George Clooney and Goa have nothing in common. But in his latest Oscar-nominated movie The Descendants over a montage of a beach town, a harried-looking Clooney says, “My friends on the mainland think just because I live in Hawaii, I live in paradise. Like a permanent vacation, we’re all just out here drinking mai tais, shaking our hips and catching waves. Are they nuts? How can they possibly think our families are less screwed up, our heart attacks and cancers less fatal, our grief less devastating?”
That’s pretty much what I’ve been trying to tell my friends ‘on the ‘mainland’ for years about my home state, Goa. “Oh you are from Goa. How lovely. You must have so much fun!” goes the usual reaction. The only vision even ‘well informed’ peers from Delhi or Kolkata or any other part of India have of Goa is from the bottom of the beer glass they imagine themselves to be chugging at the mere mention of ‘Goa’.
Stereotypes hurt all of us. They’re worse when they mould an attitude of neglect towards real problems. While Goa went to polls with a record turnout of 81%, it is not much with its meagre 40 seats when compared to ‘heavyweight’ states with 100-plus seats up north. The country’s smallest state is unfortunately only looked at by the rest of the country as a well-deserved break, as scenes on picture postcards, as Mario Miranda sketches, as a place of swaying coconut trees and unlimited cocktails. It’s the Vegas for budget travellers. What happens in Goa stays in Goa. So you automatically think you have the licence to act stupid on the beach. But after the party there is no one cleaning up the mess. There’s actually no proper waste management system in most of the state.
While builders are lapping up the real estate market, building monstrous multi-storied apartments, there is no garbage collection and disposal system in place. The idyllic bonfires at sunset by the beach are not campfires. They’re plastic bags filled with garbage being burned.
For me, a bothered middle-class Goan — who has to bear the sight of alcohol company billboards at every turn and drunk tourists on bikes zipping through the streets after an all-night party while his kids are marching to school — there is no public transportation system. No state buses to go to the market or the next town. Private buses that ply off the highways fleece the Goan. And not everyone can afford the Rs 500 taxi fare to go to the market every day, an amount that a tourist can happily part with for a 5 km trip.
Mining apart, land scams are on the rise as is unemployment. In a state with 87% literacy, where does someone with a college degree find a suitable job? While tourism seems to be the salve for any youngster, would you really use a master’s degree to serve drinks on the beach? The state needs an industrial or an educational revolution with more colleges, technical institutes and IT hubs. It needs to help its young get gainful employment in the state itself.
The 1.45 million population of Goa is still trying to disinfect itself of the ‘family-bred’, scam-infested politics that has been at work for decades, irrespective of which party is in power in Panaji. Each inch of ‘paradise’ is being sold or bartered. But nothing from these transactions goes back in improving roads, providing public transport and waste management.
It’s the attitude of ‘sussegado’ (timeless fun) that’s shown not by its inhabitants but by the political powers that be in Delhi who turn a blind eye to the machinations and corruption going on in the state. Here’s hoping that Goans, with a new government in place from today, can find comfort in their own land for the next five years.