The Legislative Assembly session concluded on a dramatic note with the POGO (Person of Goan origin) Bill being dumped by the government terming it as being in violation of the Constitution and citing a report of the Law Department. Chief Minister Pramod Sawant and Law Minister Nilesh Cabral were on their feet explaining why the bill was dumped. Incidentally, Curtorim constituency MLA Reginaldo Lourenco launched a blistering attack on the proponents of the bill and thundered saying “We were silent because of elections, now we won’t keep quiet”.
The spontaneous enthusiasm that was on display in shooting down the bill tells the bleak side of the story. While the Law Department’s report needs to be respected, the lack of a will in the political class to even debate and discuss the definition of a Goan in any forum is unfortunate. What was expected from the legislators was to look beyond political boundaries and the allergies attached to the POGO bill and come out with workable solutions to one of the biggest issues that Goa is currently facing.
Those in the government and all MLAs who have sworn to uphold the interest of Goans have turned out to be hypocrites by shying away from addressing this critical issue at any level while only attempting to politicize it. Unfortunately, one of the stumbling blocks for legislation has been their names. Bhoomiputra Bill created an uproar and people termed it as a violation of the Goan rights. The ’son of the soil’ tag that was attached to the bill created more damage than good. The POGO bill appears to have taken a similar course, adding to this the political rivalries. The need here was to address the larger issue rather than looking at who is propelling this piece of legislation. Shooting it down as unconstitutional is easy, making it workable in the larger interest of Goans has become difficult. The title of the bill and the party which is flagging it has become a pointless debate leaving the core question of a Goan’s identity isolated.
The conferment of a distinct recognition upon Goans serves the constitutional interests of equality as it provides for reasonable classification based on the demography based upon an intelligible differentiation of persons whose progeny subsisted during the Portuguese colonial occupation of the State. This would also encourage equal protection by the laws since equals would not be treated unequally before the law in the future.
Even the right to life guaranteed under Article 21 includes the right to live with dignity, and every Goan should be granted the right to live with dignity in his home state without apprehension of being amalgamated into the larger Indian society which may be competitive and even stand to dilute the moral values that we as Goans cherish and uphold in our state with zeal and honour.
The intent of protecting Goa’s identity is hollow and borders on false hope because people’s representatives have not done enough to define Goemkar. Streamlining name-change formalities and a few other initiatives are way too petty in the sea change that is being witnessed. Goa is fast losing its identity, and the many discourses of protecting it pale out against what is seen on the ground. Legislators cannot run away from the discourse on Goan identity because of vote-bank politics.