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Mainstream, Vol XLVI No 44

On Goa and the Challenges before It

Saturday 25 October 2008, by Eduardo Faleiro

The last few decades have witnessed vast changes in political ideology and economic policies across the world. People of different countries have been affected differently but always in a significant manner everywhere.
Goa has achieved remarkable progress since independence. The greatest gain of independence, however, 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 the centuries and perhaps the millennia.

Some of the questions that have concerned Goan society in recent times arise from what may be called “overdevelopment” or unregulated development. Mass tourism and package tourism have transformed the landscape of Goa. Rural areas in the coastal belt look more like crowded Western cities than Goan villages. There are some areas in our State which have been taken over almost entirely by foreigners. The “rest and recreation” sought by some of them may involve things not permitted in their own country. In some Western societies, material needs have been fulfilled and people look for “psychic gratification”. There is a mushrooming of “experience” industries which sometimes include in their programmes absolute sexual freedom, use of drugs, etc. Many such “experience-makers” settle in Third World countries. Uncontrolled settlement of foreigners may lead to serious “culture shock” which is detrimental.

Most tourists are middle-class families who come here for the sun and sand and they should be welcomed. Tourism ought to be managed in a manner that benefits our people not just in the short term but also in the long run. The economic benefits as well as the social costs need to be evaluated. It is perhaps necessary to formulate a development strategy which provides employment to the local people whilst being less dependent on tourism.
Mega construction projects have had a negative impact on the lifestyle of the local population. Mega buildings which destroy the rural environment should not be permitted. There is apprehension on the influx of outsiders into our State. We call “outsiders”, the people from other States of India who are here mostly for employment. Replacement migration happens when outsiders meet the requirements of the local community, locals not being available in sufficient numbers either because they themselves migrate to other countries and other parts of our country or because they do not possess the required skills. The Department of NRI Affairs is in the process of analysing Goan migration worldwide and replacement migration into Goa. The first report will be released by the end of this year.

THE growth of religious extremism and communal violence is a matter of great concern and anxiety. Organisations and individuals who are involved in or promote communal discord and strife must be punished most severely. On the other hand, leaders of all major religious communities in the country should discuss this subject among themselves and reach an agreement in the interest of religious harmony. The Catholic Church condemns proselytism which it defines as the conscious effort to win members of other religious denominations. Organised attempts at mass conversion or re-conversion backed by financial and/or political power can have an explosive backlash to the point of undermining public order. For this reason, in September 1995, the World Council of Churches, which represents the major Protestant denominations, and the Catholic Church agreed on a document, “The Challenge of Proselytism and the Calling of Common Witness”. The document refers to “serious concerns about tension and conflicts created by proselytism in nearly all parts of the world”. It mentions “instances in the developing world in which proselytism takes advantage of people‘s misfortunes, for example, in situations of poverty in villages to induce them to change their religious affiliation”, it calls for “awareness of the reality of diversity rooted in theological traditions and in various geographical, historical and cultural contexts” and denounces “the use of coercive or manipulative methods in evangelism”. The statement points out:

Whilst our focus in this document is on the relationship between Christians, it is important to seek a mutual application of these principles also in inter faith relations. Both Christians and communities of other faiths complain about unworthy and unacceptable methods of seeking converts from their respective communities. The increased co-operation and dialogue among people of different faiths could result in witness offered to one another that would respect human freedom and dignity and will be free from the negative activities described above.
I spent the month of September 2004 in the villages of Orissa, in the districts of Kandhamal and Mayurbhanj where Rev. Graham Staines and his two sons were killed some years ago. The purpose was to study and understand the open confrontation which has existed for long in that State between Christian and Hindu missionaries for conversion and reconversion (ghar wapsi). Mainline Christian theologians see both the Sangh Parivar’s Hindutva ideology and Christian campaigns for evangelisation of India as having a fundamentalist attitude and aggressive methodology to achieve their respective goals. An agreement on the lines described in the aforesaid document among the leaders of all the major religious denominations in India is the need of the hour.

The Universal Peace Federation of India held last month a Conference on Leadership and Good Governance with participation of senior leaders from major political parties. The Conference brought to light the commitment of the Government of Goa to consensus and to responsive administration. On the Regional Plan, on SEZs and on some other contentious issues the government did seek the opinion of different political parties and experts and a cross-section of people and then decided. The Regional Plan 2021 has been prepared by eminent experts. It will now be placed before the public for suggestions and objections.

At this point of time, the government and people of Goa face tough challenges. We must confront them with courage and determination, with a rational outlook and commitment to a value system anchored on work ethics and the quest for excellence.

The author, a former Union Minister, is currently the Commissioner for NRI Affairs in the Government of Goa enjoying a Cabinet Minister’s rank.

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