Goa Shows the Way

In the vast canvas of Indian states, Goa holds a very special place. The crystal sea, sun-baked beaches, New year bashes, and. sumptuous sea-food, are just some of the things that come to mind at the very mention of the state. At the same time, most people who have been to Goa will tell you that the people are warm, friendly and cheerful. Yet in the past, they have shown that they don’t just dwell in a sunny spirit, but are a conscious lot who know what to value and how to preserve their interest without giving way to any chaos.

A few months ago, the Goa state government decided to scrap the SEZs(Special Economic Zones). The debate is still on and the Centre has raised questions about a state government’s authority to completely squash an ambitious project because its people are against it. Crores of money has been invested in this project and the government is not too keen to draw back so easily. It is quite clear that the government also fears that this open assertion by Goa will open a Pandora’s Box and other states might attempt to do the same. Evidently, a long drawn bureaucratic battle seems to be on the cards and one is still not very sure about the fate of the SEZs in Goa. The central government will take a decision on this issue the next month.

However, one thing has stood out in the midst of this storm. The Goan people are completely united in their opinion regarding one of the most controversial issues of the day, namely SEZs. The very same issue has caused havoc in many other states where it has lead to immense agony and bloodshed. What is remarkable is that this resolute decision comes from Goa in complete peace. Undoubtedly, its silent strength adds to its appeal. This move by the Goa state government also proves how democracy is deep rooted in this state. After all, what is the life-blood of a democracy? Conscious citizens who can analyse different situations, question them and assert their views. The people of Goa have shown that they can do all that. They have the power to make their state government acknowledge their views, and, to make the Centre sit up and take notice of them.

I was in Goa recently and was amazed at the quiet resilience and confidence of its people. The level of awareness is also very high. They seem to know the complete complexity of the situation well and what they choose to gain if they go along with the SEZs. However, they are equally well aware of its grim flip side, something that the authorities have unsuccessfully tried to hide. For instance, they know the full extent of the environmental damage that these ambitious projects could lead to, besides the severe blow that would befall the state’s vibrant socio-cultural ethos. Even while the tourist season was at its peak, the anti-SEZ movement was pumping along in full steam in Goa. Though there was some temporary tension when certain local groups asked tourists to leave before the New Year, it soon settled down and thousands of people danced on the beach as they welcomed 2008. Thus, even while it posed a remarkably united front to the government, the people of Goa did not spoil the celebrations, rather joined in full gusto. Evidently, it is a sign of a very mature state which can handle its problems with such quiet assurance and not lose its innate zest.

For a long time, the rest of India has looked at Goa as a place of fun, frolic and merriment. It seems there is a lot more that we could learn from this coastal jewel.

Ipshita Ghosh


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