Today August 22, 2021 its 83 days since death of Margarida Carmo Silveira. She died on June 01, 2021. On this occasion let's revisit her powerful involvement amongst fishing communities of Goa. Maggie - as she was known - has predominant effective involvement as the President of Bharat Mukti Morcha, Goa Unit was on Vanxim scam in Mandovi River. In 2014 She dived into Zuari river fishing communities after being approached by them through me.
The principal contradiction that fishing communities using Gillnets in Zuari river faced was introduction of where sports operating from Hotel Grand Hyatt that disrupted gillnet fishing in Zuari river creating sound pollution and cutting away of fishing nets. After studying documentation supplied by fishing communities and close scrutiny of the nature of problem Maggie whole heartedly supported the cause of fishing communities of Zuari river. She began with petitioning the government authorities on the letterhead of Bharat Mukti Morcha as authorized by National President Waman Meshram. One of Maggie's characteristic is that she never got involved with superficial understanding and investigated deeply, thoughroughly, continuesly.
After effective intervention fishing communities from Odxel, Cacra, Nauxim, Bambolim and Siridao brought the issue of illegal fishing in Zuari river by trawlers. Bharat Mukti Morcha Press Conferences in Panjim began to get organized output of information that drew significant amount of print and electronic media attention. Coverage in mefia began to gradually increase; authorities began to take note of the issues raised by fishing communities of these villages.
Third major issue that came about is regarding leasing out of over three lakh square meters of land under Zuari river water front to set up two Marinas, one at Nauxim and second one at Sancoale for 30 years. Protest erupted secind time in 2015 and and fishing communities in Nauxim decided to put the banner of Bharat Mukti Morcha as the group that organized the Protest meeting. Maggie not only consented but was there at the Nauxim meeting against Marinas in 2015 and its photograph and reports are available on Bharat Mukti Morcha, Goa Unit blog.
Maggie's observations and interventions were deeply insightful. The way she intervened in the presence of political heavy weights is worth recounting. It was already established that hotel Grand Hyatt in Bambolim is declared illegal by one of the Judgements of Goa Bench of Bombay High Court. At the Nauxim river Bank meeting that was hugely attended by Public and Maggie asked pointed questions to then MLA late Vushnu Wagh and then ex-MLA of St. Andre Cknstituency Francis Silveira. Maggie's question fired at both of them: How did this Hotel Grand Hyatt came about illegally when you'll are MLA and ex-MLA ? None of them had any answers to Maggie's question fielded at them publicly. Francis Silveira did not answer to her even privately. Vishnu Wagh replied to her after some months after recovery from first heart attack. Wagh told Maggie not exactly about how Hotel Grand Hyatt came up illegal in Bambolim but how Jaydev Modi had set up casino at Hotel Grand Hyatt illegally without his permission and if he had to enjoy good health then he would sit on hunger strike outside the gate of Grand Hyatt. Wagh had meeting with Maggie in his office when he was Deputy speaker of the Goa Legislative Assembly. He had promised Maggie to raise the issue of Vanxim scam in the Assembly but did not raise. Maggie was disappointed with him. She told me if Vushnu Wagh had to raise the issue of Vanxim he would have been not only remembered by people but would have had God's blessings on him for speaking out righteously. Few days later Vushnu Wagh's speech went off followed by prolonged sickness and death.
One must acknowledge that Vushnu Wagh took Objections from Bharat Mukti Morcha on Marinas very seriously and made sure that Maggie participated in protest meeting Nauxim. However he ignored all the letters from Bharat Mukti Morcha regarding illegal fishing in Zuari by trawlers and purse seine fishing boats. We have not understood as why he behaved in this manner.
While meeting Vishnu Wagh at Goa Legislative Assembly complex Maggie got to hear powerful speech of Fatorda MLA Vijay Sardessai against six Goa rivers being declared as National Waterways. This was how Maggie and I got introduced to the issue of Goa's rivers. When Vijay Sardesai's Goa Forward Party took U-turn and started supporting National Waterways Goa Maggie put Bharat Mukti Morcha to play catalytic role to build up effective resistence. Vishnu Wagh gave tickets of speaker's gallery to Maggie watched Goa State Assembly proceedings first hand. She heard Michael Lobo speaking inside the Assembly saying that Casinos if needs shifting from River Mandovi then they must be given advance notice of five years! From Michael Lobo's speech Maggie realized depth of gambling control over in Goa and how they have captured mouth and brains of Goa Legislators. From this incident Maggie refrained from any contacts with Michael Lobo for she had earlier called him up to support opposition to Marinas in Zuari. And Michael Lobo had supported her but few years later on he desired Marina in Nauxim to be shifted to Calangute!
Maggie's involvement not only stretched from her Vanxim island Mandovi to Zuari but had direct confrontational engagement with neighboring Divar Island. She smelled something sinister over the way nearly 10 crores were sanctioned by agriculture department spent to build bunds around Divar near Sao Pedro Ribandar Ferry Jetty without permission from Goa Coastal Zone Management Authority. Traditional Sluice gates were destroyed. When Maggie objected hell broke loose. Contractor came at her residence at night to plead not to block and promised her that sluice gates will be restored to the original. Till date this promise has not been realized and contractor is not to be seen anywhere. Maggie was served with threats via then Vanxim panch Greta Vaz of violence against her for involvement in Divar. Nelson Azavedo from Communidade had meeting with Maggie and told her that India's CRZ laws are not applicable to Divar Island communidade land. Then Goltim Sarpanch Prasad Harmalkar phoned Maggie while she approached Agriculture department in Panjim and told her not to stop the work of bund in Divar as he worked hard for many years to get sanctioned. Agriculture department had no permission from GCZMA to interfere with bunds in Divar and Maggie found it was totally and completely illegal.
Maggie was suspecting that the way bund Divar are being reshaped in order to create access benefit Subhakar Rao and his water aggression fake fishing venture known as Champions Island rather than benefiting farmers. Maggie did not get necessary support from people of Divar except from few handful like Roque Menezes and Tomas Rodrigues and she felt disappointed. However the issues she uncovered in the process are valuable and needs serious thought and action.
Divar Island is being attempted to be taken over by World Bank according to Some sources. They want fortified embankment around entire island and want to set up fire station on island beside bridge.
Maggie fought valiantly and she was single minded in her attacks against former defense Minister of India who attempted to publicly defend declaration of Goa's six rivers as National Waterways. She co-ordinated smoothly with several people including Sadanand Vaigankar who published full fledged criticism against declaration of Goa's rivers as National Waterways in his print magazine.
While Maggie was active in Goa information somehow got disseminated far and wide. Pradip Chaterjee contacted, then visited Goa and Maggie played important role as a national council member, National Platform for Small Scale Fish Workers. She visited Delhi and Kolkata before the Pandemic to participate in key workshops and decision making process.
Formation of All Goa Small Scale Responsible Fisheries Union is a fruit of Maggie's abilities for team work. We need to strengthen this Union as it has very important role to play being the Frontline stewards of the Sea.
It is difficult for any one to take Maggie's place in terms of her depth and steadfast commitment to fishing communities. Yet the path that she left traced is full of daring legacy for us to pick up courage and move ahead even though we swim against the tide and hurdles are many. But ahead we must go for staying silent and numb is suicidal and stagnating.
Fishing as a food is facing enormous challenges today. Government of India is determined to enact Fisheries law that is non-transparant and hostile to ecology and small scale traditional fishing communities in India.
Beyond fishing, Government is also trying to introduce food fortification for nutritious food to fulfill wishes of global tyrants. Time has come to stay in grace and rebel. Are we going to face this challenge? Certainly together we will!
God Bless Us All!