Disenchanted with the government’s insensitivity to various social problems in Goa, several citizens’ groups have banded together to form the Goemchea Rakhondarancho Awaz (Voice of the Protectors of Goa) GRA.
Over 30 citizens’ organisations and forums were represented at a press conference held on Saturday by the newly-formed GRA at the Institute Piedade, Panaji, to announce a massive public rally at Azad Maidan, Panaji at 2.30pm on March 15, to protest the government’s misdeeds regarding land, environment, mining, etc.
A GRA press release “fervently” appealed to every Goan to attend the protest rally “to show their disgust and anguish at the state of affairs prevailing in Goa.”
Yatish Naik of the Pilerne citizens forum said the GRA has three immediate demands: To demand that a resolution be passed in the Goa legislative assembly for the grant of special status for Goa by the central government, but not the type of special status that is meant to obtain only economic benefits, but which is meant for the protection of Goan land and culture.
The second demand is to pass the Lok Ayukta Bill with sufficient opportunity for the public to examine and suggest changes before it is passed into a law. The third demand is the complete sanitisation of Goa’s electoral rolls.
Many speakers from the group railed against the 40 Goan MLAs and expressed the need to bring in fresh and sincere faces. When asked if they would contest the next elections or field their candidates, GRA members said they would use the March 15 public meeting to assess public sentiment and decide accordingly.
The March 15 rally will highlight issues like police-politician-drug mafia nexus, motivated changes made to the regional plan 2021 not suggested by the public, illegal mining and mining dust pollution due to ore transportation, land acquisition for Mopa airport, Navy’s planned acquisition of more Goan land, garbage menace, environmental degradation, mega projects and the threat to the Goan identity.
Other issues include distribution of comunidade land to industries which were supposed to employ Goans but did not, special economic zones and a government not caring to enforce its own conditions.
Yatish Naik said that with various issues being agitated by various citizens’ forums, individuals were being targeted by the establishment. That is why all these issues need to be integrated under one banner for the protection of “Goa, Goans and Goenkarponn,” Naik said.
Fr Bismarque Dias of the Goenchea Xetkareancho Ekvott said the movement started by the GRA will continue to fight against the “crimes against human rights” in Goa. Dias said Goa has “gone beyond corruption to the point of suicide.”
Antonio Lobo of the Mapusa Nagrikancho Ekvott lamented that while Goans no longer get a place to do business in the Mapusa municipal market, lamanis and Kannadigas get preferential places and treatment to do business there. In contrast, native Goans are harassed and the GRA will fight against this injustice, Lobo said.
Fr Dominic Sequeira from Saligao appealed to the youth to support the movement that seeks the preservation of Goa for their sake. Swati Kerkar of the SEZ Virodhi Manch said all the forum members have been brought together by their collective pain. “Who will relieve our pain? I guess, only we can relieve our pain. We need a political revolution. Our future is in our hands and we must save it. We must not sell our votes and re-elect the same robbers again,” Kerkar said.