all applicable central government legislations, these needs to be gazetted and acted upon and finally the state government legislations approved by the Governor. These obviously get the top priority. In every case the central government legislation overrides the state government legislations in overlapping area. The failure of the state is systematically exposed by the local office of CAG (Comptroller and Auditor General Of India). Irrespective of the political party or alliance in power we have seen very little action on observations of the CAG reports. Goans have failed the republic by not making implementation of important central acts such as the one Rights of Disabled persons or the Senior Citizens or Right To Education as their major cause of public advocacy and agitations.
The state government threw the constitution in the dustbin by rejecting the Model Town and Country Planning Act sent by the central government in 1997. The state government was very arrogant since 2008 in dismissing its fundamental constitutional duty to appoint a statutory State Finance Commission (SFC) every five years. Instead of logically having the Sixth SFC functional, the government is yet to provide necessary facilities like office and staff for the third SFC notified in April 2016. For almost five years this statutory SFC has not held a single meeting and neither the Governor, Chief Minister, the cabinet ministers in charge of ZPs, urban local bodies and Panchayat Raj Institutions, the Finance Secretary or the leader of the opposition feel anything about such a state of affairs. The oath which the Chief Minister and his cabinet members take therefore remains just an empty text and not a constitutional guarantee to “We the People” in whose name they
It is the right of the people to peacefully oppose any projects in the name of ecology and environment but it is more difficult to fight for devolution of constitutionally guaranteed rights of the people. Goans have completely failed the constitution because they have tamely surrendered their constitutional duties and rights. The forefathers of the same Goans were much more dynamic and enterprising during the short period of the Portuguese republic (1910-1927).
If central schemes are not implemented and the sanctioned funds remain unutilised then no cabinet minister offers an apology to the people and the government feels nothing about such inefficiency. During every election campaign, political parties derive tremendous advantage by exploiting the ignorance of the voters about the constitution and their fundamental rights. Comprehensive land reforms are a major constitutional objective. But the powerful economic and political interests wound up the land reforms agenda in Goa after 1973. The constitution doesn’t permit leakage of state revenue. But here neither the CM nor his revenue minister has any answer why Goa still remains the only state in India without any income from ‘land revenue tax’ the most ancient form of tax on productive land. The loss is Rs 100 crores per year and the cumulative arrears would exceed Rs 1500 crore since 1988. All it needs is a fresh notification fixing the new, reasonable land tax rates in consultation with all stakeholders and giving back the collectors their basic duty of collecting “land revenue tax”.
Coming to inclusion of the official language of Goa, Konkani in the 8th schedule of the constitution, Goans have made a mockery of this decision by not being serious on two important issues – the first is compulsory publication of official gazette of the state in official language Konkani, then on par with all south Indian states which print their acts in official language, print and issue Konkani translations of all the state acts. Both these issues have been pending since 1987.
The price of even available printed government acts has been made prohibitive to keep these out of the reach of common citizens. Majority of the village panchayats don’t even have a printed copy of the relevant acts. The present panic of the government over the Goa Lokayukta act was expected. No doubt some amendments were logical but others were not expected and none other than former Chief Justice of Allahabad High Court, ex MLA Ferdino Rebello was compelled to comment on the proposed amendments. He gave sound advice to the government to repeal the act made totally toothless by the damaging amendments. With exceptional enthusiasm, the government also wound-up a much required Goa State Law Commission.
In India’s wealthiest and most literate state Goans have failed the republic because there are several villages without facilities for cremation and burial. It is easy to acquire land for playgrounds but not for common crematoria and burial places. Every year there are dozens of cases where permission to perform final rites are refused by the local people to certain individuals. This is a perfect example of how Goans have failed the republic. They still lack the maturity to stand up fearlessly and ask the right questions based on the constitution to those who seek their votes. After victory, the rulers get a licence to rule with remarkable arrogance for five years – all in the name of the same constitution. We need to see what 12 lakh voters of Goa do in the next assembly elections to salvage the spirit of the lost republic. Happy 72nd Republic Day.