The development of our home state is a matter of pride to those who continue to live there and for those who, for various reasons, have chosen to live outside the state but still care very passionately about it.
Undoubtedly, in the last decades development in Goa has been phenomenal, at least on some counts. Without detailing, I want to eloquently acknowledge the considerable de-velopment that has taken place and made the lives of Goans amenable as per contemporary stand-ards, and raise a more pressing issue and consider what role Goan NRI might play in addressing the same.
In the name of progress, Goa has gone through development and its nasty consequences are already being felt in an ominous way. The "nouveau riche" with unfettered income, particularly coming from the Gulf countries, contributed enormously to the construction industry and gave us concrete jungles without infrastructure. Understandably, it was a rush to move from shack to flat. The flat (apartment) became the icon of material prosperity and we saw an exodus from the ancestral village homes to live in a flat in the city or in the urbanized areas. The competition was not so much for acquiring the best, but to get it the fastest. "Tum atam ?flatan? rauta num!?" became the aphorism of acknowledgment that some have" made it". It is heartening to note that many, thankfully, found new prosperity and status in the cramped walls of the "flats" and gained for themselves a measure of honor, respect and prestige in society, which would not otherwise be easy to come by, and which was long overdue.
My specific issue with this reckless development in the name of progress lies particularly with the lack of, negligence concerning, and utter disregard for basic infrastructure which is necessary and critical for any development. The progress of any society is measured not by its buildings and construction sites, but by the organization of its citizens. Last summer, I was confronted with a disturbing sight: the resident of a third-floor flat on a main street decided to do his shopping by lowering a basket attached to a rope from the window to the shop selling groceries. I was left puzzled. Was it village ingenuity or just plain crass conduct? One can take Johnny off the street, but one cannot take the street out of Johnny. The lack of organization, and perhaps planning, in the construction industry is sinful. The disregard for the environment is indescribable. The absence of provisions for the sewage is appalling. Our proverbial "dukor" which is a natural scavenger, does not have access to the flats. The garbage pile, around the surroundings of buildings, besides its sanitary consequences is abominable. We may have moved out of the "kompti" but the "kompti" mentality remains with us. The lack of parking facilities for an ever-increasing number of motor vehicles, is painfully mind-boggling. The traffic arrangement for modern vehicles is so primitive that it is pathetic. I think the tragedy is not that the builder or the developer has not provided the necessary facilities and basic aesthetics, but that the buyers of these "modern" facilities, many of whom are NRIs, have not demanded them.
My next question is: What is the responsibility of the NRI (do they have any responsibility?) to somehow affect the progress and the development in Goa? I think Goa NRIs have a great responsibility for a variety of reasons. Let me mention some of them: (1) much of the construction industry in Goa (and elsewhere in India) is driven by foreign investments. (2) NRIs have had the opportunity of seeing, studying and experiencing developments in other parts of the world and therefore can avoid the blunders committed elsewhere, being repeated in Goa?s development. (3) There is a painful lack of consideration for the environment and ecological values. Etc...
I would like to engage in a dialogue with you on this very urgent issue (otherwise it might be too late) so that Goa may continue to progress in an enlightened way and be a model to other cities around the country. After all, Goa still remains (I say, still, because the current reckless and unconscionable pattern of development is disastrous) a place that Indians in general love to visit and be part of.
You may contact me at BasilioMI@aol.com
[Fr. Monteiro, currently in New York, is a priest of the Archdiocese of Goa.]