I have been a frequent visitor to Goa for the last four decades, if not more. The rapid deterioration, in all spheres affecting its people, especially in the last ten years, has saddened me to no end. It is as if the bubonic plague has swept across this little State of India, slowly stifling the inhabitants to a slow, humiliating and inglorious death.
Mother Nature has lost out hopelessly to greedy politicians marauding the land and its people, denuding its forests; plundering its beaches and the hillsides, with a multitude of, largely illegal, sand and iron ore mining activity, going totally unchecked. Concrete jungles have mushroomed all over the countryside, like sores on the face of a leper. I have noted, with alarm that beneath a placid façade, and is a raging; boiling volcano of crippled dreams; surging and undisciplined emotions, from long years of frustration and exploitation, ready to erupt. Anytime!
This once-upon-a-time Paradise is deteriorating fast. The easy-going local Goan populace is now in the minority. There has been a huge influx of people from Kerala, Karnataka, Assam, Delhi, and even Bengal! Nearly all hotels and restaurants’ staff are from Bengal, most of whom are illegal migrants from Bangla Desh. They sport Hindu names. But if one prods them a bit, especially by speaking in the Bangla Deshi dialects (Bangal), they easily open up! How many of these youngsters owe their loyalty to the Lashkar- e -Toiba or sympathize with the ISIS or Taliban, are anyone’s guess… and the local police cannot be concerned, if their palms are greased regularly. The shopkeepers lining the streets outside Resorts and large Hotels are mainly Kashmiris. That is, the owners of these illegitimate pop-ups are Muslims from Kashmir, whereas the workers are from Karnataka, Bengal, or Bihar. The waiters in shacks along the beaches, which serve “multi-cuisine” dishes are nearly all from Bengal/Bangla Desh. Taxi tariffs are ad hoc and very steep. The drivers say this is so because of the increase in “hafta” (bribe) the cops extort from them. All shopkeepers, taxi owners I questioned, barring none, hurled brickbats at the corrupt police cadre, which is truly a bane to the people.
The Green Revolution is a myth in Goa! The mining barons have excavated entire hills, with total abandon; confident of unstinted support, tacit or otherwise, from the wily politicians of all hues. Green, red, Tri-colour, saffron, who all unabashedly worship Mammon! Delhi realtors, DLF, have a mega housing project, which locals claim, is severely and irreparably damaging the ecological balance. Thirty kilometres from Panjim, at Dabolim, DLF constructed six hundred top-of-the-range houses along the hill slopes of this picturesque region, in a “no development zone “regardless of the protests from NGOs, including the Goa Bachao Abhiyan, headed by firebrand activist, Sabina Martes. According to sources, the role of former Chief Minister Digambar Kamat, and his associates, in the outrageous rape of Dabolim village and its ecology, is suspicious, to say the least! The late Chief Minister, Manohar Parrikar, who, apparently, enjoyed a clean image, had to bell the cat; a task in which he miserably failed. But it is a daunting task to raze the giant structures built by DLF, causing even more ecological harm, to dump the rubble. It was a catch-22 situation for Parrikar, and now for Sawant. The need of the hour is also to crack the whip at the mining lobby and shackle them, mercilessly. Without fear or favour. The Green Tribunal is fighting an uphill battle, with the bureaucracy, business magnates, and politicians putting hurdles in their path, instead of lending support. Actions speak louder than words. But Money speaks loudest of all! In this, Parrikar failed. It seems quite unlikely that Sawant will either!
Another major threat to the locals is the Russian mafia, which has a very solid presence, especially in South Goa. Benaulim, Salcete where I stayed recently, is literally ruled by them. The drug and flesh trades are massive money-spinning rackets, in which everyone from the powers-that-be: people at the highest level in the political hierarchy, to top cops, and even the lowly, but, paradoxically, all-powerful, constable, who is tasked with collecting the “hafta” for distribution to the police force, according to rank, have a stake, regardless of the pandemic conditions faced by the rest of the country. In Goa, it is still a ‘sass-e- gaud” (let it be) attitude. Hasheesh, ganja, cocaine, heroin are easily available, for a price. The Russians also have a large commercial interest in the flesh trade. Apart from a few thick-set Russian women, they have their stables stocked with girls from East European countries, who can only speak their native tongue or a matter of Russian. They are in every sense slaves to their Masters, who subject them to brutal beatings if they dare to protestor on any pretext. A complaint from a customer about a girl being uncooperative can result in severe whipping with a steel studded leather belt as a “disciplinary measure”. The charges for bedding these white females, very much in demand by tourists from Mumbai and Delhi, range from Rs.10,000 for an hour to as high as Rs1,00,000 for the night. The unwritten rule is that a maximum of two men can jointly share the services of a girl, thereby splitting the costs. So, there is rarely any scope for an orgy. Unless of course paid up for! These girls come on contracts of six months to a year. After that, they are sent back, with their earnings, which is fifteen percent of their turn-over, minus the cost of food, medical and other expenses. Fresh stock is brought in as a replacement. The Passport Department, as well as Customs, are in connivance.
Until five years ago, there was a bitter rivalry between the Israeli and Russian Mafias. The Israeli also run a flesh trade, but which is largely serviced by women from their own country. These bronzed and tanned nubile, but horse-faced, “sabras” command a much higher price than the pasty white complexioned Russians, who are mostly of stocky build, with a few slim exceptions. In the last two years, peace has been brokered between the warring factions, allegedly with the arbitration of senior police officers. The Israelis now control the coast of Vagator, Anjuna and Chapora, which is the hub of most international tourists. While the Russians operate in Morjim and Arambol. The British, not to be left out, have a presence in Candolim, South Anjuna, and the Baga/Calangute sectors. However, as Napoleon had famously said, like the Nation of shop keepers, that they traditionally are, the British focus is on the drug trade and the foreign exchange business. This includes arranging for “hawala” transactions from and to Goa. They have barely any interest in the flesh trade, barring a few drug addicts who sell their bodies for a fix. The Baina beach sex workers are only from the locals. There are charges that are much lower. There is also a real danger of contracting the deadly AIDS from them! In the last year or so, Nigerians have made their presence in the drug market. But they have yet to get a proper foothold.
Brutal crimes are on the rise. This is to be expected with such a large floating population and no tags kept on them by the tardy enforcers of the law. Young foreigners, unaccompanied or otherwise, are targets for wealthy and powerful Dons, who double as politicians, or. Danielle MacLauligin was raped and murdered at Derabagh. Her horrible murder speaks volumes about the hopelessness of the police.
Until barely seven years ago, there were no tensions between Hindus and Muslims. They, along with their Christian brethren, lived in total harmony. South Goa is predominantly Christian and Muslim. I enjoyed wolfing down half a dozen beef patties and samosas for breakfast every morning. Dunking a “poi” (small bun made from wheat) in my glass of tea. North Goa, is mostly a Hindu area. So no beef patties shops are easily seen. Beef snacks are available in a few shops in the market but at double the cost available at Benaulim. Eating out is also more expensive in North Goa. Although, we had an excellent pork roast and grilled silverfish at Victoria’s, on the Calangute beach road. Anna Maria D’cruz, the owner, cooks every dish herself… And it is par excellence. Authentic Goan food.
In the 2017 polls, the BJP was ushered in. Manohar Parrikar took over the reins of Government on March 14 that year. This was his second innings as Chief Minister. Parrikar died on March 17, 2019. He was succeeded on March 19, 2019, by Pramod Pandurang Sawant, an Ayurvedic medical practitioner, as the 13th CM of Goa. Sawant represents the Sanquelim constituency. His wife, Sulakshana, who is a chemistry teacher, is currently President of the Goa unit of the BJP. P.P. Sawant is a Maratha.
Walking through the maze of cobbled streets, in the interior by-lanes of Benaulim, I was distressed to note the animosity which was simmering between the two major communities. Like Mumbai, after the 1993 serial bomb blasts, locales were marked as Hindu or Muslim regions Saffron flags fluttered from every Hindu house, while green flags were put up in Muslim ones! Such communal strife never existed in the Goa of old. Parrikar was notably trying to do some damage control. He had fired a salvo against Digambar Kamat and Churchill Alamo through the Enforcement Directorate. The amounts seized were minuscule! His successor, Sawant, continues in his wake. But it remains to be seen whether these steps are just witch-hunting or is Sawant really serious in cleansing the muck which is today’s politics in Goa. Besides, having to cut down to size the mining despots and the construction industry, Sawant now has another predicament to handle. The Supreme Court had banned selling liquor within 500 meters from the, resulting in the shutting down of nearly 3500 liquor shops. This resulted in a giant blow to the tourism industry as well. Urrak, feni, toddy, and wine, are a part of the Goan peoples’ tradition. Every Christian family brews its own stock. But they have strict limitations to their intake. I have yet to find a Goan drunk and out of control of his senses. Tourists from Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata. Yes. They get drunk and misbehave. This statute has also, however, effectively reduced fatal accidents caused by sozzled drivers. Winston Churchill had quipped: “If you destroy free trade, you encourage the black market! “This has given an impetus to manufacturers of spurious liquor, with more deaths caused, on a much larger scale, than in road accidents. However, as I know full well, the pathway to Hell is paved with good intentions!
Albert Einstein had said, “I never think of the Future, for it comes soon enough!”
But times have changed since Einstein. If Sawant cannot quickly bring the building Mafia and others, as well as the handful of the affluent mining thugs, to heel, the rot will have well and truly set in. The Future seems bleak. I fear Goa is on the way to becoming Paradise Lost, with apologies to John Milton!
Author: AMIT KUMAR BHOWMIK
Amit Kumar Bhowmik is a 74 years young lawyer based in Pune. He has his practice including in the Bombay High court as also other High courts as well as he appears as Counsel in the Supreme court. Although essentially having his practise on the criminal side he is an all-rounder having taken up matters in the matrimonial courts as well. He is a prolific writer and an unabashed champion of women rights.
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