Tensing Carlos Rodrigues

Posts Tagged ‘Goa’

An airport too far – 2

In Politically wrong on April 11, 2013 at 3:57 am

Let me now turn to the demolition of the second restrictive premise : that an airport is merely a place where planes land. An airport need not be merely a place where planes land. All international airports that have made big today are more than mere airports – they are integrated transport hubs which people prefer to use. That requires out of the box thinking; and that is what I want to show is necessary in case of an airport in Goa.  I am basing my suggestions particularly on my experience of the new Kuala Lumpur Airport.

mopaThe idea of an integrated transport hub suggests itself once we look at the map of the area around Mopa. NH 66 (old NH 17) runs at 1.66 km from the airport location; and the Konkan Railway line runs at 3.06 km. When the airport comes up it is likely to be skirted by the NH (though at different elevations) and will have the KR line within less than 2km from its periphery. Does that suggest to you a multimodal transport hub ? I know there are some ground level difficulties there; mainly because of the topography and the distance (about 2 km) between the KR line and the NH.

Move your sight a little lower on the map and you have the two lines – the NH and the KR – converging at the Pernem Railway Station – just about 6 km from the airport; considering the spread of the airport, the distance may be actually about 4 km. Here is where the out of the box thinking comes in. And this is what the new KL International Airport (KLIA) has demonstrated : the airport where the planes land and take off can be far from the Passenger Terminal. At KLIA , which is 60 km away from KL city, the major flights land and take off from what is known as the Satellite Terminal A, while the passengers check in and check out at Main Terminal or Terminal 1. It is here that the passengers complete their immigration and other tasks like buying local currency or SIM card or duty-free shopping. A dedicated passenger train called the Aerotrain takes the passengers from the Satellite Terminal to the Main Terminal.  The 3-car 250-person capacity driverless trains complete the 2 km journey in less than two minutes. If the Mopa Airport is so designed that the ‘Satellite Terminal’ is located at Mopa plateau and the ‘Main Terminal’ is located on the plain at the convergence of NH and the KR lines, a similar train should be able to cover the 4 km distance in less than 5 minutes. A smaller capacity train with a lower frequency may be what we will need to start with.

aeroAn integrated multimodal transport hub could be developed at the Pernem Railway Station where passengers can switch from plane to train or bus and vice versa, from train to bus and vice versa, all under one roof in absolute comfort. The complex would also provide for booking of tickets, sanitary utilities, relaxation while waiting, food and refreshments, booking of hotels and shopping. It is needless to say that the hub is not just a utility; it is a business proposition that will provide employment and income to locals and revenue to the Goa government. That is what it has to be eventually : a hub for growth of the entire region. Integrated hubs like this can provide tremendous boost to local produce as they attract large congregations of customers; it becomes a virtuous cycle : activity  attracts crowds, and crowds attract activity, and the growth effect trickles down over a wide region. And the right type of growth : growth without the ill effects of crass urbanization, rapacious industrialization and unjust concentration of wealth.

kliaEven looking from the narrow point of view of the viability of the airport, no major airport can be viable if it cannot derive more than half of its income from non-aeronautical activities; I suppose the ratio for a viable business model is something like 20:80 between aeronautical and non-aeronautical activities. Or else the non travelling public has to bear the tax burden; or the airport has to simply price itself out of the competition.

 Crucial to the viability of the integrated transport hub is the connectivity. And that is the locational advantage of Mopa : the KR Station, the NH 66 and the airport will be in close proximity, providing connectivity within the region as well as with the rest of the world. But this advantage will work for the viability of the hub and the airport if and only if the KR line and the NH are used optimally. Passengers landing at Mopa need to be shuttled to their destinations in comfort and in the shortest possible time. One excellent option is to use the major KR stations as the hubs for disembarkation of air travellers and run fast trains connecting these stations. This is again a superb idea that has been tried out by KLIA. A high speed non-stop train KLIA Express connects the airport to another marvelous transport hub KL Sentral in the heart of Kuala Lumpur – in just 28 minutes; another train KLIA Transit makes two stops in between; what is the most important, the trains start from within the Main Terminal of the airport. Other railway lines – metro, suburban, intercity and transnational (going to Bangkok and Singapore) – either originate at or pass through KL Sentral; as a result the air passengers have unsurpassed connectivity with comfort, speed and economy. (For more details see https://olvaddo.wordpress.com.)

krSimilar trains could start from the Pernem Integrated Transport Hub or the trains passing through Pernem KR Station could be utilised for this purpose, depending on the traffic volumes and track availability. They would have to then connect to the major stations on the KR route between Ratnagiri and Bhatkal; some trains could connect to only few stations, others could connect to more. If we are to get back to the narrow context of tourist flow to Goa, as an illustration, Thivim would cater to the Calangute-Baga belt, Madgaon would cater to the Mobor-Bogmalo belt, and so on. This would also provide impetus to the up gradation of KR infrastructure, and make KR the dream lifeline of Konkan, that it was supposed to be.

Integration is very critical for the success of this model. Or else, we will have a situation similar to that in Chennai. Chennai International Airport (CIA) is one of the few in India probably which can be accessed by a train. The other one is Delhi Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGI); I am told the Metro connection from New Delhi to IGI is of global standards. CIA has the rail connectivity, but the switch is not at all smooth. Chennai city is served by the Metro; the metropolitan area is served by local trains. So if you are somewhere in the city – say Triplicane, Royapettah or Mylapore – and you have to fly, you need to take a Metro train to Chennai Fort and then catch a local train back to Tirusulam – the station close to the airport. The subway at Tirusulam station opens out into the airport area; but the subway stinks and is usually inundated; and after that you need to walk about 400 metres through dusty rubble to enter the Terminal. Hopefully, once the Metro line gets extended to the airport, the switch should be smoother. Integrating the airport into the local transport network goes a long way in making an airport passenger friendly.

The beauty of Pernem Integrated Transport Hub is that it offers a parallel mode for dispersion : the NH 66. Fast and comfortable coaches could carry the air passengers to their destinations in the hinterland. The two modes, therefore, would complement each other, offering flexibility and wider reach; NH 66 would provide access to those areas lying away from the KR line.

The question is, why not follow the same model at Dabolim ? Dabolim has the added advantage of access to the South Western rail line. Yes, Dabolim has access to SW line; but, as said before, it is a weak link. Well that could be strengthened. So I will not discard that point altogether. But Dabolim is too far from the KR line, which is more vital to service the hinterland of the airport. (Actually that is not really true : the KR line passes very close to the airport, but some half a kilometer below !) Dabolim is also far from the NH 66; that however is not a big problem, as NH 66A (the so called Four Lane Highway), which passes by the airport, can be a strong link to NH 66. But most important handicap is the unavailability of space to develop an Integrated Multimodal Transport Hub in the neighbourhood of Dabolim. Some 25 years back it would have been possible; that is before Verna was developed as an industrial hub. Verna Plateau would have been an excellent site for an Integrated Multimodal Transport Hub.

To conclude, the choice today is not between Mopa and Dabolim. The only real challenge that I perceive for Mopa is Sindhudurga. Because, all that I have proposed for Mopa will also work for Sindhudurga. If Sindhudurga materialises in a big way, Mopa will have to bow out; and even Dabolim.  If we do not want that to happen, we will have to act fast  and act decisively on a massive scale to emerge the winner between the two. 

For the full story log on to : epaperoheraldo.in and check the March 10, 2013 edition.

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Does not sound like Goa, right ?

In Goa at Crossroads on March 31, 2013 at 4:16 am

Goa at Crossroads

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Hardly a three metre strip of sand, choc-a-bloc with chairs, arm chairs, beds, stools; a broad road running along it, giant Merc buses and Isuzu pick-ups zipping up and down; rows after rows of stalls selling all types of knick knacks, cold drinks, snacks, undergarments, curios; speed boats anchored right as you get off the sand into the water, picking tourists for rides to the islands and parasailing platforms in the sea; the sky punctured by towering Hiltons, Marriotts, Hyatts, InterContinentals, Accors and BestWesterns; that is a beach.

 Drive inwards, food joints jostle for space and attention – local, Chinese, Continental, fusion, all types of cuisine; very prominent are the eateries run by the whites (should I say expats ?) – they have high sounding names, difficult to understand and offer “back home” menus.

 No less prominent are the massage parlours – almost every third establishment that is not an eating place or a chemist’s is a massage parlour. Behind glass windows, you can see beds with impeccable white linen, towels neatly rolled up and silhouettes of women in waiting. But not all have the glass windows; all that you see are sign boards and pretty women sitting or standing at the door. Sometimes it is just a small board with an arrow pointing to the upper floor. Most of them have a sign upstairs that says “Rooms Available”.

 PattayaHowever much that may arouse your imagination, the days are rather dull here. Let the sun set and lights come on, the city sparkles in sensuous colours. The eating places get crowded and the side alleys almost spring out of nowhere, like bright enticing  tentacles of an octopus that have pool parlours for their suckers; so many of them. After a few of those I simply lost count of the alleys and the pool parlours; almost got lost; tired and scared, I returned to the base at Golden Beach Hotel. For the pool parlours was something that I had not seen before – so large, so many tables, with young girls loitering around, waiting for “players”.

 All over, the roads are full of whites, walking hand in hand with local girls – well, so many of them that one finds it rather weird. What are all these whites doing here ? What do they come here for ? They understand no local language; their female consorts interpret it for them and help them choose the dishes on the menu.

 Does not sound like Goa, right ? Well, it is not; it is Pattaya. But could be Goa, say circa 2061 !

An airport too far – 1

In Politically wrong on March 17, 2013 at 9:52 am

At the end of the article MOPA v/s DABOLIM by Rahul Basu that appeared in the Herald Review of Sunday, 10th February, 2013, based on a blog post of the same name dated 9th February (http://moreseriously.blogspot.in), the author seems to very convincingly conclude that the idea of an airport at Mopa is ‘stupid’ : “Our politicians are not stupid, why are they still pushing for Mopa ?”  

Well, the idea is made to look stupid by putting blinkers on the readers’ eyes.  What I wish to do here is to let the reader look beyond the blinkers. 

AirportsFirst and foremost, let me accept that Mopa is not perhaps the best location for a new airport. But I suppose now we are beyond the stage of looking out for an optimum location for the airport; so, accepting fait accompli, I am restricting myself to just Mopa and Dabolim. Further, I fully agree with Mr. Basu that two airports in such close vicinity is a ‘stupid’ idea.

Now let me come to the two restrictive premises that make an airport at Mopa look stupid : one – that the international airport in Goa is for Goa alone; two – that an airport is merely a place where planes land.

An international airport in Goa cannot be for Goa alone; it cannot be sustained by the traffic generated by a small place like Goa. Goa may be a state, but it is smaller in area and population than many districts in India. We may be under an illusion that Goa’s tourist flow will sustain an international airport. We need to rethink that assumption.

HighwaysTherefore we have to necessarily look at a larger catchment area. What could be the catchment area of an airport in Goa ? Goa’s geographical positioning, I feel, restricts the catchment area of the airport to the coastal belt – south of the hinterland of Mumbai and north of the hinterland of Mangalore. We may have to replace the existing Mumbai airport in the north by the airport in or around Navi Mumbai, whilst doing this calculation. That gives us about 250 km to the north and 200 km to the south, which encompasses the districts of Ratnagiri (South) and Sindhudurga in Maharashtra and Uttar Kannad in Karnataka.

Why not the area beyond the Ghats like the districts of Kolhapur and Sangli in Maharashtra and Belgaum, Dharwad and Haveri in Karnataka ? Passengers or freight from beyond Ghats cannot be easily captured by an airport in Goa because of tenuous links across the Ghats. The only robust road link between the coast and the up-Ghat region along the entire stretch between Mumbai and Ernakulam is NH 48 (old NH 4) connecting Mumbai to Pune; nowhere below that there exists such a link. There are numerous roads crossing the Ghats to the south of Mumbai : Ratnagiri-Kolhapur, Panaji-Belgaum, Kumta-Sirsi, Honnavar–Shimoga, Managalore-Madikeri, etc.; but none of these are capable of providing robust and rapid links. As for the rail links, Madgaon-Londa is the only broad gauge line crossing the Ghats between Mumbai and Mangalore; seven trains run on the route of which only two are daily.

RailwaysThe broad gauge line connecting Mangalore to Hassan is an even weaker link, with only two daily trains running on it. Both these are single lines and not electrified; the Railway Vision 2020 document too does not propose any improvement in the situation. The next link below that – the Shorannur-Erode line – is however a robust link. The Ghats, therefore, have remained ‘insurmountable’ at least as far as the hinterland of Goa is concerned. Thus, it makes sense to restrict the catchment area of an airport in Goa to the coastal belt – south of the hinterland of Mumbai and north of the hinterland of Mangalore.

The Belgaum and Hubli airports, therefore, move out of reckoning; they cannot be competitors to an airport in Goa. That leaves us with two contenders – Sindhudurga and Karwar. Of these Karwar should be dropped out. It is going to be a Naval Airport, just like Dabolim; and, therefore, like Dabolim, can never aspire to be a ‘real’ International Airport.  A Naval Airport is basically a Defence Establishment, with all its necessary constraints. A civilian airport needs to be free of all constraints, save those related to environment; only then can it aspire to attain global standards. Sindhudurga airport is the only and the real contender; and I have no argument to wish it away; at least at this point. 

For the full story log on to : epaperoheraldo.in and check the March 10, 2013 edition.

My encounter with tourist Goa.

In Goa at Crossroads on March 7, 2013 at 12:29 am

Goa at Crossroads

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In late eighties I was working on a project on Impact of Tourism in Goa (Ave Cleto Afonso, TOURISM IN GOA – SOCIO ECONOMIC IMPACT, Institute of Social Sciences, New Delhi, 1989). During the interactions with the stake holders, and those who had applied their mind to the matter, I got the “costa del mierda” view of tourism in Goa. I still cannot forget those prophetic words of Dr. Meenakshi Martins “Upto 200 metres from the high tide line, it is not Goa.” Some years later I found myself once again in a close encounter with tourism while doing market research for a company that contemplated to start a superfast luxury train between Mumbai and Goa. British charter operators predicted the end of charters in a few years. Well that has not happened. Or has it not really ? Bizarre descriptions of male prostitution involving German widows and local fishermen haunt my mind when I think of the charters. For me the trail of tourism ended there; I changed my track after that, and my only view of tourism was what I got from my daily newspaper. By the way, that superfast luxury train never started; do not blame me for that; I reported what I gathered from the horses’ mouths !

Old anchorBut the beginning of my encounter with tourism was much earlier. As a young undergraduate student at Dhempe College in mid seventies, it was not rare to have a couple of guys in trance on the backbenches in the amphitheatre lecture rooms. But, perhaps for me tourist Goa phenomenon was even more personal. Most of my childhood summer evenings were spent on the then virgin Fatrade beach. Occasionally we would walk along to Mobor and be awed by the sheer beauty of the dazzling white line of sand drawn over a shimmering blue sea. My father told me it was the most beautiful place in the world. A few years later when we began to work, and have loose change in the wallet (some of us a little more as they went on board the ship), we dreamed of buying up that “most beautiful place on earth” ! But when Old Anchor set its anchor in the sands of Mobor, it was the end of our age of innocence. We knew we had lost the damsel we had loved all along.

But, can we just blow away this empire built over last fifty years in a fit of kolaveri ? It shall go nevertheless, whether we like it or not, in a fit of kolaveri. Tourist destinations are prone for self destruction. As S C Plog points out in his Why Destination Areas Rise And Fall In Popularity (Cornell Hotel and Restaurant Administration Quarterly, 1974) : “We can visualize a destination moving across a spectrum, however gradually or slowly, but far too often inexorably, toward the potential of its own demise. Destination areas carry with them the potential seeds of their own destruction, and lose their qualities which originally attracted tourists.” The same is reinforced by R W Butler (The Concept Of A Tourism Area Cycle Of Evolution : Implications For Management Of Resources, Canadian Geographer, 1980). According to Butler, there are six stages through which tourist areas pass : exploration, involvement, development, consolidation, stagnation, and decline.

This happens basically because of two strong forces : one, the congestion and the ensuing discomfort – falling service standards, rising prices, dirt and stink – chase away the tourists; two, as tourism empire grows, the conflict between the interests of the host population and the tourists increases, causing frequent clashes and an eventual backlash.

Giedre Steikunaite, the former editorial intern at the New Internationalist, recounts the story of Cancún, Mexico :

“Cancún is trapped in the vicious circle of tourism development, which both feeds it and kills it. Just 40 years ago, Kankun (‘nest of snakes’ in Maya) was a sleepy fishing village with marshes, mangroves, virgin jungle and untouched beaches. The paradise lasted until 1970, when the government decided it was time for a new Acapulco, as the original one had been degraded and couldn’t serve as a reliable money pot any longer.”

Marine biologist Everto Herrera Batista, researcher for Alerta Cambio Climático, explains that rains have decreased in recent years and the state is suffering droughts and desertification. The number of cyclones has almost doubled in the last 30 years, from 10 in 1980 to 19 this year. As if that wasn’t enough, the rising sea levels are threatening the very existence of the white sandy beaches which attract tourists in the first place.

Why Goa became “India’s Tourism Mecca” ?

In Goa at Crossroads on February 21, 2013 at 1:07 am

Goa at Crossroads

#04

“’Eight-finger Eddie’, the original American ‘freak’ who discovered and popularised Goa as a 1960s hippy haven, has died, aged 85.” reported The Telegraph at 6:05PM BST on 28 Oct 2010. “Yertward Mazmanian, an Armenian-American, arrived in Goa in the early 1960s, fell in love with its tropical beaches and lifestyle, and later established a flea-market in Anjuna, North Goa, which became a ‘Mecca’ for hippies throughout the world. … His role put the former Portuguese colony on the tourist map.”

EddieWhy did the beatniks and hippies choose to settle down in Goa ? As they drove down overland from Kathmandu “on bikes, beetles and magic buses“, ‘tropical beaches’ were all over the west and the east coast from Dwarka to Kovalam, and Puri to Nagapattinam; just in the close neighbourhood, and no different, were Shiroda and Karwar – that would very much fit the description “a tiny hamlet with a few tea stalls and houses dotting a pristine sandy beach“, that Mazmanian uses for Anjuna. But they chose Goa. The clue probably lay in the phrase one stumbles upon again and again in the literature about the advent of hippies : “a former Portuguese enclave”.

What did that former Portuguese enclave offer, that others did not ? The ease of communicating in an European language ? A culturally ‘at home’ feeling ? Familiar cuisine ? Or, was it the laissez faire attitude ? “They were in love with this place. And we fell in love with them, because of the way they lived.”, an Associated Press despatch for Oct 28, 2010 quotes a local, Dominic Fernandes, 65.

Goa’s USP of “yahan to kuch bhi chalta hai” has stuck on. No wonder Tarun Tejpal blurted it out at the end of the first day of the Tehelka magazine’s Goa bash, ThinkFest 2011 : “Now that you are in Goa, drink as much as you want, … sleep with whoever you think of.” It’s not just Tejpal; hordes of Indian tourists come to Goa with a lifetime dream : to experience the never before, never again.

Today we are caught in a time warp; what we let happen innocently or lazily, has become our distinguishing mark. Let me quote to you from a blog by Som Bhatta, I stumbled upon on a travel site. This is what he has got to say : “I’ve been there as a tourist, which makes me a part of a very large club. Goans are an easygoing and friendly people. They are also deeply religious in general, with a Portuguese Catholic background. The men tend to drop out of secondary school while the women keep studying. The men are content to earn enough money in a day for their heart’s content of beer and xacuti (Goan style pork or chicken) in the evening, and will typically work no more than that. And the roaring tourist trade makes that easy for them. Many more just immigrate to Portugal and onward to other places. As dual citizens, they have that right. Cost of living is moderate by Indian standards; neither cheap nor expensive. There’s not much industry in Goa to speak of, so most people depend on the tourist trade for a living. The local language is Konkani, a hybrid between Marathi and Kannada, the languages of the two adjacent states. The old people still speak Portuguese, but they are now a diminishing minority.”

FotoSketcher - bobNot only do others label us that way, and would like us to continue to be that, but we ourselves believe us to be so.  And we want to build our future around it. We now recognize tourism as the mainstay of Goan economy, along with, may be mining.

It may seem too late to stir up a debate on tourism or no tourism. Tourism in Goa is a big business today. It is not just hotels and restaurants, travel agents and boat cruises, curio shops and discos, casinos and New Year bashes. It goes much beyond that. Take the real estate industry for instance; Goa is the summer capital for some, winter capital for others. Or the drug trade. So many other things came with tourism, and have stayed.

The Call of Lanka

In Travels on February 9, 2013 at 4:12 am

VazPictureSancoale is a quiet village nestled between the hills and the river Zuari, inhabited by Saraswat Brahmins. Call it coincidence, or call it divine providence, two young men of the village heard the call of Lanka two centuries apart : Joseph Vaz, a Catholic priest landed in Jaffna in 1687 to minister to the Christians of Sri Lanka; Dharmananda Kosambi was ordained a Buddhist monk in 1902 in Maligakanda, near Colombo.Dharmananda

The fate linked the two men by more than just the village of their origin. Fr. Vaz preached Christianity across Sri Lanka wandering as a mendicant, bare foot and surviving on alms, in true Buddhist tradition; and celebrated his first public mass in the courtyard of the royal palace of Vimaladharma Surya II, the then Buddhist king of Kandy, which also housed the sacred relic of the tooth of Buddha.

Negombo 1Negombo is located on the west coast of the island and at the mouth of the Negombo Lagoon, in Western Province, Sri Lanka. It is the fourth largest city in the country after the capital Colombo, Kandy and Jaffna. Negombo is known for its huge and old fishing industry with busy fish markets, and nice sandy beaches. It is one of the most liberal cities in Sri Lanka with modern life style and it’s nightlife in luxury hotels, guest houses, fine restaurants and pubs. The wild cinnamon that grew in the region around Negombo attracted a succession of foreign traders and colonial powers for centuries. The shallow waters of the Negombo lagoon provided safe shelter for sea fairing vessels.

The first Muslim Arabs arrived in Ceylon in the seventh and eighth centuries and eventually came to dominate the east-western trade routes. Landing in the early 1500s, the Portuguese ousted the Moors, constructed a fort in Negombo and took over the trade of cinnamon to the West. It was during the Portuguese occupation that the Karawa, or traditional fishing clan of Negombo embraced Catholicism almost without exception. So successfully were they converted that today Negombo is sometimes known as ‘Little Rome’ and nearly two thirds of its population professes a Catholic faith; there are over twenty churches in the city. In Negombo, we found it difficult to believe we were not in Goa.

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Они приходят, они видят, они побеждают (They come, they see, they conquer.)

In Goa at Crossroads on February 7, 2013 at 7:13 pm

Goa at Crossroads

#03

Raymond Noronha, in his Social and Cultural Dimensions of Tourism (World Bank Staff Working Paper No. 326, April 1979), describes the stages of development of a tourist destination; and they seem to fit the evolution of tourism in Goa rather well. Noronha talks of three stages : (a) discovery, (b) local response and initiative, and (c) institutionalisation.

In the first stage “a few intrepid souls ‘find’ a new area”.  In Goa’s case these have mainly been the hippies. This stage, is largely beyond the control of the host population. The choice of the host polpulation comes in the second stage : the local response and initiative. We have already described earlier how the population in the areas where the hippies landed was predisposed to such an event, given its “outward orientation”. So its behaviour in the second stage was almost predictable. Note the subtle difference in the “reception” that was accorded to the hippies on the North Goa beaches and the South Goa beaches. The people of Bardez have traditionally been more outgoing then the people of Salcete. The popular response thus was spontaneous and instinctive.

Noronha’s description of growth of tourism in the second stage fits very well with what happened in Goa : “Tourism development continues to be spontaneous and generally uncoordinated. The needs of tourists are met through a differentiation of existing resources – for example, partial conversion of houses to guest homes or small hotels. The host population introduces small-scale technological improvements to accommodate tourists – refrigerators, motor boats, flush toilets. Nevertheless, the tourist’s adjustment to the host culture is almost as great as the host population’s adjustment to the tourist.

But where tourism begins to bite is in Noronha’s third stage – institutionalisation; he very categorically describes the radical shift that takes place in the third stage : “Institutionalization implies more than an increase in the number of tourists in the destination area. It usually involves standardised tourist facilities and services (Western style hotels, packaged tours), … loss of local control over the development of tourism, and increased economic dependence on individuals and groups outside the destination area. In the eyes of the local resident, institutionalization is the stage where outsiders (fellow nationals and foreigners) take over.” No, I am not describing what has happened in Goa; I am just quoting from Noronha !

MorjimIf you find that too realistic, realise how inevitable that is. Noronha goes on : “The transition to Stage 3 involves a decision by the national government (or other authorities and economic blocs) to intervene in tourism development in the destination area. … The most common justification for intervention in tourism development by wider political authorities is that it will increase foreign exchange earnings for the host country. Rarely does this intervention involve prior consultation with the residents and authorities in the destination area itself. Unless local interests are given a strong voice in decisionmaking, nonlocal interests take over further development of tourism in the destination area.”

 That brings us to somewhere around December 2011 – protesters marching in the city to demand that IFFI be shifted so as to not clash with the Feast of St. Francis Xavier ! And shouts falling on the deaf year. Or take the Sunburn. One young guy told me on the eve of New Year -“Uncle, it was very good. But it was all managed by upcountry people; our people where only paying to get in; to just park my bike for a little while, I had to pay two hundred rupees.” But better was the nonchalant response of the “upcountry” guy : “My foot; nothing can stop it. If police stops, police will be gone. If CM stops it, CM will be gone. Just forget it; come on, enjoy.” Noronha wrote that in 1979, when we were more or less in the middle of stage 2 ! But he was talking of those who had been there and seen it before us – Indonesia, Bermuda, Seychelles, Cyprus, Senegal, Mexico, Tunisia, Malta, Thailand, … .

In the local press : (Keshav Naik, TNN Dec 19, 2011, 05.13AM IST) “As the state celebrates the golden jubilee of its liberation, a new foreign colony is coming up on Goan soil. In a northern corner of Goa, the refrain is “Morjim is Russia” and you are even greeted by “Dobroe utro” (good morning) in Russian. … Vitthaldas Waddo in Morjim, with a large number of Russian restaurants, Russian speakers, and a distinctly Russian atmosphere has already been nicknamed Mini Moscow, and Morjim is on the road to being known as ‘Mini Russia’. Ask a taxi driver anywhere in Goa to take you to Moscow beach and he will drop you off in Morjim. … Anger, however, is building up and has led to brawls. One Goan has already fallen prey to Russian ferocity. Taxi driver Rohidas Shetgaonkar was killed by Russian national Constantine Alexander Borowski in February 2009. … The Russian invasion of Morjim started around 8 years ago, when tourists from the country began investing in businesses. Gradually they became major investors. The tourism and related business economy of the village is now governed by Russians.

From stage two to stage three is growing from adolescence to adulthood – fulfilling, but treacherous. In 1977, sitting on the steps of Susheela Building (where I was doing my first year of post-graduation) I was watching the first Carnival float parade. I was happy then, not just because it was something novel, but more because it had kept the neighbourhood ‘bekar’ youth busy, who would otherwise make public life miserable with their not so innocent pranks. Thirty five years later I say to myself : what a fool I was ?

Destination Goa : The white, the grey and the black.

In Goa at Crossroads on January 23, 2013 at 7:15 pm

Goa at Crossroads

#02

May be that was just a hunch; but I sort of got a feeling year before that those in the marriageable age were in a hurry to tie the knot before the leap year dawns. During one of those year end weddings I got talking to some friends of the groom who had come down all the way from Delhi; and they planned to leave Goa after the New Year. They told me that up in the North, being in Goa between Christmas and New Year, is considered as a life time achievement – sort of Gen Y equivalent of Amarnath or Haj. Next morning I left for Bangalore, to escape the wrath of the pilgrims !

Before I proceed any further, let me define the scope of the word tourism as used here. By tourism I mean everything from shacks on the beach to 7* spas to Carnaval/New Year bashes to Sunburn/Moonlite to river cruises/jeep rides to banana boats/floating casinos to Flea Market/Russian restaurants to nude colonies/celebrity bungalows, and everything in between and beyond that satisfies one criterion : it is nothing about us, all about Destination Goa.

They say Goa was rediscovered by hippies around 1966 or so, a few years after the political heirs of the “first discoverer” Afonso de Albuquerque deserted it; it is believed the hippies were driven out from Nepal, or drove themselves out; the next freak joint they found was Goa. That was definitely true of some beaches along the Sinquerim-Vagator belt. Probably it all began there. Subsequently, as the word spread, more sober travellers began trying out the new destination. But that was a trickle. What really turned the trickle into flood was the conflict in Kashmir and Sri Lanka – both choice destinations for Western tourists. In fact, tourism in Goa was a result of violence – the hippies fleeing the war in Vietnam and the tourists wary of violence in their favourite destinations ! No, I am not trying to recount the history of tourism in Goa – I am trying to draw your attention to the fact that Goa began as a “default” tourist destination !

And tourism was a default option for people of Goa as well. Portuguese fed us with butter from Holland and potatoes from Idaho; I was myself brought up on Cow & Gate milk from England. But during the 450 years of their stay, Portuguese did pretty little to promote income generating activities in their prized overseas possession. Besides a few escolas primarias and a Medical College (and a course in Pharmacy) they did little in the educational field as well. Those who were keen on higher education and could afford, crossed over to the Brittish India or went to Portugal. This is the supply side story.

The story on the demand side was equally depressing. Though Afonso de Albuquerque died desolate seeing his grand dream of creating in India “a community of half-blooded Portuguese who would remain forever loyal to the Portuguese crown” in dust, his successors did succeed in creating a community that was more outward looking than loyal to its roots.

GoaThe result was an exodus of Goans, mostly from the coastal conselhos, to the major cities of Brittish India (Bombay, Calcutta, Karachi, Rangoon), East Africa, Persian Gulf and on board the ship. This continued for long, with ebbs and tides and varying patterns. So, when the opportunity arrived in mid-sixties in the form of white tourists, it was natural that many of us jumped at it : here was the Africa-Gulf-ship all bundled into one, right in the backyard. We moved into the kitchen, renting out the living room and the bedroom for paying (rather, heavy paying) guests. Sometimes we cooked for them for the pocket money. Occasionally our daughters kept them in good humour; and our sons helped them in their adventures. Here was the Garden of Eden, full of white sand and rimmed with blue sea. That was the beginning of The Arab and The Camel story.

The map above is interesting : it shows the typical colonial spatial development pattern – the core : Baga, Calangute to Colva, Mobor; the periphery : Arambol and Palolem; and the beyond : the feeding hinterland. Look at its orientation – oriented outward towards the metropolis, the mother economy that it serves. But more about it later.

At this point, I would like to draw your attention to just one fact, and an important one : we did not choose tourism; it happened as we sought the easy way out.

Fifty years down the line : Goa at crossroads.

In Goa at Crossroads on January 10, 2013 at 3:59 am

Goa at Crossroads

#01

A year ago Goa completed fifty years of independence from colonial rule. Not much of a fanfare was made; at least not as much as we wanted to make. I know twenty five is more apt for celebration; by fifty, one is a bit tired. But, perhaps, fifty is the time for a country or state when it begins to question its being; rightly then we are today facing an existential question : To be or not to be what we have been during the last fifty years.

GAC # 01

It is not an easy question to answer, but. One reason perhaps is because during these fifty years we have not all moved in the same direction; as a result, today our interests are diverse. Lest I confuse you by this abstract argumentation, let me recall a small incident that happened many many years back. The Zuari Bridge had just been completed, after a long long wait; most of us let out a sigh of relief – no more of those mad rushes into and out of ferries over precariously positioned wooden ramps. But, days before the bridge was to be inaugurated, there was a huge protest demonstration by shopkeepers who thrived at the ferry points. Once the bridge is commissioned they would be out of business. They were absolutely right; they too had a right to livelihood. But did that mean there should have been no bridge ?

The point is simple : truth is not as flat as we would like it to be; should I say there are layers of truth ? Is it possible to identify those layers and differentiate between them and exercise a choice ? I feel it is possible, if we accept that the layers are basically determined by the time horizon; if we take a shorter time horizon we see one truth – say the loss of livelihood of the ferry point shopkeepers. It is more than twenty five years now since Zuari Bridge is standing; and I have not heard of any of those families dying of starvation. If we take a little longer time horizon, the truth changes its contours. And if we take even longer horizon, the truth may change completely.

Today the air is rent with all sorts of noise about the evils of mining; and, equally loud protestations about the ills of not mining; Shah Commission Report and its aftermath is a part of a larger debate between the “shopkeepers at the ferry point” and the “commuters”. There is also a rupture erupting between “shack owners” and the “locals”, which is again part of a mahasangram between those who have a stake in the tourism pie and those who do not. I suppose that is natural.

I do not want to take any position on these issues right here. I would rather prefer to go beyond them to what underlies all economic conflicts – the problem of resource utilisation and the social and temporal trade-offs. But I shall not do it with the rigour of a college teacher discussing Third Law of Thermodynamics or Keynes’ Theory of Effective Demand. Fifteen years back I would have thought that was the only way to do it. But well past fifty, one develops a certain tolerance for digression and fuzziness; one is less certain about the absolute truths, and history takes on the hue of stories. I would therefore be more personal, and experiential. I shall tell the truth, but the whole truth; not just what fits into the theoretical construct of right and wrong.  You are free to accept it; or dump it into dustbin. Tomorrow, even I may do the same.

I am not a Marxist !

In Politically wrong on June 27, 2011 at 7:11 pm

i am not a marxist. i have hated marxism all my life. And have stood by free enterprise even when it was politically wrong to do so. 

The red.

But, no i have not changed my mind, but i see no other option to get out of the situation into which we have let ourselves drift. 

i am not talking about the economic or political affairs. We have a robust and vibrant democracy. i am quite happy with that. that is the reason i am not even for a Lokpal. Yes, the corruption is there; rather too much of it. But that is because we like it that way. i fully agree that it thwarts our economic progress. But the truth is very simple : the day we decide that we do not want it, it will be gone. We do not require a major surgery to extricate it; definitely not a deft surgeon. We need to just drop it, and it will be in the dust, dead. 

But that is not the issue i am agitated about. My nightmare is about the people and their resources – the relation between them. Somebody asked the Gonds what price they want for their sacred hill – what price they want to sell their God for. You may be anything – a believer, an agnostic or even an atheist. But that is a question that gets to your bile sac. The question is not about the sacredness of the hill. The question is about the sacredness of the relationship between a people and their resources. You cannot profane that. 

No, socialism is not a solution for the problem. Because, with that comes centralisation of power. And that is where the problem lies. For the powerful have a vested interest in concentration of control over resources. Democracy is what suits the people’s control over resources the best. But, more of democracy, not less. The people to whom belong the resources should have more control over the resources.

Who is going to give them more control, more power ? No one; they need to wrest it, with force if necessary. That is where marxism comes in – marxism of the proletariat, not marxism of the politburo.

i see no other way out. Do i propose a violent class war ? No, not necessarily. But certain amount of coercion is necessary. Old dirt does not go with sponge; one needs a fairly abrasive scrubber. Democracy has to be the main plank. But a more aggressive democracy. Shall i say democracy of the proletariat, not the democracy of the politburo ?

That brings the focus back on “we”. Yes, we the people.