From elections to defections, from opening of major infrastructure projects to massive traffic jams, from auctioning of mining block to the return of charter flights, the year 2022 has been quite a rollercoaster of a ride for the State, with rain showers drenching the land at least once every month.
In the post-pandemic recovery period, Goa made a start for its own economic comeback, even as the year ends with the shadow of a fresh wave of the pandemic looming and the possibility of some behavioural guidelines being imposed.
It was early in the year when the campaign for the Assembly polls began with some new forces jostling with the existing biggies for a share of the vote. But it didn’t bring in any change. Against expectations, BJP returned with 20 seats in the election and retained power. Congress lagged far behind with 11 seats, in an election where the opposition vote split as the new formations in the arena did succeed in convincing segments of the electorate of their ability to deliver, even as the Congress saw its vote share drop drastically.
Politically, Goa kept its besmirched reputation of defections intact in 2022, as the nation looked with amusement, while Goans did so with askance, when a group of Congress MLAs strolled over to the other side, one of them even claiming that he had got God’s approval for the change in parties. Still to come to terms with the electoral loss, Congress was further reduced to three MLAs by this defection, when eight of its elected MLAs broke away from the party and joined the BJP.
December saw the inauguration of two large infrastructure projects that are set to transform the face of Goa. The inauguration of the airport at Mopa that is supposed to boost tourism, was followed by one side of the new Zuari bridge being opened for commuters, who until that day had lost several hours getting stuck in traffic jams on either side of the existing bridge. The opening of the bridge will give commuters on the highway much relief. The time wasted idling on either side of the existing bridge will now be hopefully only a memory.
The manner in which the new airport transforms Goa will be revealed only in the years ahead. It has been inaugurated, but it is not yet operational. That will happen next month. There have already been a number of reports in the media on the investment potential around Mopa, especially in real estate. This is not unexpected as the scenario was visualized when the airport was conceived. What matters is whether Pernem is ready for the changes that are going to occur in the taluka.
On the other side of the roller coaster ride that 2022 was, from the high of welcoming charter flights and cruise liners back to the State, Goa plummeted to the low of having a group of foreign tourists rushing back to their cruise ship after they were stopped by taxi drivers from entering the coaches that had been waiting to take them sightseeing. This jolted tourism stakeholders in the State and Goa is yet to recover from this.
But, rather unexpectedly, and going against popular belief, the mining auction did not bring in any new players into the State as the blocks that were auctioned all went to local players who have been in the business, some of them who had been exploiting the same lease in the past. Does this signify that Goa’s ore, which is not of a high grade, does not attract large mining groups? There’s still a long process before those who have won the bids are able to start work on the leases. What matters at the moment for the many who are dependent on mining is that a beginning in restarting the sector has been made.
During all this, the land-grabbing saga kept everybody busy and is still to be closed. Given how long investigations that began in the past still continue, it is unlikely that this will be brought to any logical conclusion anytime soon. Also, crime didn’t abate, the National Games were taken away from Goa and given to Gujarat that hosted them. The Archbishop of Goa was raised to the status of a Cardinal and in the United Kingdom, a politician of Goan origin was inducted as Home Secretary. There were moments of cheer too.
This rollercoaster ride of 2022 that is nearing an end, will take Goa into the new year that will dawn in just a few days. The coming year will have its own ups and its own downs. You can’t expect a smooth ride, it just doesn’t exist. Which makes it imperative to be prepared for whatever may come. In the celebrations of welcoming the new year, there is a need to pause and plan for what lies ahead.