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Making Goans Direct Beneficiaries of Projects

Certain groups are beginning to raise objections even to the IT hub and habitat that the Goa government is planning to set up. IT sector is one of the business sectors that is non- polluting and that holds out hopes for self-employment and employment of Goan youth who otherwise have to migrate to Bengaluru, Pune and other cities in search of work. Local engineering colleges have become factories producing labour for IT and other companies outside. Opposition has become the habit and vested interest of certain groups. The ultimate result is that while key persons of such groups have good money accumulated through domestic and international donations and enjoy a good life, the youth of Goa have to leave their family and home to earn their livelihood in other states. There cannot be two opinions that no polluting industries should be allowed to be set up in the state. Preservation of natural resources, healthy environment and public safety are non-negotiable issues. There have been several instances in the past in which local people rose in opposition to projects they thought would be destructive, and the government succumbed to their opposition and did not allow them to come up.

In view of opposition to projects growing throughout the state, the state government drew up a list of the types of industry that could be allowed. This strict categorization was expected to take care of growing suspicions among people that the politicians and bureaucrats twisted rules to favour investments in projects harmful to Goa and Goan people. However, the government failed to gain public confidence in its decision making. Opposition to projects was witnessed in other states too. Both the central government and the state government realized that the rules of investment had to be rewritten in order to foster greater participation of the people as well as independent experts. The government was seen as elitist and corrupt, and some of the existing businesses and businessmen did not make it better by indulging in violations. The gross violations in the mining sector fuelled the anger of the people against the established mining companies and fly-by-night operators and the government agencies that let them plunder. In short, the loss of public confidence in the state government’s credibility and capability to stop destruction of Goa’s natural resources and environment was enormous.

However, it is not just the government at the apex level that has suffered serious erosion in public confidence. It is the government at the grassroots too. A number of things cannot happen in the state unless the concerned panchayat gives a no objection certificate. The panchayats, in turn, are required to put up the proposals for scrutiny before the gram sabha for people’s approval. If panchayats, which represent the interests of the local people who are going to be directly affected positively or negatively by the project, do not approve of it, the government cannot give a go-ahead. Right or wrong, in the case of marina proposals, the two concerned panchayats voiced opposition. The state government has to take their opposition into account while considering the proposals.

But panchayats or gram sabhas or environmentalist or civil society groups cannot be totally negative about everything either. After all, there have to be certain types of non-polluting industries in order to provide employment to local people. IT industry does not deserve to be a baby to be thrown with the bathwater. It is one of the largest employers among industrial sectors. Manufacturing industries are dying out; the services sectors are growing. IT and finance are two sectors Goa should build and expand.

Environmentalist and civil society groups of Goa often make their opposition look like an issue of ethnic Goan sub-nationalism. There are two reasons why they have made a tactical use of the ethnic sentiment. One, the government and the investors often produce mountains of data to contradict their data. Two, they have not found any credible political party or group to depend on for championing and fighting for their cause. It becomes easier for these groups to mobilize local people by arousing the sub-nationalist sentiments. The point being made here is that as the IT industry is non-polluting, the environmentalist and civil society groups are trying to drum up popular opposition on the ground of loss and land and alienation of the local people.

The state government should not set up the IT habitat and hub without a well-formulated policy that would let local people gain some degree of control over the projects. In employment and self-employment in IT industry, Goans must get preference. It is also in the interest of the IT companies to design and implement a business model that makes local communities direct beneficiaries.

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