Ad Hoc committee on Law to do away with the one-month residential qualification before getting married in Goa. "You can't decide where you are born or where you die, but you can decide when you wed, so why fuss about it?" is what he told a weekly magazine. D'Souza wants to make Goa the wedding capital of India, if not the world.
Anyway, he has a good line on births, deaths and weddings though it is not necessarily accurate. Like old elephants, Goans come to Goa to die, but until now D'Souza was known as 'the frog' – for his capacity to jump from one political party to another. He, along with wedding planner Lester Melo of Weddings & Dreams, is pressing for a change in the law to facilitate weddings in Goa.
The residential clause came to light when Bollywood actor Sanjay Dutt's marriage to Mayanta came under a cloud because the documents were fake. Former State Registrar Prabhakar Sardessai says the situation now is to the advantage of "touts and middlemen who arrange doctored documents". But isn't that so in any field of administration in this paradise state of ours? There have been cases of property being sold to a third party by a bogus landlord because of absentee landlordism. Bogus documents have become a way of life, and are often to be found when there are multiple owners. Why can't this practice be probed and stopped first?
Then, almost sanctimoniously, D'Souza added, "Goa's image should be of a family destination rather than a drug or gambling hub." But what has D'Souza done to stop gambling? Ministers are known to be regulars at the casinos and Tourism Minister Mickky Pacheco even has a police case against him, but ministers seem to have special immunity. What about drugs? When his own party, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), was in power, it did precious little to curb this menace. In fact Chief Ministers in the past have vowed to come down heavily on the drugs lobby but to no avail. They seem to be all too powerful and well entrenched on the beach belt.
But aren't there more urgent legal issues to tackle in Goa – for instance, the snail's pace at which justice is dispensed in Goa. There are instances of cases running into years, even decades. That would be more in the realm of the Ad Hoc Committee on Law set up by the State Assembly rather than being obsessed with tourism. The grapevines has it that the Mapusa lawyers have a caucus whose raison d'etre is to prolong cases and postponements. Or is that too close for comfort, Mr D'Souza?
Making Goa a convenient destination is more because of the Mumbai underworld extortionists demanding money from the newlyweds than for the idyllic setting of a quaint land of sand, swaying palms and old churches. The latter is just hype by the press. And now it is not difficult for the marriage partners to get into a civil marriage in Karwar or Hubli and then proceed to Goa for the celebrations. Wedding celebrations will continue to thrive in Goa, and Goan resorts will continue to gets 25 per cent or even more of their clientele from weddings.
D'Souza also mentions that the Portuguese law which entitles both partners to equal rights is a good one and "people feel this law is to their benefit". Hence he wants one part of the law to stay and the other to change. Isn't this selective justice? The trouble with Goa is that it has become too dependent on tourism, which cannot and must not be the only industry. Times out of number I've said that tourism is a double-edged sword which benefits a few but affects even more, and the last two decades have proved this. The prices of essential commodities have soared. Fish, a Goan's staple food, has become a luxury. Paddy fields are left uncultivated or converted for building. It is not only a trial-and-error policy but one of error-and-more-error that is being adopted by the government and the Goa Tourism Development Corporation (GTDC), which should be taken to task for some of its shady its deals.
I know entrepreneurs who have establishments on the beach belt, and they say that tourism was down by between 20 to 30 per cent this year. Some of them are even going into non-tourism-related ventures. What is our incompetent government doing about it? It is reliably learnt that tax collection was down by 30 per cent in the first quarter.
We seem to be living in a fool's paradise of making Goa the number-one state in India. Didn't we see the news headlines: 'Goa bids strongly for Rs 1,310 cr grant from the Planning Commission'? Of course, it was alongside a picture of our wordy Chief Minister Digambar Kamat with Montek Singh Ahluwalia, Deputy Chairman of the Planning Commission. The issues concerned are infrastructural development, beach safety, the national games and the golden jubilee celebrations of Liberation. Does this not amount to going around with a begging bowl?
As I've said before, the Comptroller & Auditor-General's (CAG) report annually indicts the Goa Government for its loose spending but nothing comes of it. By being so dependent on the Centre, aren't we abrogating our independence and keeping ourselves vulnerable to their demands? "No one does anything for nothing," is an old and trusted adage. These are clearly signs of abrogating our powers to the Centre. And haven't Goans in high places (read New Delhi's decision-making hub) allowed themselves to be used rather than using their influence to Goa's advantage?
Reminds me of an article I did on air-hostesses in the mid-1970s. It didn't take long to realize that these pretty young women were a confused lot. Flying with the rich and famous seemed to wear off on them and unless they were intelligent enough to see the dichotomy they were likely to get confused and fall between two stools. This is precisely what is happening in Goa with all its plans of being the focal point of activity. But what about normal life in Goa. How can the basic amenities be provided for the long-forgotten aam aadmi?
For a 40-year-old tourist destination (and we are supposed to be among the Top 5 wedding destinations), we have an apology of public transport. We only cater to the car-wallahs. Are we Hawaii or Bali? Why can't the public transport be extended to 10 pm at the least.
Our power situation is pathetic. In this day and age it should have been much, much better. Replace those rickety transformers and let there be light available to every citizen. We've been making a hoo-hah about information technology (IT) but nothing concrete has materialized The first IT Minister Ramakant Khalap was better known for the number of trees he felled in Pernem. Then Dayanand Narvekar is known more for his real estate agenda in the IT Habitat in Dona Paula.
And when the government is questioned about the educated unemployed it blames it on the people and the scrapping of Special Economic Zones (SEZ) Are there no other outlets for employment? Or is "buying jobs" the only alternative ? We have so many youngsters qualified for IT, both hardware and software, but the scope is limited, if not nil. They have to leave Goa for jobs elsewhere like our forefathers did when they set off for Bombay or distant Africa. How different are we from them in the 21st century? You tell me.
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