Monday, 9 November 2009

English Speech - Freddy Agnelo Fernandes (Global Goan Convention 2009 - Muscat, Oman)

Goa yesterday, Goa Today, will there be Goa tomorrow ?

Your Excellency Mr. Anil Wadhwa, the Indian Ambasador to the Sultanat of Oman, Your Excellency Mr. Eduardo Faleiro , Honourable Commissioner for NRI Affairs, Government of Goa, The Honourable Home Minster of Goa, Mr. Ravi Naik, distinguished guests and my fellow Goans, It’s most certainly a privilege and honour to be standing here infront of you at this Global Goan 2009 Convention and I take this opportunity to thank Dr. Mario De Souza for giving me this honour of speaking to you lovely people on the occasion. I would also like to thank The Oman Goan Community and wish them all success and blessings from above.

Are we all Goans ? (awating reply) I ask thee once again, are we all Goans, yes, we are all Goans, but remember, it’s not just enough to say we are Goans, to be a blue blooded Goan, one needs to have a heart of a true Goan in his chest and an unflinching Goan tongue in his mouth, along with the courage and resolve running through his veins to protect Mother Goa from the ravaging scavengers that are out to destroy and mutilate her.

I would like to request our most distinguished dignitaries, not to be offended at my references to the politicians and the political atmosphere in Goa but to look at it as flaws that are very much prevalent in our administration in Goa, to be precisely looked into and work towards corrective actions thereafter for the betterment of Goa and Goans.

I would like to start my talk with a quote that enthralls me even today “time and tide waits for no man” Yes, my dear Goans, time and tide waits for no man, today is of the essence, who has seen tomorrow ? Tomorrow never comes and it is very much a fact. So what we need to do today, should not be kept for tomorrow, today is the day, we might not be there tomorrow, time and tide waits for no man, For a better tomorrow, for our children, today is the day to start, today is the day to resolve, let today be the day of retribution, let tomorrow reflect our today.

We are gathered here today, for this Global Goan 2009 convention, with the theme “The Gulf Goan.” We as Goans, all have our dreams and aspirations for Goa and would love to be in Goa, but the big question is, what do we go back to or what awaits us in Goa ?
Our beautiful Goa, that once was, was known for it’s scenic breathtaking natural beauty, it enthralled young and the old, foreigners (world wide) as well as local tourist, it was acclaimed as the Rome of the east, a prized jewel on India’s crown, visitors delight, that could not be quenched with any number of visits, as they always left wanting more of it. Tourists do not come to see concrete jungles, nor do they come to see bald hills and mountains or the scorched plains either, what attracted them to Goa, was the natural beauty and it is this factor that we need to protect, preserve, nourish and harness to develop our tourism industry.
When we think of the good old days, it is the simplicity, the generosity and the love of our people, that comes to mind, the care free days breathing fresh air and drinking clean water, home grown food and the fresh fish that we ate, it was all so cheap and affordable, we had no worry whatsoever, visitors were welcome, doors were open twenty four to anyone and everyone. That was nostalgic Goa. Do we have that now ? Or better still, can we afford to do that now ? NO !
What is Goa today ? In the name of development we have destroyed our natural beauty, hill cutting and land filling have destroyed agricultural land and forest cover and have placed extra burden on the already overburdened limited infrastructure, as a result of which there have been uproars against mega housing, all over Goa. Can Goans afford to pay the exorbitant rates of these mega housing units ? NO, so if Goans cannot afford, for whom are they built, and why ? This leads to destructive development, which, Goa, does not require at the moment. We have to analyze our problems and seek answers. There is no denying that we have a major problem with the supply of the basic amenities like water and electricity, we are marching into the 21st century and we have electricity and water supply, that has more and much longer interruptions then the commercial breaks during serials on the numerous TV channels and at times, they last for days, In some villages people light up their tube, even before 5PM, because come dusk, the tubes don’t light up for lack of power, wherever you go, you see people lining up their utensils at the public taps waiting for water to flow through or wait for tankers, so how can our Government justify the approvals for mega housing. We should not gobble more than, what we can swallow and should spread our legs as per the size of our bedding.
Mining is another evil that has devastated Goa. As per News Paper reports of 14th June, Speaker of the Goa’s Legislative Assembly went on record in stating that a number of politicians were involved directly or indirectly in illegal mining activities in Goa. It’s been stated that at present, there are at least 40 illegal mining operations being carried out in Goa. Even though all this stands out like a full blown sore eye, the Government acts blind to this monstrous issue. Even though the Supreme Court has banned mining within 1Km radius of protected areas, the Environment Ministry has given it’s nod for mining leases next to wild life sanctuaries in Goa.
How long will it be before the forest cover of Goa is totally destroyed and we are faced with the dilemma of an irreversible ecological disaster ? India’s forest policy clearly says that we should work towards 33% forest cover. So far, with more than 50% forest cover already destroyed by mining, this policy looks more like a crude joke on Goa’s environment, than an attempt to restore the imbalance. If the people who are supposed to implement these policies of their respective Governments, are themselves defaulters, what’s the purpose of these policies ? Reports have been pouring in, of the draining and dwindling of our water bodies due to mining, water is a very important necessity of life and for all developmental purposes man and nature has to move hand in hand and in ambience, and in our quest and vision for development and revenue enhancement, it is mandatory, that we maintain our ecological balance which is very essential for the very survival of mankind itself.

The world over, people are fighting tooth and nail, to save the environment but in Goa, we don’t give a rat’s back side for the environment. We are well aware of the affects of environmental degradation as a result of mining and the realities of it’s ramifications, are very frightening to even fathom. It is high time we voiced our concerns to this ever magnifying colossal catastrophe that’s staring at us in our face. Man’s greed has so overwhelmed his senses that he is become blind and seizes to see beyond the colour of money. The whole world is worried about the depleting ozone layer and our politicians are only adding to the woes of the global community with further reduction in green cover. The way our forests are being destroyed, 33% forest cover surely looks wishful thinking.

Our Ministers say that “the mining industry should continue to flourish, while having a minimum impact on the environment”. How long has mining been, going on in Goa ? And just what is the minimum impact that our esteemed ministers are looking for ? The silt deposited on our river beds threatening the natural flow of our rivers, the wells that have run dry, threatening humans lives. The loss of water bodies and pollution of the rest of the few left, which is threatening human and animal life. The fertile fields, that have been covered by mining deposits and become barren and scorched, threatening livelihood of people. The pitiful conditions of our roads in the mining areas, where there have been a number of fatal accidents. The houses and the lungs of the people in the mining areas that are like dust bags, affected by the air pollution and the sicknesses that have affected the lives of people and above all the destruction caused to our flora, fauna and our forest. Is all these minimum impact ? If this is minimum impact, what is maximum impact ? A nuclear holocaust ? Isn’t it a joke that mining was carried our since the days of Portuguese rule and till today we do not have a “mining policy” ? Whom are we waiting for ? Aliens to come from outer space and draft it for us ? At this point in time, it is most imperative, that we look at this, very delicate and demanding issues with a lot more seriousness and aggression if required and put an end to the destruction of our natural wealth and preserve it for our future generations.

The law and order situation in Goa, is at cross roads, crime is on the rise and corruption is runaway rain with no signs of slowing down. As long as rampant corruption persists, our Governments will continue to shake, wobble or even tumble as do the bridges they built and the law and order situation disintegrate faster than our roads in Goa. Corruption is a monumental obstruction towards progress and development. Until and unless we do away with corruption there will not be any constructive development.

Law and order situation in Goa is abysmal, how can the law and order improve, when law makers themselves are supporting and abetting, most of the criminal activities in Goa. The high handedness of our politicians and police is well known, where innocent people are victimized and criminals are patronized. The people who peacefully fight for justice and for their rights are often intimidated, harassed, wrongfully arrested and even threatened with encounter deaths, on the direction of the money power, of the miners and the builders.

We all know and are aware that our primary education and health services are in shambles, our hospitals, clinics and schools are in a despicable state, a visit to any hospital makes one often wonder if the patient is better off outside or in it ? So too with the schools, that’s the reason even poor people make a beeline to private schools and hospitals even though they cannot afford it.

What is the legacy that we want to leave for our future generations, we have to think and think hard, today, as “time and tide waits for no man”. The memories of Goa, of yester years, most certainly brings us nostalgia, but Goa of today only brings tears to our eyes and in our greed to accumulate wealth by destroying the beauty and sanctity of Goa, will there be Goa tomorrow ? It’s time we act to protect what’s dear to us, that we all claim we love so much, let not the love for Goa, be only on our lips, but show it by our deeds, we are running out of time. As I said at the start “time and tide waits for no man” let us all come together and put an end to the atrocities against mother nature today.

While our woes continued most of our MLA’s and Ministers have backed the money power of the miners and builders but during this time we have failed to hear Mr. Faleiro’s stand on this issue. It would certainly be good to hear from the man himself.

If we are to resurrect Goa from this decay, there is one viable option, elect people who are genuine and incorruptible, I am sure there will be a lot of people who love Goa and have a passion to do good for Goa and Goans sacrificing themselves for the service of others. We should not elect people who are only interested in themselves rather than others, working for their own personal good. For the last thirty years I have been seeing the same corrupt people running affairs in Goa, are there no other people who can do the job better than these ? My humble request to Mr. Faleiro, as a senior Congressman, please see that good genuine people are given tickets and not crooks, thugs and blackmailers.

Let me wind off with the words of our late Shri Ravindranath Tagore “Through all this turmoil and tragedy let my Goa awake”.

Save the environment, save Goa, India Jai ho ! Goa Jai ho ! Viva Goa

Thank you and may God bless Goa.

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