The utterances of Sir Winston Churchill, while opposing the Bill for India’s Independence, that the destiny of hungry millions was going “into the hands of rascals, rogues and free booters”, surely angered most patriotic Indians. For around 20 years, Churchill might have been proved wrong. But, today, very few will disagree how right he was. No less prophetic was Rajaji, when he recorded in his diary in 1922 that “elections and their corruptions, injustice, power and tyranny of wealth and inefficiency of administration will make hell of life as soon as freedom is given to us” and that people will look back regretfully at a past of comparative justice, efficiency and honest administration.
What Rajaji predicted of India turned out to be true of Goa as well. Goans were certainly not very hardworking and enterprising, but they surely were honest, sincere, disciplined, law abiding and conscientious. Goans, in the past, excelled in various fields, and made Goa proud of their sons and daughters. Where do we stand today? If at all we excel in anything, it is in corruption, chicanery and absence of scruples. If nothing else, we could have taught the rest of the Country honesty and discipline, for which we were well known, but sadly many of us have forgotten them ourselves. The emotional integration which many were looking forward to, with least regard to morality and character, has been completed long ago. Goa has become famous for all the wrong reasons and for being one of the most corrupt States in the country. Many fought relentlessly for freedom, autonomy and the interests of the State and its inhabitants. Today, we have mainly stooges and bootlickers. Morality and political conduct have taken a nose dive in Goa.
Goans returning to Goa on a holiday are rightly disillusioned and pained with the happenings in Goa. And their regret is that the situation is getting worse by the day. It is time we introspect, before it is too late. We have allowed our character to degenerate and our values to collapse. Our affluence, resultant particularly from the rise in the value of our properties, has had the better of us and turned us arrogant and uncaring. We have not only become egoistic, but selfish and greedy. We just don’t care what happens to others, so long as we are safe and sound.
We seem to love indiscipline. Nearly everyday one or more lives are lost on Goa’s roads. It is an extremely serious issue that ought to have bothered us if it doesn’t insensitive Governments. But, far from being more cautious, we only contribute to more accidents and deaths by being impatient and reckless on roads. Our parking, particularly in the markets and near schools and Churches is not only haphazard but also hazardous. After two-wheeler riders, pedestrians are the greatest casualty, which eventually means that no one is safe on Goa roads. Tourists express apprehensions of venturing into Goa’s roads, on foot, for fear of being knocked down. With sky bus a failure and a metro almost an impossibility, waterways and a rail link between Karmali and Panjim ought to have been given a serious thought to reduce congestion on roads, but in 50 years we couldn’t even have a four lane between Margao and Panjim, despite ample land being available on the major part of the route. Cattle squatted near important Government Offices, messing up near garbage dumps or moving through main roads, are a common sight in Margao. Packs of dogs advancing menacingly towards motorists and pedestrians, particularly the morning walkers, or emptying garbage bins pose a grave threat to the health and safety of the people. Our heads should hang in shame to know that the only two deaths that occurred in Britain in many decades due to rabies were caused by dog bites on Goa beaches, one in 2005 and one recently. Of garbage, filth and plastics, the less spoken the better, so also of sanitation and hygiene, whether in public places or restaurants and gaddas. They have reached abysmal levels, with the authorities and the public turning a blind eye and sometimes we ourselves patronizing them. Goa is perhaps one of the few places where taxis and rickshaws either have no meters or do not use them and literally fleece their clients, particularly the tourists. In South Goa, outside cabs are not allowed entry to hotels. This dadagiri is supported by the dada from the Varca. Law and order has worsened, despite CM’s claims to the contrary. Only strict vigil, alertness and tough action against culprits can improve the situation.
The list of issues that plague Goa is endless. Some could be sorted out by seeking public support and co-operation and some by enforcing the law. However, there has to be a will on the part of the authorities, which is generally lacking. But we too can take initiatives that will contribute to change the face of Goa. If Goans themselves feel frustrated at the situation in their motherland and are reluctant to keep coming regularly to Goa, one can imagine how disappointed the tourists feel about the state of affairs in this State. They may put up with some inconvenience, but if they continue to be robbed or feel unsafe and have to bear with garbage, filth, low levels of hygiene and sanitation, dogs and cattle, they will soon stop coming to Goa.
We are already half way to the precipice. If we do not mend our ways and fail to demand from the Government that they enforce the law for the benefit of the residents and the tourists, we may soon have much to regret and to repent…