Goa's Politics and Kalidasa

December 29, 2007
Shantanu Dutta

Ever heard of Matanhy Saldhana, the public figure from Goa? He used to be the state’s minister of tourism once and currently is more known for being at the fore front of a movement to stop tourists from coming to Goa. But perhaps many readers of this piece may not have heard of him. What about a story from Indian lore which talks about a wood-cutter who was sawing off the very branch of the tree that he was sitting on? Yes, Kalidasa, the classical poet. Arguably, many more people would have heard of him. Now trying to compare Kalidasa the poet with Saldhana may be attempting to do the impossible but as things stand, fact is mimicking fiction and Matanhy Saldhana is doing just that, as he cuts off the branch of the very tree he sits on. For Saldhana in his bid to attract attention to his agitation against SEZs being set up in Goa has decided that no tourist should be seen in Goa post December 28th.

I don’t know if this particular agitation has much of popular support and at the time of writing it is not clear if the movement is petering out and if I, the VIP suitcase toting middle class Indian tourist can visit the place next week as I want to. But of course   SEZs have attracted a lot of controversy in Goa and else where, so this piece is not about the merits or demerits of these zones. But for those who promote them, the principal reason for doing so is economic advancement of the state and the ongoing prosperity that this industrialization will eventually bring. So it is safe to assume that if any one chooses to oppose the creation of the SEZ, they have a better option to propose to the people of the state.

That however is not the case here. Mr. Saldhana and his friends in the Goa Movement against Special Economic Zones (GMAS) which includes the Opposition BJP have decided to hit their fellow citizens where it hurts the most, by throwing uncertainty into the whole tourism based economy, peaking in the New Year celebrations on Goa’s beaches. Now a lot could be said about Goa’s tourism including some unsavory bits and a case could well be made out that the booming touristy economy has given rise to several social ills like pedophilia, drugs, and human trafficking. It would have been wonderful if instead of opposing the inflow of tourist’s altogether as they threaten to do, the Goa movement folks took up cudgels to clean up the tourism industry and control the kind of tourist who comes to Goa and keeping their eyes open to see how they spend their money. It would have done credit to Mr. Saldhana, a former tourism minister to be at the helm of just such an agitation and the BJP’s moral policing unit could do the cleaning up that they normally do.

Instead of taking on the human traffickers and the drug cartels and the pedophiles whose presence and activities are doing lasting damage to Goa’s social and moral fabric, the agitators take on the run of the mill tourist coming in by bus or train and plane and make sure they don’t come to Goa. Perhaps they want that the tourists instead discover some other hospitable locale where they can empty their purse and puff up the local economy instead of contributing to Goa’s own.  And in the end may be, Goa will neither have an SEZ, neither the leisurely tourist with the generous purse, who has migrated else where to more welcoming climes. And Mr. Saldhana and his ilk like the Kalidasa of old end up cutting the branch of the tree on which they were sitting. Kalidasa of course under went a transformation and went on to leave a timeless legacy. Whether the leadership of the GMAS will do so is what we wait to see with bated breath.

Shantanu Dutta is a medical doctor by training and a development professional by vocation. His writings mostly deal with change, complexity and conversion and tries to look at a changing world through heaven's eyes.
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December 29, 2007
02:51 PM


We're postponing the deadline," local BJP chief Manohar Parrikar told AFP in state capital Panaji.

"It is because we don't want to disturb tourists and the New Year festivities," he said after the local wing of the BJP decided to postpone the campaign, which has drawn support from environmental groups.

December 29, 2007
11:25 PM

UN.GIFT (United Nations Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking ) website www.ungift.org aims to be an extension of UN GIFT activities worldwide. We would like it to evolve into a vibrant online community where people exchange views, showcase their work, talk about their experiences to strengthen the fight against human trafficking. With your help we can make it a valuable resource to take this fight forward. Organized crime of human trafficking needs a fitting organized response.

It is time to join forces to prevent human trafficking.
Give this global problem a global solution.
Rally under the banner of the Global Initiative to Fight Human Trafficking.
Get involved!
Together we can save people and put traffickers behind bars.

UN.GIFT was formally launched in London on 26 March 2007. It is designed to have a long-term impact to create a turning point in the worldwide fight against human trafficking. 27million people are trafficked each year. UN.GIFT intends to take action against human trafficking in all its manifestations - commercial sexual exploitation, bonded labour, organ trade, camel jockeying, forced marriages, domestic labour, illegal adoption, and other exploitative work - through creating partnerships at a global level with all sectors of society.

The ultimate goal of the Global Initiative is to contribute to ending human trafficking- estimated to have a total market value of about $32 billion worldwide. UNODC has a two-pronged strategy for achieving this goal - increasing public awareness of the problem and coordinating existing but disparate efforts by international and national groups, governments and non-governmental organizations and by concerned individuals to end the practice.

Numerous regional GIFT events will culminate in Vienna with a Global Forum against Human Trafficking from 13th to 15th Feb 2008.

The objective of The Vienna Forum is to raise awareness, facilitate cooperation and partnerships among the various stakeholders. It will bring together representatives from Member States, UN system organizations, other regional and international organizations, the business community, academia, non-governmental organizations and other elements of civil society. The Forum will allow for an open environment to enable all parties involved to take concrete steps to fight human trafficking, within their spheres of action.

The Forum will be a catalyst for solution-seeking ideas and address three overriding themes on human trafficking:
1.Vulnerability: why does human trafficking happen;
2. Impact: human and social consequences of human trafficking;
3. Action: innovative approaches to solving complex problems.

The Vienna Forum will also consist of plenary sessions and a variety of panel discussions and workshops especially designed to address the multi-faceted dimensions of human trafficking.


December 30, 2007
12:17 AM

Testlaunch to check whether i can really publish anything

Shantanu Dutta
December 30, 2007
04:01 AM


Thanks for posting the UN GIFT link. These sort of things are so useful. Is the February convention an invitation only one ? Not very clear from the web site.

December 30, 2007
06:22 AM

your observations are spot on.
this is just the BJP trying to create another nandigram.its qute ironic that in gujarat the bjp brag about their sez's but are dead against setting up any in goa

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