The Tale of Two Rivers
josé colaço

This tale begins circa December 3, 1961 in the cosmopolitan town of Poona (now Pune) where a good number of Goans  live. While Poona was about 200 miles north of Goa, much cooler and protected by the Western  Ghats from the severity of the monsoons, Goa, for us, was always home.

Sunset at Baga-Calangute pic jose colaco(2002)Goa was clean, serene, affluent, happy and incredibly beautiful. When compared to the rest of India, the difference was striking. However, Goa was under the control of the Portuguese dictator Dr. Antonio Salazar. From what I can remember, our family understood his financial genius well, but didn't care much for his need to control.

We always believed that Goa had enough of natural wealth and talent to be able to manage its own affairs. I was perhaps too young, at that time, to understand but definitely not too young to overhear the discussions which took place in our home.

All this with the background of the subtle harassment we faced from our neighbours in Poona. But, we took it in stride.  After all, in many a way, at that time, we were refugees because of our religion (Catholics in a predominantly Rt. Wing Hindu Poona) and because of our place of origin (Goa at that time was regarded as foreign, and an enemy of India) . In an ironic twist of fate, Goans were lucky that the Rt. Wing Hindu Mahasabha had their sights focused on the Muslims, and that the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi had resulted in the banning of these extreme elements.

Furthermore, India under Nehru was turning out to be a truly nice and peaceful place. Goans expected  Goa to progress on those lines.

So, when India walked into Goa in 1961, we watched patiently. True, the take-over of Goa was a political 'wag the dog' ploy to reverse the faltering political fortunes of the Nehru Congress party and true, the news (and rumours) of the rapes of Goan women & looting of Goan shops by members of the Indian Army made Goans shake their head in dismay & disbelief; this was not the  behaviour of somebody who wishes to liberate you, we thought.  However, we are able to set that aside as a vagary of military action and reason that  finally, we did not have to deal with the dictator Salazar anymore.

The Portuguese could enjoy their stint with Salazar for all they wanted, we Goans now had the opportunity to get on with our land and lives.....or so we thought.

I was the first in our family to return to Goa - when I joined the Goa Medical College (the oldest Western-allopathic medical school in Asia). For me, the lessons from this early post-Portuguese period are still very difficult to comprehend.

The so-called Freedom Fighters of Goa had made absolutely NO plans for Goa after the Portuguese were shown the red card. That should make one wonder if they were ever "in the loop".

Goa was ruled for a brief stint (I must say, ably) by the administration of Lt. General Candeth. After that came the decade and half of conveniently chaotic corruption under the Maharashtravadi Gomantak Party led by the blue eyed Dayanand Bandodkar.

Qualified Goans were side-stepped under the Creative Advertising program and the UPSC.  The former ensured that Goans wouldn't see the list of vacancies in the newspapers until a few  days before the last date for application. The latter meant that interviews and more importantly, selection of candidates for positions in Goa would take place at the UPSC premises in Delhi.

Whatever the rationale may or may not have been, the net effect was that non-Goans were planted in  positions that Goans SHOULD have filled.

In bewilderment many qualified Goans left Goa - some for good.

The newly appointed non-Goans now began to fill even clerical vacancies with folks from all over, except Goa. Was there (for instance) any special reason in 1966 for the clerks in the office of the Dean of Goa Medical College  to be from Kerala?

Many more Goans decided to emigrate, this time to the harsh environs of the Middle East. Let  us remember that the 1960s was a bit before the Middle East experienced its recent prosperity.

With this emigration of Goans especially from South Goa, the anti-MGP vote bank was being steadily depleted. Was that the original idea? Perhaps!

The Opinion Poll of 1967 when Goans rejected the brazen attempt by Maharashtra to swallow Goa, was too bitter a pill for the MGP.  Retribution had to follow.....and it did.

As more and more qualified Goans left Goa, two significant facets emerged. ONE - Even more non-Goans arrived in Goa. For them, Goa was this Paradise they had always dreamed of visiting, forget living in. TWO - the only vote-wining individuals who were left in Goa, were mainly, the inept and corrupt ones who eventually got elected.

The Congress Party of Nehru which had organized the early departure of the Portuguese, failed to win a single seat at any level in Goa for nearly two decades.

So, effectively, Goa was left at the mercy of the "market"  forces. And the market was controlled by 'dadas' who gave added meaning to the phrase Zhalaach Pahije ( It must happen).

The Congress Government in Delhi couldn't care less and the Freedom Fighters didn't have a clue. The MGP Government in Goa, still smarting from the Opinion Poll defeat continued its policy of stupidity. They now had non-Goan Heads of Departments brought in to lord over qualified Goans who were already in the service for many years.

No sensible person can or should expect non-locals to know the ropes better than the locals. So, The Lords did the best they could do. They just lorded, and brought in the additional problem of internecine jealousy and politics.

At the Goa Medical College, a Dean from Maharashtra saw a whole contingent of new Profs from that State. A few years later, the Dean was from the South. No prizes to determine which part of India, the new Profs for that period came from.

Almost every Government Department suffered from the non-leadership from these ICMs  Infinitely Clueless Masters. These new masters neither had the love for Goa nor the know-how.  All they did was GRAB what, whenever and as long as they could.

As a result : GOA suffered no end.

This state of maximum inefficiency was supremely au fait with the politicians who now were effortlessly, able to gain maximum control of the various departments. The Technocrats were no longer Advisors of the Government - only recipients of directives from their own masters. As a result, these Technocrats became the indentured servants of  the Almighty Politicians.

The results are there for every one to see.

The once beautiful and clean Goa has been filthified beyond recognition. Atrocious slums housing even more migrants are appearing in most towns and many villages. Houses which had no need for locks on their doors have been forced to be fortified by iron grills. Seniors who could walk freely at any time of day or night, live closeted in fear in many villages. Driving is a nightmare thanks to the unmitigated chaos on the pot-holed roads. The once clean Hospitals have been replaced by shoddily constructed Medical Complexes. Malaria is once again on the rise and so are diseases of the Gastrointestinal tract. There is near zero health control on the food establishments which are springing up every day throughout Goa.

Bridges have been built across the River Mandovi and Zuari - and neither really survived the stress of greater than ten years. Goa has allowed a massive agro-chemical plant in a residential area. Not only does this plant spew toxic material into the air and water, it also has created a massive slum called Zuarinagar. Recently, despite objections from several quarters, the OK was signed (at home) for the Konkan Railway to pass west of where it should ideally have.

The Chief Minister
who signed the Konkan Railway document at home was soon removed by the Courts - his election was deemed to be void. And YET, his actions stayed!? despite the fact that almost every panchayat through which the railway was to pass, objected to it?!

Then ....... the META Strips plant - planted on Goans under cloudy or should I say "shady" conditions. Why the Goa Government would Ok a plant which cleans somebody else's garbage and keeps the toxin in Goa,  beats me. The only explanation one can offer is "market forces" !

All boils down to the basic fact: Barring the few exceptions, Goans should not be surprised if non-Goans do not care what happens to Goa or Goans. They are there to make the money. Once they have made the money, they will leave.....and find another place to strip bare.

There is this argument that all this development brings in more jobs for Goans. Please ascertain for yourself : WHAT percentage of the top jobs (or even jobs) in all these new water & power guzzling factories, have benefited Goans.

The same holds true for the Hotel Industry. One wonders whether anybody knows how many
restaurants, food shacks and mobile eateries there are. One thing is for sure. Except for a handful, NONE of them are regulated. It is most unlikely that the VAST MAJORITY of individuals who handle food at these eateries have been cleared to handle food - with special reference to Typhoid, TB, Infectious Hepatitis or other Gastrointestinal Diseases.

And this is a State which is one of the major tourist spots in the world!

Remember now, when the stuff hits the fan, these hotel owners and the workers (the vast majority, nonGoan) will have a place to go to. NOT us Goans.

All this brings us to the TWO RIVERS.

No! not the Mandovi nor the Zuari with their infamous collapsing bridges. NO! not them...not yet, at least! Their turn will come sooner or later.

         The River sal from Assolna Bridge  Baga: The river mouth & the Retreat 

For now, we may wish to concentrate on their tributaries i.e. the Rivers Baga and Sal. You may have noted or perhaps not that almost 90% of all the mountains of garbage generated by these hotels, eating houses and new developments is being dumped into the Rivers Baga and Sal!!

Goans be warned. Toxic contamination of these and other waterways will reach devastating levels. The staple food of Goans i.e. fish will soon be inedible and the water non-potable. 

This is merely an alert. It is for us, Goans to see the writing on the wall before it is too late. If Goans do not sit up, take note and resist this filthification in progress, the Goa that Goans we love will be reduced to the rubble of just another giant shanty slum.

Conclusion: It would be highly unfair of me NOT to recognize the many  erstwhile non-Goans including the labour force from the surrounding States who have contributed to Goa, and made Goa their home both physically and emotionally.

These fine people who have given their heart and sweat to Goa are Goans, and will continue to be just as Goan as I am or will ever be.  However, they remain exceptions to the rule. Most do not have their heart in Goa. They are the paper-Goans whose only interest is to see what they can get from Goa.

No land or people can or should live in isolation. Diversity actually enriches a place and its people. Unfortunately, what has happened in Goa, is vastly different from the natural and beneficial fusion of cultures and peoples.  What has happened in Goa is a calculated effort to dilute Goan culture by stifling Goan aspirations...... a la Pondicherry!

Over the years, I have reviewed my personal views on the 1961 action. The way things in Goa have deteriorated courtesy the rampant and arrogant corruption, I sometimes wonder whether we ended up with greedy Snakes as we sought to get rid of the pesky Salazarist rats!

And you know what : - Goans don't even have minimal control of their good old Dabolim airport!

josé colaço
Feb 22, 2002


Post script:  Goans need to take charge of their affairs by electing sensible people at the polls. The corrupt Politicians, unscrupulous Industrialists, Hotel Owners and the Charter Tourists will come and go. When the land is ripped of its resources and the waters polluted, they will move to another place.

They, after all, are governed by the law of market forces i.e. To Hell with the People or the Place, Let us make our Money while we can !

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