BY AUGUSTO RODRIGUES
The waters of River Mhadei are being stirred again with a human chain organised by two NGOs on May 20 after over ten thousand people gathered in Sankhali to show their love for a river that has been sustaining the people, and the flora and fauna of Goa.
In this time space, the Revolutionary Goans did try to raise awareness through a walkathon, but it was stopped midway by the authorities.
The Earthivist Collective and the Goa Heritage Action Group are organising the human chain which will have seven assembly points – starting from Swimsea Beach Resort, Caranzalem, and ending at the Santa Monica Jetty, covering the riverfront of the capital city.
The efforts to mobilise support to save Mhadei became diluted with many flummoxed by the role of the Congress Party after the party in Bengaluru and the Congress workers in Goa went silent on the issue.
“I have read the Congress manifesto wherein it speaks of hundred per cent utilisation of Mhadei water allocated by the tribunal, and I personally don’t see that as a problem,” disclosed Fr Bolmax Pereira, whose reach is far and wide.
“From what I gather, it appears to be a political game where both parties are using the diversion of River Mhadei, hoping to garner votes. Hopefully, it is a political lie,” added Fr Pereira.
“I have been contacted by Prajal Sakhardande of the Save Mhadei movement, and though I am not fully aware of what is really happening, I have been asked to come and be present at one of the seven points,” admitted Fr Pereira.
The human chain for Mhadei is an initiative by the Earthivist Collective and the Goan Heritage
Action Group with the Save Mhadei Front collaborating.
“As a collective of artists, we intervene wherever there is an environmental crisis and try to sensitise the community, and this is one way of doing so. The human chain is for us a festival because we are celebrating the river and at the same time a human chain of spreading awareness,” stated Miriam Koshy-Sukhija, member of Earthivist Collective.
“We have decided to organise the human chain over a distance of only seven kilometres to begin with and not the stretch of the river, because of time constraints. We thought this would be a good way to keep the fight alive,” stated Hariharan of the Goa Heritage Action Group.
“Everything appears silent, but it is a deafening silence. People are working on different fronts, and the real picture will be clear once the Karnataka election results are declared. Even leaving politicians aside, this is a battle we will win in court,” declared a confident Fr Bolmax Pereira.
“People from Sattari, Sankhali and other areas where the River Mhadei flows are quiet because of fear of their local politicians. Families have been targeted and warned that their children will not get or lose jobs if they protest,” declared former MLA Pratap Gawas.
“They are bound to keep silent because, if you look at it, the majority of the MLAs in the BJP government today are former Congressmen. How can one expect the local man to come out in support of any protest when leaders have shown to be vulnerable?” questions Pratap.
“Now that the BJP has won both the Sankhali and Ponda Municipal elections, the silence will be even louder,” added Pratap.
If the people in Sankhali and other areas are feeling suffocated, the noise in Salcete is being quelled through a similar modus operandi where families protesting are being targeted.
“How can I tell you? I have been called by the local MLA and categorically told that my son will get no government help if he joins any protest. We have worked hard to get our children a good education and have therefore asked them to keep low for a while,” stated a mother of two from South Goa.
The organisers of the human chain are, however, optimistic about the turnout on May 20 with different groups linked to the Save Mhadei movement assuring support to the success of the human chain.
The assembly points for the human chain for Mhadei are Swimsea, Caranzalem, Miramar Beach, Campal Indoor Stadium, Kala Academy, Campal Art Park, opposite the Adil Shah Palace and the Santa Monica Jetty. It will be from 4 pm to 6 pm, according to the organisers.