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Newsletter. Issue 2008-07. March 29, 2008
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Goa: Govt Bans Foreigners From Buying Land
Sujoy Gupta
Friday, March 28, 2008 (Mumbai)

Goa is for Goans, that's the message of the state government, which has decided to ban foreigners from buying land for personal purposes. The government announced this in the state assembly on Friday and also passed the Goa Registration Amendment Bill.

The government has also appealed to Goans not to sell land to foreigners and preserve their land.

Foreigners can now buy land only for business purposes but only after following specific and stringent conditions such as a business visa plus an explicit clearance from the RBI.

Now foreigners on tourist visa can not buy land.


Goan With The Wind

In the early 1990s, Air India printed a calendar showcasing people from different states in their traditional costumes. The Goa portrait had a couple at a church wedding in bridal finery: the lady in a flowing gown, her partner in a jacket and tie. The publication sparked off protests within the Goan community, who accused the national carrier of portraying a flawed image of the state. In a state where over sixty per cent is Hindu, the calendar was seen to reinforce the stereotype of Goa as a "westernised" Portuguese enclave. Ironically, the protests were led, among others, by the redoubtable architect Charles Correa, a Goan Catholic proud of his Saraswat Brahmin heritage, someone who was perfectly comfortable in his kurta pajama and Kolhapuri chappals. The protestors were successful enough to force a change in the calendar.

When the Air India Maharajah gets it wrong, what chance does the average Indian have of getting Goa right?

For decades now, Goa has been the victim of a rather perverted caricature: the stereotypical image of the state has been of a lazy, fun-loving coastal community with a weak moral core. Bollywood, often the trailblazer in setting cultural trends, did Goa no favours: the majority of Hindi cinema showed the Goan as the drunk Anthony Gonsalves-like character, a woman on one arm, a whisky bottle bottle in his pocket. Even the otherwise well made Dil Chahta Hai created the idea of Goa as the ultimate fantasy of the young Indian: girls were easy, sexual freedom guaranteed with the puritanical streak of the rest of the country absent here.

Rewind to the original "Goan" film, Bobby in the 1970s: find me a Goan fisherman's daughter who dresses in skimpy bikinis and shorts like Dimple Kapadia and I will buy you a villa next to Vijay Mallya's seaside bungalow in Candolim.

Unfortunately, it hasn't been easy to shake off the "live the good times" image of Goa, especially when the mainstream media has lapped it up so easily. If a few years ago, it was fish, feni and football that was considered to be the limit of Goa's vision, its now sex, sin and sand, courtesy the Scarlett Keeling controversy. For an increasingly tabloidish media, the Scarlett controversy is manna from heaven.

A teenage white woman drugged, drowned, possibly raped, perhaps murdered, on a beach in Goa by mysterious shack owners: what more can a carnivorous media ask for? Especially when there are enough close up pictures of a semi-nude Scarlett with marks all over her body, suggesting foul play and a possible cover up? That the area where the incident took place is notorious for drug peddling, that Scarlett herself appears to have had an active sex life, that the girl's truant mother has a past history of crime, and is now embellishing her public remarks with unsubstantiated allegations against Goa's top politicians, that Goa's netas and local cops have a terrible record in fighting crime, can the media really then be blamed for seeing this as a sensational crime story which will catch restless eyeballs?

But Scarlett's story is not simply another whodunit, nor does it fit in within the "fight for justice" framework that in the aftermath of the Jessica Lal case seems to have become the new war cry for a section of the media. Instead, the Scarlett saga lies at the heart of a more abiding conflict between diverse cultural strands of Goa: between licentiousness and piety, between new world normlessness and old world certitudes.

There is the Goa of the beachcombers, of the hippies who discovered Baga in the early 70s, of the rave parties, of paedophilia, of decadent hedonism. But there is also the Goa of deep social conservatism, of folk religiosity in its village temples and churches, of simplicity of lifestyle within rural communities, of a premium on education and of immense pride in its plural, multi-cultural heritage. The Goa of a tiny strip of beach between Candolim and Anjuna is constantly in the media gaze and makes front page headlines. The vast majority of Goans who live outside this world are rarely documented because their lives seem much too unexciting to be explored. Historians and anthropologists have done much to unravel the "real' Goa, but for the national media, it is so much easier to reduce an entire people to a tourist brochure .

Indeed, Goa's tourism industry - earning the state approximately 10,000 crores in foreign exchange per annum -- has been at the heart of the modern-day mythification of the state as some form of a sexual paradise. It is estimated that around 25 lakh tourists come to Goa each year, a vast majority of them local tourists, eager to explore the "idea" of being in a "free" state, free from the restrictions of middle class attitudes. Only a fifth of the tourists who visit the state each year are foreigners, most of them looking for a cheap holiday. The Caribbean is too expensive, the Costa del Sol not exotic enough and Australia too far: so why not clamber onto a chartered plane to a land of the "carnival"?

Unfortunately, the postcard image of Goa often has little connection with the living reality of its people The result is a clash of cultures that has partly shaped the debate over the Scarlett issue.
For many Goans, the foreign tourist is a needless intrusion into their community life . Even now, the idea of any form of nudity on the beaches offends Goans, at times even the sight of a half clad gent on a bike troubles villagers. Which perhaps explains why very few Goans seem to have any sympathy for Scarlett's mother, shocked as they are by her decision to leave her teenage daughter behind and travel to neighbouring Karnataka on her own. The Keelings' behaviour offends Goan sensibilities, it reopens lingering fears of a traditional society being overrun by the "outsider". That a young girl might have been raped and murdered by locals doesn't seem to concern a majority of Goans as much as it should.

And yet, the real threat to Goa's cultural identity does not lie in the lifestyle of the tourist, confined as they are to a small stretch of the state. In fact, in a state with limited employment opportunities, Goa needs to attract more, not less tourists.

The critical threat to Goan society instead comes from within: from the brazen sale of priceless real estate to those who have little stake in the state's future . It isn't the influx of tourists which should trouble Goans as much as the growing influence of the builders and construction agents who appear determined to destroy the state's environmental treasure in violation of all existing laws. While Goa's politicians go into cataclysms over the Scarlett case, how many of them have bothered to raise their voice against the virtual auction of the state to land sharks? Is it any surprise that in a state which has seen as many as 19 chief ministers in 21 years of statehood, politicians have lost the moral authority to speak up on the issues of governance that really matter to the average Goan?

Frankly, the challenge before Goa today is not the one which is being posed by a Scarlett-afflicted media: a permissive drugs and drink culture might make for good television, its not central to Goa's impending identity crisis.

The real challenge for Goans is whether they can preserve the uniqueness of their land by ensuring that it doesn't become another concrete jungle. Environment may not make sensational headlines like a murder can, but in the long run, preventing environmental degradation can alone secure Goa's future.

Post-script: Let me also debunk another stereotype: the "desai" in my surname often leads people to presume I am Gujarati. The fact is that my father was a Goan, and I am proud to be one too.


‘Goa is going down the drain ’
Remo Fernandes talks to AJIT SAHI about how his land has changed

Drugs, sex and crime have become the landscape of Goa. Where is all this headed?
Down the drain.

Who is responsible for this mess?
The politicians, ministers, sarpanchs, municipalities. In short, everyone in power. Because everyone in power in India is corrupt. Especially in places where there’s money to be made from every square inch of land.

How can we end the nightmare?
As a country we’ve reached the last stage of corruption: the people themselves prefer to elect the corrupt candidate rather than the honest one, because the corrupt one will do their ‘job’ for them, such as give them licences for illegal construction, with illegal electricity and water connections to boot.

There is a big controversy on the sale of land to outsiders. What’s your view?
There’s not a word about not selling land to non-Goan Indians. I believe the government’s move to not sell land to foreigners is motivated and sponsored by the builders’ lobby in Delhi and the metros. The average Goan would prefer to sell their land to a nice family, Indian or foreign, rather than to land sharks and promoters of huge townships which ruin the landscape. Of course there are Goans who put money first and would sell their grandmothers to the highest bidder. It would be up to the authorities to protect Goa from such people — but unfortunately, they are these people!

What would be the ideal Goa?
The ideal would be a Goa declared an ecologically protected state. Where no person from out of state would be allowed to buy or build. Where Goans would build just enough beautiful accommodation for visitors who would come on holiday and then go home. We need protected places. If we urbanize and destroy them all, where will we go on holiday? To Pakistan?

From Tehelka Magazine, Vol 5, Issue 12, Dated Mar 29, 2008


For second day, rains disrupt normal life

PANJIM: Unseasonal rain continued to lash the state for the second day yesterday, (March 22) throwing normal life out of gear in many parts. Mapusa market and many low-lying areas across the state were inundated even as people preferred to stay at home, yesterday being a holiday on account of Holi. Meteorologist in-charge of the Indian Meteorology Observatory, Panjim, KV Singh, told GT-Weekender that the unseasonal rainfall was due to low pressure area in south-east Arabian Sea and adjoining Lakshwadeep area and off Karnataka and Kerala coasts. "The situation is well marked low and rainfall is likely to continue. If the rains intensify it could cause depression in the Arabian Sea. The rains may be accompanied by gusty winds in some areas," Singh said. The IMO recorded 5.6 mm rainfall up to 5.30 pm yesterday. [WE-GT]


Shigmo floats parade at Mapusa
MAPUSA: The Shigmo floats parade at Mapusa will be held on Sunday, March 23 from 4.00 pm. The procession will start from Alankar theatre, take a right turn opposite Comunidad Ghor and conclude at the open fields at Bodginim. [WE-GT]


This ain't Holi, folks
VASCO: A group of youth celebrating Holi at Vasco on Saturday morning went overboard and threw coloured water and powder on a decently dressed lady (Flory Fernandes, a Goan residing in London) and her father (Gestor Fernandes) when they were on their way to attend a religious programme. [WE-GT]


298 land deals violate FEMA
PANJIM , Mar 25: The Goa Assembly on Tuesday was informed that nearly 298 cases of land deals by foreign nationals have been found in contravention of the Foreign Exchange Management Act and have been referred to the Enforcement Directorate for necessary action. [H]


Konkani course in Roman script
PANJIM, Mar 24: The Thomas Stephens Konknni Kendr will conduct a crash Konknni course from April 16 to May 15 in Roman script for those who are familiar with spoken Konknni and know to read Konknni in Roman script at TSKK premises at Alto-Porvorim. Admissions are based on first come basis. Tel: 2415857, 2415864. [H]


Politicians, outstation scribes in drug nexus!
PANJIM: Home Minister Ravi Naik dropped a bombshell yesterday when he said in the Goa Assembly that some politicians and outstation media persons had a nexus with drug peddlers even as he revealed that the government was ready to hand over the investigations of the British teenage Scarlett Keeling's murder case to the CBI, for an impartial inquiry. Participating in the discussion and voting on the motion of thanks to the Governor's address delivered on January 10, Ravi said the police was probing the nexus between some politicians, outstation media persons and the drug trade in the coastal areas. However, he did not reveal the names of the suspected politicians and media persons.


Dr Sapeco suspended
The state government, on March 24, suspended Dr Silvano Dias Sapeco, professor and head of the Forensic Medicine Department at Goa Medical College and Hospital, Bambolim, with immediate effect for his alleged "acts of commission and omission" in respect of the 15-year-old British girl Scarlet Keeling's death case reported at Anjuna beach on February 18. [GT]


Remo to be honoured in Egypt
PANJIM, Mar 24: Pop singer Remo Fernandes is to be honoured with the 'Golden Key to Alexandria' at the Sixth Alexandria International Music and Song Festival, to be held between 20 and 26 July in Egypt's historical city of Alexandria. Remo will be part of the International Jury which decides the winners of the festival to be held in the Alexandria Opera House. He is being honoured for his "valuable contribution to the world of music and humanity". [H]


Where have the nakabandis gone?
The recent serial robberies in the coastal parts of Salcete have created a sea of panic and insecurity among villagers.The villages of the area now are increasingly people by settlers from all over India, and the original villagers are left to fend for themselves against ever-increasing robberies. Migrants, hailing from neighbouring Karwar, Hubli, Belgaum and even Uttar Pradesh have of late settled in Goa villages. While most of these are honest, hardworking folk, a small section that has infiltrated their ranks seems to have thoroughly scanned the localities in which they are staying. [Edit, Herald]


Conference on Indian expatriates in Gulf
PANJIM: The Department of NRI Affairs will hold a conference of Indian expatriates in the Gulf countries on March 29 at Hotel Mandovi, Panjim, at 3 pm. Union Minister for NRI Affairs, Vyalar Ravi, will inaugurate the conference. Chief Minister Digambar Kamat will be the chief guest. Commissioner for NRI Affairs, Eduardo Faleiro, will preside over the conference. On the occasion, Community Service Leadership Awards will be presented to some leaders of the Goan community in the Gulf countries. The Handbook for NRGS, containing information useful to the emigrants and facilities available to them will be released at the conference. Action taken Reports on memoranda submitted to the NRI Commissioner during his recent visit to the Gulf countries will also be circulated at the conference. [WE-GT]


Miraculous Cobra Saves Lord Ganesh-Shaped Tree
NT News Service
Canacona, March 18

In a rare incident that occurred in Canacona, a black cobra appeared from nowhere when an ancient tree resembling a Lord Ganesha idol was being trimmed in Karmalghat-Ghat forest area.
One Mr Velip while cleaning bushes and trimming trees in his cashew plantations was taken aback to see a golden shinning cobra while he was trying to trim a huge root of an already half-cut tree. The cobra started to instantaneously move its hood as if it was signalling to stop the chopping process.

Mr Velip and two of his friends who were cleaning the cashew trees nearby just retrieved from the area after the incident. Incidentally, the tree-trunk, which Mr Velip was attempting to chop, resembles a Lord Ganesha idol.

The incident spread like wild fire in the taluka and people started to throng the area with agarbattis, flower garlands and kumkum to worship the tree. Nowadays, even private bus owner and other transporters stop at the site, garland and worship the tree. There’s every possibility that the phenomenon may invite Ganapathi worshippers from far and wide places to the site.

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