Shame to Goan Pride

Posted on 2009-06-26
ECONOMIC downturn has driven back home nearly 50,000 Goans from Gulf countries and about 25,000 more who were working on ships or with airline companies. About one lakh Goans are on the state’s live job register; an estimated 20,000 are unregistered or have just passed out; and there are about 5000 workers who have lost job in recession-hit industries in the state. Together they have built up a jobless population of about 2 lakh, which makes roughly 13 per cent of the state’s current population. The unemployment situation is highly unprecedented and alarming.
Is anyone serious about this extraordinary unemployment? Whom to blame and whom not to? The government? The ‘No-No’ groups? The geography and topography of the land itself? Perhaps all of them. Because the shrinking of job opportunities in the state did not start with the housing loan frauds in Miami. It started with a public uproar over some policy decisions and individual manipulations by ministers and powerful lobbies that aimed to take over huge chunks of Goa’s land for industries, mega housing projects or sheer speculation. All mega-housing projects stopped, reducing job opportunities for civil engineers, architects and others. Large investments shied away from Goa; so much so that the High-Powered Coordination Committee cleared just one major industry in two years.
Not all the public uproar was for the wrong reason: partly it was fuelled by the passion of keeping Goan collective authority and collective identity intact in a steamrolling privatising and individualising environment which itself was seen to be fuelled by sheer greed. But then in the popular storm and the frequent eruptions that continue to mark community responses across the state many good and harmless ideas of investment were and are being also blown away.
And now we have the recession placing an extraordinary burden on the state government and a project resistant-community of the thousands laid off from the Gulf, ocean liners and other states of India. How does the state provide livelihood for them? There would be cynics, we are sure, who would say that the Gulf fellows can find sustenance for themselves from the savings they have made at their overseas jobs. But let us not forget that many of those who went to Gulf went there because they were poor and wanted a decent income for themselves and their families. Apart from trying to meet the ever-rising costs of living in the Gulf countries, they have been sending remittances to their families back home. Their savings may not last a very long time. And the recession is not showing any signs of abatement. And there are no guarantees of their being taken back.
In short, it is a very pitiable situation for them. Added to the already vast number of jobless Goans, they are going to expect the government to create jobs for them. How does the government do it? At the completion of two years in office, the Chief Minister, Mr Digambar Kamat spoke of a development model based on protection of Goan identity. We do not think anyone should have any problem with the idea. The only thing is the creating of such a model. The government, which has been on the backfoot from accusations of complicity with forces of great greed, needs to open up a dialogue with conscientious and farsighted sections of elite and masses to build such a model. And we must do it without any delay, because investments are necessary for development. If we go on blocking investments, we will be left with a public treasury with hugely diminished revenue. The state government will have no funds from taxes to build infrastructure or improve health or education because their will be nobody to pay them. It will fall back to begging from the Centre. That will be a great shame to Goan pride and identity.