People’s voice matters, Goans need to be vigilant

The developmental paradigm explains why the current govt was so hungry for power, though having won only 13 seats in the election

FR ORVILLE DE SILVA SJ | NOVEMBER 22, 2020, 12:10 AM IST
People’s voice matters, Goans need to be vigilant

In recent weeks, Goa has been on a boil as people are trying to defy the government over controversial developmental projects. It does not speak well of the State’s ruling government that is trying to hoodwink the people by saying that the double-tracking from Hospet to Vasco is not for coal transportation.

There is sufficient documented evidence which shows that the double-tracking is primarily meant for coal transportation. While seeking approval from the Central Government under Section 2 of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, for diversion of fresh forest area, the cost-benefit analysis report of Rail Vikas Nigam Limited makes reference only to the transportation of iron ore and coal. The government is reluctant to come out in the open explaining the other benefits of the double-tracking.

One can also make a reference to the “Sagarmala: Master plan for Mormugao Port” prepared by AECOM for the Ministry of Shipping, which constantly refers to the double-tracking of Vasco-Hospet line for the augmentation of coal transportation by Adani and Jindal.

The Master Plan speaks of enhancing the capacity of the port for coal handling. It is but obvious that the Goa government is working at the behest of the Central Government to push down its anti-people development projects. The Sagarmala report clearly states that the local government has been pressurised by the Centre for the completion of doubling of the railway line.

The developmental paradigm which the current government is trying to impose on the people of Goa also explains why the stakes were so high for the BJP to capture power though having won only 13 seats in the last State election.

The protests against the double-tracking and two other linear projects are only the tip of the iceberg as the autocratic government tries to tighten its grip over Goa. Goans need to be vigilant and on the guard to understand this hidden agenda of the BJP government.

The white paper released by the Environment and Power Minister on Goa’s power consumption conveniently states only the future energy requirements of Goa, but it fails to evaluate its commitment to renewable energy.

The Solar Policy 2017 states that Goa is richly endowed with moderate climate and bright sunshine for almost 8-9 hours and therefore needs to harness solar energy. The policy further states that the State needs to make a shift from over-dependence on thermal energy to becoming self-reliant in power generation by promoting clean sources of power.

The growing energy needs of Goa can well be met only if the government is committed to promoting renewable energy.

The recent remarks by Chief Minister Pramod Sawant and Minster for Environment and Power Nilesh Cabral only show that what matters most to them is not the people of Goa, but the dictates of its central cadre in 

Delhi.

If the elected representatives and the ruling government truly represent the will of the people, they would heed to the voices of every Goan who are willing to risk their lives to protect Goa for future posterity protesting against the three liner projects: 400 KV power transmission line, expansion of the national highway and double-tracking.

The protest against the projects calls to question the developmental paradigm envisaged by the government without taking into consideration the villagers and the people of Goa. Goa has the highest rate of literacy, people are very vigilant and want to be engaged in deciding their future in Goa. To make Goa a model state, the government needs to involve multiple stakeholders and strengthen the decentralised structures of decision making and

 governance.

The voice of dissent is not the voice of “Londonkars”, as the Chief Minister sadly claims, but it is the voice that is challenging his repressive governance and anti-people development agenda. It is the voice that is trying to haunt the deaf ears of the ruling government. As the government is beginning to feel the pressure, it is only the people’s movement and their resistance that can save  Goa.

(The writer is a Jesuit priest and social activist based in Pedro Arrupe Institute at Raia)

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