Monday 16 December 2019

In support of Margao and Navelim farmers battling for their paddy fields

Goa’s famed Fish, Curry and Rice is purposely being destroyed

Bharat Mukti Morcha expresses deep shock over the State government decision to dump Garbage in Paddy fields under cultivation of rice and vegetables at Aquem, Margao. Around 40 Farmers families are cultivating land actively, and government under police protection has fenced paddy fields all set to dump the Garbage. The cultivators affected are mostly from Tribal community that is known for farming skills from several generations. These farmers along with members of Public have been creating awareness amongst public in order to object the State decision. One of the larger awareness programs of collecting pubic signatures is underway in Margao and Navelim in Salcete. Large numbers of people were seen signing the petition against Garbage dumping proposal located near Margao railway station. Members of the farming community were seen carrying copy of the High Court Order in Public Interest Litigation (WP 45 of 2019) and explaining to Public implications of such a shift in dumping from Sonsodo to Aquem, Margao.

Bharat Mukti Morcha expresses support and solidarity with the protesting famers and their families struggling to save their livelihood based farming. It is not known whether Goa Government or the Goa Bench of Bombay High Court has carried/ ordered on any studies to find out known impacts on farming in cases of Garbage dumping. It is also not known whether Goa Government or the Goa Bench of Bombay High Court has carried on the studies of Psychological traumas (Solastalgia) that affected families are likely to suffer due to forceful dumping of Garbage in their paddy fields. If these studies are carried on then it is not known if the results are shared with the affected families and in Public domain. If these studies are not carried on they garbage cannot be dumped in paddy fields.

Few months ago Goa Chief Minister Dr. Pramod Sawant was reported in press lamenting that Goa has to depend upon neighboring States for the supply of Food and had called upon people of Goa to take up Agriculture. Why then Goa Chief Minister is not intervening in this matter to stop destruction of agriculture and increase food security of Goa?  Or is it the case that Goa Government is determined to stop cultivation of paddy fields because they are being cultivated by Gawdas, tribal community? Will Goa Government and its various arms respond the same way if the cultivators of paddy fields were Bamons? Are State agencies determined to carry forward program of Cultural genocide of Goa’s tribal people? Few years ago the same paddy fields were under attack by Goa Government for organizing RSS convention for several days. Farmers that time in collaborations with others including Bharat Mukti Morcha fought back protected their paddy fields. Now time has come again for another fight and Bharat Mutki Morcha supports the affected farmers of Margao and Navelim.

Severe pressure is exercised by vested interests including State and Central government agencies to destroy agriculture in Goa. Mining, Real Estate, widening of highways, breaching of bunds like in Vanxim Island, etc has contributed towards  destruction of agriculture in a major way. Severe pressure is also exercised on Goa’s Tribal People (Gawdas) by attempting to destroy their occupations and sources of livelihoods. Destruction of agriculture at Aquem, Margao is latest example but not the only one. In Nauxim tribal people (Gawdas) are termed Shudras and sought to be put under pressure by destroying their livelihood systems based on fishing by implanting AHOY Marina in Zuari river by MPT in violation of SSFGuidelines. Goa’s unique riverine agriculture known as Puran Xhethi practiced by tribal people (Gawdas) in Sattari inside River Mhadei is destroyed though flooding for mini check dams to store fresh water. No one protested allowed this practice of agriculture to cease. People were scared away by telling them that order to flood river has come from Delhi and it cannot be challenged. Now Mhadei river itself is allowed to be diverted for another dam inside Karnataka and there is some hopeful signs of protests. We hope that these protests will also call for revival of Puran Xhethi in Sattari. Leadership of Tribal People (Gawdas) in Goa needs to be sensitive to the systematic ongoing cultural genocide and draw up plans to counter the same. Margao and Navelim Tribal People (Gawdas) must not allow themselves to be used  and abused by petty politicians but align themselves with capable organisations of tribal people like that of Adivasi Sanghatna based in Quepem. Adivasi Sanghatna too on its part must take pro-active approach and reach out to tribal communities in Margao and Navelim. Goa’s Tribal Affairs Minister Govind Gawde must act decisively as a representative of tribal communities and uphold rights of affected farmers in this case and draw and implement long term plan to protect livelihood of tribal people particularly Gawdas, Velips and Kunbis in the light of International Law governing Indigenous People of the World (UN Convention on Indigenous People).

Garbage problems of Goa are increasing and becoming uncontrollable with increase in urbanization and rise in industrialization leading to rise in plastic products. Process of Urbanization needs to be reversed. Existing cities in Goa needs to shrink and reduce. Goa needs to move towards de-urbanization. Rural areas need to be regenerated. Garbage facilities and processing must be arranged at city and village for its own garbage.  If cities cannot treat its own garbage then reduce size of the cities to make them garbage manageable. Stop expansion of cities by taking over village lands.  Under no circumstances agriculture lands must be utilized for Garbage dumping.

Few years ago Sangeeta Sonak in her writings has claimed that Gawdas and Bamons has jointly worked towards reclamation of coastal lands to make Goa what it is. This can be the subject of historical investigations either to prove it right or wrong but right now Bamons at various positions of powers should collaborate to defend paddy field of farmers at Aquem, near Margao Railway station at this is the case of not only cultural genocide of Gawdas but also classic example of environmental racism wherein State is manufacturing consent to destroy livelihood of people with the backing of law. Food is one of the primary needs of life on par with clothing, shelter and education. State and Judiciary must interpret Law and statues in order to uphold Life that is Fundamental right in Constitution of India under Article 21 and not otherwise. Do life of Gawdas, Kunbis, Velips matter in Goa? Or is it that Gawdas, Kunbis, Velips matter only to sell their dances to promote tourism as Goan culture? Where is the respect for Goa’s tribal people? Is dumping of Garbage in the land where they cultivate paddy is a sign of respect or sign of insult? The insult for sure. We protest. Paddy fields must be left alone for cultivation of paddy as currently being done twice a year.

Maggie Silveira,

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