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ANTI-COAL PROTEST : People’s power shows the way

Pachu Menon Pachu Menon
07 Dec 2020

Goa seems to be showing the way!

Rocked by agitations against coal transportation and rail double tracking, the coastal state has ably demonstrated that even the mightiest of governments can buckle under pressure and give into the wishes of the people.

Though yet to claim an outright victory, it cannot be denied that the vehement protests have been an encouraging start.

This could well have been for the first time that the elected representatives in the government have been approached by the people to endorse an agitation and thus magnify the voices of dissent which have resonated in the corridors of power in the state.

The peaceful march by the people of Nuvem and Loutolim to their MLA’s house demanding the scrapping of projects which were not in the interest of Goa and the Goans and the assurances given by the legislator that the Pramod Sawant-led government would respect the sentiments of the people is one such development that should be lauded for its novelty!

The manner in which the state’s Water Resources Minister Filipe Neri Rodrigues took to the public address system to pacify protestors at Nessai railway crossing that he would prevail upon the CM to stop work till the Railway Minister visits Goa is however shrouded in no mystery whatsoever.  

For that matter, the eleventh-hour ‘intervention’ of quite a few from the ruling faction in the on-going protests cannot be seen as anything but a last-ditch effort by the MLAs to keep their heads above the turbulent waters – politically that is.

The show of solidarity with the agitators is unfortunately not born of an innate wish to save Goa for posterity but comes of a desperation to hang on to power under all circumstances, or so it would seem.

Barring the Cortalim BJP legislator who has been the most vociferous critic of the rail double tracking so far, it was quite riling otherwise to observe the reactions of many of the ruling members who were quite conspicuous by their silence over the matter - especially the congress turncoats who hold positions of prominence in the government.

Yet when most of the ministers in the present government are collective in their opinion that people are having a ‘misconception’ about rail double tracking being undertaken only to facilitate coal transportation and give assurances of standing shoulder-to-shoulder with the agitators on the streets if there was even the slightest indication of Goa being turned into a coal hub, it becomes all the more confusing.

The MP from North however treaded a moderate path with sensible suggestions of allowing the representatives of the people in the legislative assembly to debate the issue of coal handling threadbare and pass appropriate resolutions keeping the concerns of Goans in mind.

As Sripad rightly said, governments will come and go, but the will of the people must prevail. The resolution of the House will be a testimony of what people of Goa wanted, as the state takes on the path of development.

Moreover, with a multitude of problems assailing the state, there have been discernible differences between the government and its ministers on a number of issues.

The Goa DGP’s tirade against those willfully hindering development projects in the state and warning them of strict police action were they to continue hampering the works has further irked the protestors.

The response of the Opposition leaders to the unrest is quite understandable. If it has been an issue that they wanted to corner the BJP-dispensation with, they have one right at their doorstep.

It is however the manner in which the agitating groups have managed to keep the ‘attention-seekers’ away from the forefront of the protests that has been commendable.

The conviction that not one individual, but every Goemkar, is a leader in his own right and is spearheading the campaign gives the struggle all the more authenticity.

Besides many NGOs and people from various communities, the fact that the controversial projects are being opposed tooth and nail by most of the village panchayats by adopting resolutions against them gives the stir the tag of a people-centered movement.

Whichever way one looks at it, the adamance of the state government in pushing through with the projects despite strong opposition from the people is more than obvious.

It is however a matter of deep concern that the Fourth Estate has preferred to take a back-seat in the on-going struggle restricting itself to factual reporting without proffering views of its own.

Serious journalism has been struggling for years to survive in the internet era. Going overboard with the ‘live’ coverage of any and every bit of news irrespective of its merits, social media has apparently become the voice of the people. Individual opinions do not seem to matter these days.

Now, every protest or agitation has three broad categories of participants giving the campaign the necessary impetus to keep it moving.

The first group is the core of the movement which actually conceptualizes the whole protest and works whole-heartedly and with complete commitment towards realizing its mission.

As the ‘drive’ gains momentum, it attracts genuinely concerned citizens and those who take a fancy to the idea. Many of them may stick on with the ‘crusade’ and quite a few will drop out the moment the first signs of trouble crop up. This then is the second assemblage of protestors.

Of course the fence-sitting members in any movement cannot be discounted in the statistical count!

We then have the prodigious crowd of bystanders who add their numbers to the strength of any campaign and are pleased at merely being a part of the whole show. This is the third faction!

Therefore one cannot afford to be swayed by the mammoth crowds that greet any agitation. It is not the true indicator of the success of any movement either.  

Under these circumstances it is equally important that public views are not permitted to override individual opinions on any issue.

Nonetheless, the struggle of the people, by the people and for the people against unpopular development agendas of the government is quite evident in Goa!

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