It was Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s birthday on Saturday and the state BJP unit and government agencies were out in full swing to celebrate the occasion with a number of programmes that included -- most prominently -- the beach clean-up drives that were held at several locations across the state and included the participation by Chief Minister Pramod Sawant, other ministers and representatives of several government agencies. Quite expectedly, the programmes turned out to be just tokenism and a photo opportunity for the party brass to send back to the high command that their instructions have been followed and the Prime Minister’s birthday was indeed given great importance by the state leadership.
The Congress on the other hand used the opportunity to question the quite apparent irony of the beach clean-up drives -- if the beaches are so unclean that they require the party brass to be descending to have them ‘cleaned’ then what are you paying the beach cleaning agency upwards of around Rs 60-crore annually for?
It wasn’t too long ago when the media highlighted how serious the problem of plastic pollution has become. Fishing nets that are drawn up the Caranzalem beach have repeatedly turned up more plastic than fish on each occasion that the traditional fishermen pull them ashore. All that plastic waste is left discarded on the beach itself and is left to blow away in the wind. Occasionally the CCP does come to collect the plastic, especially if there is media attention, but more often than not, there is no serious effort made to relieve the beach and the fishermen of the plastic menace, which will only get worse over the years to come.
Similarly, a Russian long term visa holder Pavel Boloyangov -- has been waging what is a lonely crusade against the dumping and burning of plastic garbage at the Arambol beach with only half hearted enthusiasm from the government to act on his offers to help them rid the area of the menace. What that points to is a simple truth -- neither is the beach cleaning agency doing a complete job of the coast, nor will periodic photo opportunities help clear Goa’s much-loved beaches of the menace of garbage, especially plastic garbage. Neither of the initiatives of the government appears to be a sincere move to actually ensure that Goa’s beaches and their surroundings remain clean.
What the state needs is a wider, more consistent effort towards keeping its beaches clean -- one that involves the local communities -- the fishermen, the shack owners, the owners and employees of other beach side businesses, the local village panchayats and others who would like to contribute. Unfortunately, it appears that the government instead of putting a system in place or reviewing the contracts of beach cleaning is happily undertaking photo ops that are going to have no effect on the issue at hand. There is no way the one day clean up drive is going to change the scenario. We as a society and community need to take charge of our common home and not get carried away with such tokenism.