Former MLA Udai Bhembre has reportedly blamed our former leaders for the failure in demanding Special Status for Goa. Special Status for Goa has meant different things to different people, since from time to time; different politicians have raised the demand for Special Status for Goa.
Dr, Jack de Sequeira interpreted Special Status as the continued existence of Goa within the IndianUnion, as a distinct Union Territory or State. For him, the UT status retained and recognition of Konkani as an independent literary language and included in the VIII Schedule of the Constitution, were adequate to signify Special Status.
For Pratapsing Rane, who was the first chief minister of Goa after attaining Statehood, Special Status meant writing off all the outstanding loans of the previous Union Territory governments.
For Luizinho Faleiro, the North Eastern States’ model of autonomy in deciding local matters was the right kind of Special status for Goa. This model includes the protection oflocal land from alienation to others from outside the State. But, he did not reckon with the fact that the Special Status of the North Eastern States had their origin in the fact that they are exclusively or predominantly occupied by tribal people, whose tribal rights were protected from pre-Independence days and were further guaranteed by the Constitution.
While there is a clamour for protecting Goa’s scarce land resource, there is a silent process of VIPs and businessmen from Goa acquiring land and other assets in the rest of the country. Such persons can hardly be expected to be serious in pursuing Goa’s case for Special status, since it may boomerang on them.
Then, there is a fringe group who think that the Special Status should mean that the Central Government should be responsible for only assisting Goa to grow to an Independent nation and till then provide Nepal kind of assistance and freedom, with no interference from Delhi! These people are living in a utopia, unmindful of the ground realities.
While it may conveniently be alleged that most of the ills facing the State have their genesis in the lack of foresight of our elected leaders soon after the first general elections in 1963, it must be understood that they could not have foreseen the reality of Statehood being conferred on Goa so early. At best, they saw a Delhi or Pondicherry model of devolution of powers. Goa was first part of India to come under a western colonial power and the last to become free. This means that the people of the State were languishing for more decades under colonial rule, and seeing that its neighboring States had its freedom, the people of Goa at that time were keen to see a new dawn, a transformation, which meant development in post-colonial Goa. In this backdrop, it is only natural that our leaders of those days were more keen on getting development on the ground, than on visualizing any so called Special Status, as their immediate goal.
Having got used to accepting meekly what the colonial government was doing, the local populace ignored the gazetted notifications of the Centre and the Union Territory government regarding acquisition or transfer of vast pieces of land for government purposes. Whatever compensation came their way was accepted, and the loss of land was also accepted as a fait accompli. It was only years later that these notifications were dug out from archival files, too late to bring about a change, due to failure to file objections in time.
Time lost cannot be regained, but we can definitely avoid the mistake of further lethargy in responding to the emerging scenario, and secure the Special Status we direly need to protect our land from further alienation.