Ashok RowKavi – Founder Chairperson, Humsafar Trust

1- What do you think are the changes that have happened in Goa in the last four years and what do you see in the future of Goa in the next four years?

•I usually visit Goa once a year. And the first thing that strikes you is the way it is changing — mostly for the worst!  More ugly buildings that spoil the skyline, less greenery, too touristy and the beaches no more safe for anybody, forget women.

•If we don’t restrict the number flooding in then Goa is doomed. I don’t know how. But here are some ideas

•I think more than anything Section 370 (check this section with the Kashmir one please) which gives us special status and not allow flagrant buying of property by outsiders.

•Non-Indians definitely should not be allowed to buy up property or allow them to buy only on long lease (we must create these instruments through Legislative action) of say 15 to 25 years only after which it must be either renewed  or cancelled if the foreigner’s credentials are not tested or clean. Neighborhood committees can keep a watch on these foreigners.

•Indians must be allowed long leases only — possibly 25 year one but not outright buying out as they use them to lock up black money and for realty speculation.

•No land near religious or heritage structures to be sold to hotels not vetted  and no commercial property development for malls or otherwise.

•We must try to move away from industrialisation and move into software, sustainable tourism, export of traditional items like Goan liqueurs like upgraded Feni, Goan fruit wines, the hugely popular Goan sausages (every foreign country I go to they ask for them), horticulture, growing herbs and spices like cloves and cardamom, pepper,export of skilled manpower possibly, growing and exporting organic rare species of rice (ambemohar and jasmine) etc

2- What are the most critical issues working towards Goa’s advantage?

It is multicultural and we must be proud of it. Though I come from Hindu communities persecuted by the Catholic Church (Shenvi, GSB), i would like to see more communal peace where the Church keeps away from active proselytization and Hindutva forces are kept at bay through consensus and talks between religious communities. Goan’s critical advantages are the cultural wealth. The critical issues working for us are

(1) Cultural uniqueness.

(2) Our clean beaches.

(3) Our unique cuisine (Ambot theek fish curries, vindaloo and sorpotel, spiced sausages, liquors and branded spices)

(4) Our language (Konkani in Devnagari must be encouraged not forced in schools)

(5) Our literature, folklore and music (nearly everybody in Goa plays some musical instrument). Music Schools, Lata-bai is from Goa remember.

(6) Our bar culture (it must be promoted hugely by making bars cultural places with singing, crooners, music bands etc) and brochures on how visitors must behave here. And we must advertise this is the rest of India where there is no bar culture at all and people drink themselves silly.

(7)Our wildlife (the interior ghat regions have incredible wildlife).

(8) Our village markets and the vegetarian cuisine of the Shenvis (mostly very frugal stir-frying as they are misers).

(9) We need to survey our other advantages/skills (schools for navigators with so many of us in foreign maritime navies).

3- What are the most critical issues working towards Goa’s disadvantage?

•I don’t like North Indians and at least I’m being frank about it. We must not promote Goa to other Indians as a paradise where they can come to get piss drunk and tease our girls (or boys).

•Though I am not against prostitution there has to be some dignity to it and not what is happening on the beaches.

•How to tone down this side and promote sustainable dignified tourism is going to be the main problem in the next decade as we get more tourists.

•We are also a lazy people and take it too easy. A work culture must be promoted and time schedules set that must be adhered too.

4- What does Goa need to do over the next four years to be recognised as a Global destination?

•Get a committee of eminent persons like Wendell Rodricks to give ideas. How about promoting this as the first Asian place where civil unions (marriages) between gays can be registered with grand ceremonies giving them honorary Goan citizenship to show Goan’s open and inclusive culture?

•Promote Goan with all the advantages above which i have said are its critical advantages. Take some lessons from Pondicherry. Have more delegations from Portugal come here to ‘refresh’ the Portugese-Goan relationships.

•Encourage charter flights instead of regular ones so that gives us group bookings (more money spent).Advertise. Send our cultural ambassadors like Wendell and he can choose people like singers etc. Promote Goa as a fashion hub for the “Oriental” brand of Haute Couture. Annual announced Goa World Fashion to be advertised.

5- Are the people of Goa its biggest drawback or its biggest strength? 

•The people of Goa have their pros and cons. We’re a handsome lot, we hold good conversations (how about the All India Elocution Competitions held here in Goa?) and are a decent people. We are mostly well rounded in that we are more aware of the world outside India and have a huge diaspora in Europe, America and Australia. We must use that to our advantage.

•But we are gullible, lazy and mostly have no stamina hold onto either investments or our businesses we nurture. We sell out and run. We need more education to nurture entrepreneurship.

•We also, like Maharashtrians to our north, are petty, jealous of fellow Goans who come up in life and backbite each other all the time. Unlike Tamilians and Marwaris, we never stick together except to drink and gossip.

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