Goa’s ‘development’ at stake

By Cleofato A Coutinho
19 June 2015 11:09 IST

The Goa’s civil society scored some major victories in the past few years. The scrapping of the Babush Monserrate’s draconian Regional Plan2011 and the withdrawal of Special Economic Zones from the state of Goa are cases calling for celebrations. Earlier the nylon 66 plant was driven out by a successful people’s movement.

Riding on that success, village groups particularly in the old conquests, have managed to halt the economic and infrastructure development under the guise of protecting the village character and natural landscape of Goa. Despite the number of vehicles hitting the roof and the size of cars increasing, there is objection to the widening of all roads including the national highways. The government finds it difficult to locate land for the National Institute of Technology and the Indian Institute of Technology. There was a time when there was an  objection to the acquisition of land for the district hospital in South Goa. The number of mobiles is increasing but the mobile towers are not welcome. As the garbage situation worsens no villager wants a garbage treating plant in their village. ‘Not in my backyard’ is the response to every developmental (economic) activity. The breakdown of joint family system has led to huge demand for housing. There is no settlement land available for houses in villages, still real estate projects are opposed in every village. Village groups claim that real estate project destroy the village character with the fear that non Goans shall settle in the villages and shall change the  demography in villages. The general mood in the state is to drive out the central university and the National Institute of Technology (NIT) along with the special economic zones!

The previous government which was accused of acting hand in glove with the real estate lobby did a commendable job in appointing  experts (called the Task Force) to prepare to Regional Plan and more importantly accepting the recommendations of the experts.  The Task Force froze certain areas classifying them as Eco-1 consisting of forest, private forest, water bodies and khazan lands and Eco-2 consisting of orchids, natural cover, cultivable areas, salt pans and fish farms. Above 60% of the heavy populated talukas of Salcete, Bardez, Tiswadi and Mormugao could be frozen- Goa could not expect anything better in its pursuit of maintaining natural landscape. But certain village groups opposed the Regional Plan and the spineless government succumbed to their pressure around the  emotive land issue.

The success of civil society seen earlier seems to be getting drowned by the negativism that has gripped the state of Goa particularly  in the Salcete belt, which is driving the opposition to all developmental activity. It is not a matter to celebrate the civil society’s success but a cause for concern.

Educated and skilled Goans particularly from the Catholic belt  had been migrating to Portugal, Africa, Britain and other parts of India like Bombay, Karachi and Calcutta  from the 19th century in search of greener pastures. The Task Force for Regional Plan for Goa records that more than 95% of the 700 engineering graduates leave Goa to seek a secure future. What is our credibility as a state which has no place for its young? If this state  has to be a land of opportunities then we have to create a Goa with greater economic prosperity which shall usher in growth, both for Goa and Goans.

Goa is fast becoming a holiday home for the old  and the rich  and those who emigrate in search of a place to chill. The landscape cannot be maintained for that only.  The answer lies in having development model without endangering the fragile eco systems that makes Goa what it is – the forests, the mangroves, the lakes, the rivers, the paddy fields, the beaches and the villages.

As agricultural sector is on the decline (nowhere in the world agricultural sector has grown beyond 4.5%), cities and urban centers are now becoming engines of growth particularly after the new economic reforms (1991). The industry and service sectors have been driving the national economy leading to an average 8% growth rate per annum over the 5% growth rate before the economic reforms. Industrialization certainly leads to urbanization. At the world level it is expected that urban areas to have half of the world’s population. Here in Goa, we are not far behind.  Though there is a cry to retain the natural landscape of Goa, the villagers are shifting to the cities leading to ghost villages in the hinterland.

Besides the industrial areas the entire coastal belt is getting urbanized. Under the new economy the country and the state seeks foreign and domestic investment for growth of industries and business. Flow of capital from other parts of the world  is now the driving force of the new economy. In that perspective, is it possible  to look at this tiny state only from the prism of a Goa Dourada of the nineteenth century ?

As our cities grow, additional urban areas are required for   growth. Retaining the countryside and the same time creating urban centres as  means of growth is the challenge before the state and the civil society. Urban centres certainly disturb the village demography. That disturbance cannot be at a rate and type seen around the Calangute-Baga belt or for that matter in the mining belt. The price of development cannot be the destruction of idea of Goa with  single minded focus on economic growth only  but the question of finding that right balance between industry and ecology. Goa’s economic development must also be people’s movement!

Opposition to every area of development including industry and services shall only make this state an old age home! How long can this state survive on remittance economy? The absence or deficiency of infrastructure and opposition to every development area shall only drive out our young investors and entrepreneurs. With the skilled getting out of Goa and the unskilled who are not fortunate to enter the tourism related cruise line or some jobs in gulf, are condemned to serve the tourism industry. How long shall our unfortunate boys drive the tourists around and serve them beer with seafood? The stoppage of mining related activity since 2012 and a dip in the tourism industry due to Russian Rubble collapse should bring some sense in our priorities. We cannot put all eggs in the tourism basket.  The state can only depend upon the time tested area of manufacturing and services sector.  

Economic development is the need, if Goa is not to be condemned as holiday place for the rich and the old as our young get out in search of opportunities. Development for whom? Our young must be beneficiaries of that development. The general mood of negativism must yield to pragmatism. Development of infrastructure  and industry shall make this state vibrant where our young are not tempted to leave and those who have left start thinking of coming back.

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

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Cleofato A Coutinho

Cleofato Almeida Coutinho is a senior lawyer and one of the constitutional expert in Goa. A member of Law Commission of Goa, he also teaches at Kare College of Law in Madgao.

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good comments!

- Al Maiorino, USA | 19 th June 2015 18:39


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