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No More Sitting on the Fence

(As Appeared on Herald Review, Goa dated: September 16, 2012 )

Either we are on the side of the Shah Commission and its findings or we are against it, writes OSCAR REBELLO

Oscar Rebello
Photo Courtesy: Herald

There is something rotten with the State of Goa. The gale storm of the Shah Commission report that has struck the State has exposed the depths of the tragedy we’re mired in. The report could help us clean up our act, but if we don’t, the extent of the illegalities might just bury us under mining dumps and pits forever.

This is a make or break situation for Goa, without question. Either we are on the side of the Shah Commission and its findings or we are against it. There’s no more sitting on the fence for us as citizens and residents of this State.

In glitzy ballrooms as the chandelier lights brighten, the masks and kids gloves are well and truly off. All the criminals who have gouged our land for immense profit, ruthless power and politi cal puppetry stand truly exposed ( even if still brazen and defiant).

Let’s get some facts clear:

• The Shah Commission has indicted politicians, bureaucrats and most importantly, the irresponsible mining industry.

• The political slanging match between the local Congress and the BJP– both chest thumping and getting suitably “ red” with rage– is at best a farce. The Rs. 35,000 crore loot may never be recovered and put back in the state coffers to rehabilitate common folk dependent on mining.

• The accountability for the decimation of Goa may eventually be lost in lumbering litigations and deafening debates is also perhaps on the agenda.

Yet after it all, why should these ‘ barons’ of the mining industry come out smelling of roses and all lily white, sipping champagne and watching a lazy football game, some Saturday afternoon? The answer is like the proverbial elephant in the room. The mining lobby has cleverly and assiduously made an industry of actually running a parallel Government in Goa since the liberation.

In the hinterland, they’ve hacked the earth rapaciously, but have still managed to render many of those living in the heartland– wheezing and coughing with the mining pollution– totally subservient to them economically, physically and psychologically.

On the coast, in a far more subtle manner, we have all fallen prey to their benevolent benefactor image, hook, line and sinker. Schools and colleges; art exhibitions and football teams. They have infiltrated ( perhaps on occasion with altruistic motives) every social, cultural, religious and sporting sphere of our lives. They’ve funded everything from churches to temples, art exhibitions to literary events, hospital admissions to school socials, from fashion shows to musical soirees– all the while stripping our land naked.

Courtesy: Herald

How on earth (or whatever is left of it in Goa) can we, the willing and unwilling beneficiaries of all this largesse, bite the hand that often feeds us? The challenge therefore before us, as a people or as so- called lovers of Goa, is this: Let the politicians, the activists, the media and the courts do their jobs as best they can and pray that all the criminals get their just desserts.

The mining lobby has cleverly and assiduously made an industry of actually running a parallel Government in our lives since Goa’s liberation.

But we, the public, however, need to continuously, relentlessly and mercilessly confront our mining friends and tell them that they were criminally and morally wrong and they must play their role to set the canvas right again ( in case they don’t see the back of a jail cell that is).

This they can do:

• By pumping in their countless crores of rupees into alternative economic activity in the hinterland.

• By rehabilitating all the hun dreds of truckers, barge owners and ordinary workers and foot the damn bill.

• By working on a plan to heal the land where most damage has been inflicted by mining.

• By asking themselves truthfully if this is the Goa that we must bequeath to our children.

As far as the political class goes, there’s only one question to answer: “Does Goa belong to the people or only to the privileged few who cajole and mollycoddle them?” Despite all the crocodile tears shed by the barons for the poor, displaced workers, has anyone given a thought to what happens to them when the ore runs out in the next five or seven years?