Over 10,000 people from Goa showed their solidarity to save Mhadei river from being diverted by Karnataka at a meeting organised by Save Mhadei Save Goa Front in Sankhali constituency of Chief Minister Pramod Sawant and in the bargain smashed the attempts of the authorities to thwart the event.
Male, female, old, young – people of all genres and religions – made it to the ground from 2.30 pm, sat in the sun and showed patience waiting for their transport or manoeuvring through the roads as the meeting winded off close to 8 pm. It was dark but the solidarity of the people appeared to have lightened the paths.
Children waved off the evening with song, dance and plays and as the crowds occupied all the 10,000 chairs and space available to stand, it became clear to all that the meeting was organised by people with no political intent. It was organised for all, including the political class. However, only six MLAs from the Opposition were present.
Jessy D’souza from Saligao
“My interest in coming is because Goa is disappearing and the sad plight is Goans who are selling it. The people in Goa who are living and saying they are saving it are actually living at the cost of Goa,” opined Jessy D’souza from Saligao who was amongst the early birds at the venue.
If Jessy was hung up with the attitude of people living in Goa, Vanita Kalekar from Chandor was upset that it was the attitude of her representative and others that was the reason why she and her colleagues decided to come for the meeting.
“Our politicians are taking us for granted and thinking they can make a mockery of our sentiments. Mhadei is our godess and we will do anything to protect our Goa,” explained Vanita.
As the crowds kept occupying the chairs and friends kept jostling and greeting each other and people started making acquaintances, Fr Bolmax Pereira was spotted with a group of over 100 young and old males and females.
“You can call me a leader if you want but my voice becomes more potent because I am a priest. All religious heads in India are heard more in India. More people listen to me because I wear a cassock but my cassock does not make a difference to me because when I speak, I speak as a Goan. Sometimes, I have to come out of my identity to save Goa,” said the priest.
“We have been suffering in our village because of lack of water.
Water shortage is a problem that has been troubling the whole village and that is why we are here. By trying to save Mhadei river, we hope our water woes will be over,” claims Anncia Cardozo from Curca.
Anncia Cardozo from Curca
“By allowing the river to be diverted the BJP government is showing that it does not care for its people from Sattari and
Sankhali in particular. Mhadei is our lifeline and I am not sure whether the Chief Minister understands the implications of diverting the water,” claimed Pratap Gawas, former Congress MLA of the area, towed by people from his area.
People from all 12 talukas were present and this was ascertained by people from each taluka responding when the name of their taluka was called out and the loudest call came from Salcete.
“The opinion was a success because we people believed in ourselves at that time. In those days detractors told us that we would not succeed. We believed in ourselves and we proved them wrong. The same thing is happening now and I appeal to you all to have faith in yourselves and success will be yours.
People power will prevail,” said Damodar Mauzo amidst cheers from the crowd.
“If the government cannot do it, they should admit it and the people will do it. We shall not rest till we win,” added Goa’s decorated literary head Mauzo.
“The water is being diverted to Karnataka to benefit the steel plants and not to provide drinking water for the people. The water diversion is for Adani,” stormed Olencio Simoes.
“We need a political answer to this problem and the answer can be given by our elected MLAs. Every time the CM says there is no need to get worried, I get worried because he has still not implemented the Supreme Court order on double tracking. It’s only after he does so, will we be able to trust the CM,” said Bolmax Pereira matter of factly.
Vijay Sardessai was the only MLA who spoke - or was permitted to speak - from among the six present and Subash Velingkar was the only speaker to have been booed by the crowd.