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Mainstream, VOL LVI No 6 New Delhi January 27, 2018 - Republic Day Special

Thoughts on Goa’s Liberation Day

Saturday 27 January 2018, by Eduardo Faleiro

On December 19, we celebrate the Liberation of Goa from colonial rule. On that day, in 1961, Goa joined the Union of India and independent India became complete. Goa has achieved remarkable progress since independence. The greatest gain has been the feeling of self-respect regained, of liberation, the opening of the portals of opportunity particularly to the vast mass of people who were denied upward mobility over centuries and perhaps millennia.

Great strides have been made in core sectors such as education. In 1961, the literacy rate here was around 30 per cent. Goa is now a fully literate State if we exclude some persons above the age of 50 and a section of migrant labour.

This has been achieved mainly through private institutions. Regrettably, government schools themselves are in an appalling condition. As a result only those who cannot afford to enrol their children in private schools send them to the government schools. The Fundamental Right to Education for all children up to the age of 14 years is enshrined in the Constitution. What is required is a law to determine the facilities which the State Government should provide to the children so that they can exercise this fundamental right. “Free Education” means not merely free from tuition fees but also adequate classrooms and teachers, free uniforms, textbooks and other educational material. Inequalities in education will be accentuated in the Computer Age. The dangerous “digital divide” can only be prevented if necessary steps are taken right now. The ideal is the “Common School System” with quality government schools known as “neighbourhood schools” in every locality where all children, irrespective of social class or religious affiliation, will go.

The Goa University ought to be a centre of academic excellence at the national as well as international levels. It should be a powerful instrument to enable the youth of Goa and of the country at large to deal with and thrive in today’s increasingly competitive world, the global “knowledge society” where education is the key to success. Turning our University into a Central University would have advanced this objective and would have improved significantly our University education.

Significant headway has been made in the fields of healthcare and development of infrastructure such as electricity and water supply, roads and other forms of communication. Here again, there are obvious deficiencies but the progress is unmistakable.

In the sixties, tourism was adopted as a key sector for Goa’s development primarily because of its potential to generate employment in a State with an increasingly educated workforce and limited industrial growth. The objective of employment has been achieved to a great extent inasmuch as about 30 per cent of Goa’s population is engaged in tourism-related activities, directly or indirectly. However, Goa being a small State, its carrying capacity in terms of its size, facilities available and ecological fragility should be considered. Very little awareness existed until a decade ago among the policy-makers in Goa or elsewhere in the world about the need for sustainable tourism development. It is now accepted that tourism should be developed in a manner that meets the requirements of the present without compro-mising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Sustainable tourism develop-ment comprises three fundamental elements, economic, social and environmental. Economic sustainability consists in maintaining the growth rate at a manageable level to avoid consumer dissatisfaction.

Social sustainability refers to society’s ability to absorb tourist arrivals without adversely affecting local well-being and value systems. Environmental sustainability relates to the capacity of the environment to handle population impact without damage. Mega construction projects have transformed the landscape of Goa. Rural areas in the coastal belt look more like crowded Western cities than Goan villages. Mega buildings have now progressed from the coastline into the hinterland and they have a negative impact on the lifestyle of the local population. Mega buildings, especially in the villages, destroy the environment and should not be permitted. Non-disposal of garbage, particularly inorganic, in a scientific manner is also assuming menacing proportions. This matter should be tackled with a sense of urgency.

Whilst the people of Goa can be justifiably proud of the vast social and economic progress achieved over the last five decades, we do also face several challenges at this point of time. We ought to confront them with confidence and commitment to values that shape a forward moving and progressive society.

We, the people of India, must rise above our religious, ethnic and linguistic diversity and together deal with the multifarious tasks that confront us. The framework for responsible citizenship and national regeneration has been laid down in the Indian Constitution in three parts. Part III of the Constitution deals with the Fundamental Rights, Part IV with the Directive Principles of State Policy and part IVA with the Fundamental Duties. Fundamental Rights are basic human rights which the State recognizes and it provides for their enforcement. We are all equally human, the world is one family and all human rights are for all. The nature and extent of State responsibility for the protection of human rights in India was indicated by the National Human Rights Commission in the case of the Gujarat riots of 2002. It said: “It is the primary and inescapable responsibility of the State to protect the right to life, liberty, equality and dignity of all those who constitute it. It is also the responsibility of the State to ensure that such rights are not violated either through overt acts or through abetment or negligence.”

The Directive Principles of State Policy are the guidelines to be kept in mind by the government whilst framing laws and policies. These guidelines include free and compulsory education to all children below the age of 14 years and provision of adequate means of livelihood to all.

The Fundamental Duties are moral obligations of all citizens. We often harp on our rights but neglect and may even be unaware of our duties. Mahatma Gandhi remarked: “I learnt from my illiterate but wise mother that all rights to be deserved and preserved come from duty well done.” The Constitution lists ten Fundamental Duties. Each has a distinct role and importance in our polity. One of the fundamental duties is “to provide harmony and the spirit of common brotherhood among all the people of India transcending religious, linguistic and regional or sectional diversities”.

The author, now based in Goa, is a former Union Minister.

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