Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The Goan Web

The Goan Web

THE Governor, Mr S C Jamir’s address to the Assembly does not provide a clear picture of where Goa is headed. He talked of environment-friendly industrialisation, balanced growth and sustainable employment but did not tell us how his government was going to achieve these objectives. These objectives were a part of Industrial Policy 2003. The 2003 policy document had identified ‘thrust areas’ such as pharmaceuticals, biotech, food processing, agro-based industries, IT and IT-enabled services, tourism and entertainment. For rapid development in these thrust areas, the 2003 document envisaged setting up of pharma, food, wine, biotech, apparel and IT parks and SEZs.

Now that the SEZs are scrapped, we hoped the Governor would give a new direction to the industrial policy in light of this. His statement underlined that giving due respect to people’s feelings and aspirations, the government had written to the central government to denotify the SEZs which are already notified; but he evaded mention of any alternatives for industrial development of the state.

The ‘thrust areas’ specified in the 2003 Industrial Policy were all environment-friendly industries. The present Digambar Kamat government and the preceding Manohar Parrikar government were encouraging development in those thrust areas, but now even these thrust areas are facing opposition – such as IT, food and pharma parks. Where do we go from here? Mr Jamir should have provided us at least the outline of a perspective, if not a full picture, on how industrial development should proceed from here onwards.

Agriculture in the state is on a life support system. Industrialisation is the only formula for meeting the objectives of balanced growth and sustained employment. But what kind of industrialisation, the government is not clear. The government’s vision seems to have been clouded by the omnipresence of vigilantism against any industry. The vigilantes work from the fundamental premise that there is no unemployment problem in the state. A major part of this illusion is created by the history of out-migration of Goans to the Gulf, ships and other locations. The lack of basic wants even among the relatively low-income resident Goan families adds to the illusion. So, we have this great contrast between Goa and other states: while students and youth in other states periodically set up agitations for employment opportunities, those in Goa do not.

The no-unemployment illusion, the anti-industry vigilantism, and now the directionlessness of the government – all taken together will go on transforming Goa fundamentally, without anybody doing anything to stop it. The fundamental transformation that is going on and will go on under these circumstances is characterised by: one, out-migration of Goans for better-paid jobs. When we say better-paid jobs, we do not mean jobs of managers and executives but jobs of lower categories only paid more. What this has done is strengthen the belief in a large mass of Goans that higher education is useless when you can get a good pay for having lower education. This means persistence of low levels of educational and cultural development in the state. Two, the lower categories of jobs in Goa, not taken by Goans, are being taken by in-migrants. Three, as higher education and the competitive examinations that come along with it are despised by a large mass of Goans, even the higher categories of industrial jobs go to in-migrants. The sights of these in-migrants being there up and being there down cause nightmares to resident Goans, preparing fields for vigilantes to step in and reap their emotions. This is a complex web, which is silently transforming Goa bringing in unrecognisable features, and nobody seems to care how to untangle it.

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