The euphoria of being finally liberated from the Portuguese rule blinded Goans at that particular moment to such an extent that they forgot their rationale. Failure to understand the political dynamics, particularly in a democracy, our leaders at that time did not truly understand the Constitution of India which would now rule the territory. Besides, one cannot ignore the fact that the freedom movement was not really a mass movement in Goa where one saw people rising against the foreign rule. Hence, Goans at that time had no choice really other than accepting whatever was imposed upon them by the Government of India.
And subsequently, though we elected our own Legislative Assembly as an Union Territory of India, we did not really analyse what was happening to Goa with reference to the laws, language, culture and political decision making process and how this political decision process, flawed as it was, would affect the future of the State and its people.
It was much later, that the people of Goa awoke to their rights and began to assert them to protect their identity as had happened in other parts of the country, but before Goa was liberated. Coming out of our repressed mental sensibilities, Goans began demanding recognition of their language and statehood and all these demands were made within the frame work of the Constitution of India.
But there is a lot more than recognition of the language and gaining Statehood that needs to be done if Goans have to protect their identity, culture and above all the limited land resources for the future generation. Besides being a relatively small land mass, Goa has a very fragile environment bounded on the West by the unpredictable sea and on the East by the ecologically hot spot of Sahayadri range and this environment needs to be protected if Goa has to survive.
Today, maintaining the demography of the land has become a priority thanks to the unrestricted influx of people from all regions of India and even other countries. Leave alone the urban areas, even in Goan villages there is a perceptible threat of a demographic imbalance that is making people insecure.
It is indeed really sad that we Goans and more particularly our political leaders, have failed to appreciate the essence of the Constitution of India that truly embodies the creed of “unity in diversity” and provides ample of scope for diverse social, cultural, linguistic and even tribal communities to be encompassed as Indian citizens.
The most appreciable aspect of the Constitution of India is that it is dynamic and this is reflected in the fact that it has been amended more than 100 times to cater to the changing aspirations of its citizens as the society has evolved. Very recently, the Constitution of India has been amended to fulfill the aspirations of the people of Northern States to carve out three new States. This itself should lay to rest the charge that Goans have woken up too late to demand inclusion Special Provisions (Special Status) in the Constitution of India under Article 371 in order to protect the linguistic, cultural, social, demographic identity, land and environment of Goa of Goa.
It is indeed quite unfortunate that many present day politicians, ignorant as they are of the benefits that Goa can accrue if given the Special Provisions (Special Status) under Article 371 of the Constitution of India, are deliberately trying to twist the issue by giving it a mere financial connotation.
In the first place, if Goa gets the special status under Article 371, it can well bid good bye to the Gadgil Mukherjee formula under which the Centre allots funds to State, which everybody agrees, works to Goa’s disadvantage. Under Article 371, we shall automatically qualify for a change in allocation of Central funds wherein 90 per cent can come in as grants and 10 per cent as loan.
Special Status will give a lot more benefits to Goa and therefore the move to seek only a financial package to Goa as proposed by some of our present day political leaders is nothing but opting to travel in a second class local train by rejecting place in first class air conditioned compartment of a super express train. And the reasons for saying this are given below.
Special Status will entitle Goa for tax rebates and tax holidays to attract non-polluting industries to give a fillip to the industrial sector in the state which at present is quite backward.
Special Status will enable Goa to claim a greater share of the earnings from ore exports particularly since Goa and Goans have to suffer ecological damage, disabilities and deaths due to accidents, and above all ill health due to pollution.
Special Status will give Goa the power to control not only the price of the land but also in whose hand it is getting transferred to. By doing so, we shall be able to curb the mega-project and control the real estate market that is presently catering to non-Goans hit by the craze of having a second home in Goa. Besides, by controlling the price of the land and the parties it is being sold to, we shall be able to provide a shield to the gullible Goans, many of whom are being lured and even threatened to sell their land very often by their political leaders themselves.
Special Status will entitle Goa to review Central Legislations to make them applicable to the prevailing conditions in the State and also modify social welfare schemes so that Goans can avail the benefits. This is quite important as most often Goans cannot avail of Central schemes due to the different ground reality in our state as was reflected in the failure of the National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme to take of in Goa.
Special Status will enable Goa to get exempted from the national policy index given the fact that cost of living in Goa is amongst the highest in the country.
Special Status will provide us with enough teeth to make it mandatory for anybody starting a business in Goa to have a local as a partner.
So when there are so many advantages, why should we settle for pittance by accepting only a financial package?