The Threat of Negative Activism

By Prabhakar Timble
10 July 2012 18:04 IST

Apart from the threats to culture, identity and language of Goa, the economic threat looms equally large since this small friendly territory is perceived as an investor-enemy destination. The two critical reasons for the investor fatigue are the infrastructure bottlenecks and the endless bureaucratic red tape. There are solutions to these issues and it appears that Chief Minister is seriously considering reforms in industrial policy as well as enunciating a lucrative tax-subsidy package to woo investors. The Goa Chamber of Commerce hosted an investors’ meet recently immediately followed by similar initiatives by the government with the Confederation of Indian Industry and a meeting with select group of entrepreneurs from IT, healthcare and education sectors at Mumbai. The Chief Minister has promised setting up of an Investment Board incorporating the industrial, IT and the biotech policy and also promotional platform for investors in education. Despite this, the much sought after destination by the domestic and foreign tourists is looked at with magnifying lenses and nervousness by all investors except the land sharks.

Active to oppose

The advocacy and activism for opposing each and every project in the name of environment and identity paints a picture that everything in Goa is “unwanted”. Groups have mushroomed from villages to towns, from coastal beaches to hinterlands and from mining belts to industrial estates with the single banner of turning down anything that is being proposed.

Local opposition is understandable in situations where the damage to local interests is visible. It would be a deliberate suicide if Goa and Goans attempt to locate economic development in the perfume of drugs, wine, gambling, casinos and trafficking in women and children. We have dug this pit, not understanding sustainable long-term tourism development. This is the picture of Goa sold internationally and silence would be abetment to the imminent suicide.  Though there is proliferation of industrial estates in rural areas, the category of industries granted permission have not contributed to the gainful employment of locals. The Goa Industrial Development Corporation has considered itself primarily as a property broker rather than agent of industrial development. Unregulated mining largely with the entry of non-traditional players has raised question marks due to the damage to environment, agriculture, horticulture and the not only traditional but almost perennial sources of water. The real estate boom totally independent of the domestic customers and users also raises questions on its utility. Citizen and community intervention including all forms of protest is not only understandable but also desirable.

Development means Propositions

Of late, thoughtless protests and armchair negativism is the order of the day. This is observed for every public or private project resulting in the emergence of “Advocacy” against each and every developmental project as the booming industry in Goa. Print, electronic and social media also thrive on such protests and corner agitations which receive disproportionate media recognition. With the passage of time, the credibility of such negative initiatives dwindles and the same unfortunately could happen to media also.

Today, Municipal Solid Waste Management is a burning problem for Goa. It is the waste that civilians create and not the government. This issue cannot be addressed without scientific collection, treatment and disposal of the waste. The problem will remain unresolved if everyone opposes the establishment of facilities to handle the garbage and waste. The similar situation would be with reference to medical waste. The wisdom we exhibit is to oppose without making any other alternative proposition.  In a similar way, there is opposition to micro industry belts in villages and eco-tourism initiatives in environmentally fragile areas. Our attitude to agriculture, horticulture and animal husbandry is also negative and we propagate that these sectors would be always unprofitable. Provision of land for education hub, I.T. Park, Food procession zone and even housing also invites opposition. We are impatient to listen to planners and technocrats. Every village group feels that opposition to any development project is in the service of the Lord.

A few days back, I observed a NGO, supposedly tied to environmental causes pressurising law enforcement agencies to drive out street women and children taking shelter on open lands near the bus stands claiming that such temporary shelters of destitute families is the cause of plastic menace and dirt in the town.  The NGO was well equipped with the local TV crew to gather media mileage for this social or environmental activism. Little do we realise that the generation of plastic waste is done by all of us and it is the street women and children who contain the spread in their own limited way. For us plastic is waste, for them it is source of livelihood. Driving out migrant women and beating migrant street children is not the solution for dealing with plastic waste. The solution could lie if we establish a vendor mechanism for plastic waste as we have for unused paper along with reduced use and reuse of plastic materials.

Taking this argument further, Goans have also the pleasure of holding that thefts, robberies and crimes are due to migrants. In reality, these acts are not possible without insider abetment. Unemployment, greed for fast money, dependence on gambling, alcohol and drugs has drawn our youth to petty crimes is a sad reality which needs to be digested. We can shut it off at our own peril. The recent incidents in Goa of murder of parents, grand-parents and close relatives for money involved our youth, not migrants. The negativism and hatred cup of Goans against the migrants overflows. The sooner we halt this and move towards a rational understanding of the migration scenario would do us good.

I have been witness to many debates and conferences at the International Centre (Goa), educational institutions and many similar round-tables on wide ranging issues. Irrespective of the issue, it pains me to observe the intellectual, the thinker and the NGO soaked in negativism and prejudice. I can distinguish between critical appreciation, rational analysis and nihilism.

The climate of merciless massacre of any proposition or plan of development without offering alternatives could give the status of investment-foe and investment-rival capital of India to Goa. The government can work on reforms in policies and financial incentives to encourage Goan investors as well as from outside. It is for the intellectual and thinking community to ensure that Goa is not crucified at the altar of negativism.

Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author's own.

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Prabhakar Timble

Mr Prabhakar Timble is an educationist and a legal expert. He has served several educational institutions, especially as the Principal of Government College at Quepem, Kare College of Law in Madgao as well as couple of Management Institutes. He was also the State Election Commissioner of Goa.

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