BY AUGUSTO RODRIGUES
Perusing my Facebook account, I came across a post that said, ‘Giving away a brand new coffin. Bought it for my husband, but he has lived longer than I had hoped and expected, so no longer required, and it’s cluttering up my house.’
The mindset is neither surprising nor shocking because it reflects the mindset largely prevailing in Goa. A self-serving attitude, where materialism is all that matters, has taken root.
This mindset, in time, is slowly becoming part of our ethos. Any semblance of the community-building attitudes of old has disappeared into a cesspool of corruption and apathy, with no sign of any resurgence.
Money when removed from its purpose of serving one’s needs becomes a source of evil. Like a virulent contagion spreading from individual to individual, it corrupts society, leaving little room for change.
Goa of yesterday is almost gone – at least the old mindset has disappeared. This is evinced more concretely in the state’s gradually disappearing natural beauty.
Those returning home for a holiday will find it difficult to find the past with which they grew up.
All that was once unique to Goa is being destroyed. A classic case in point is the attempt to taint the comunidades of Goa – a system of governance started a thousand years ago and which was a near-perfect example of community living by equally sharing nature’s bounty.
The ancient gaunkari system, which predated the Portuguese, was codified by the conquerors to become the comunidade system. In these times, however, the land under the comunidades has depleted.
That which remains with the comunidades, nevertheless, has led the custodians of the comunidades to join the bandwagon of ‘make hay while the sun shines’.
The Government of Goa has decided to acquire comunidade land for public projects by amending some articles of the Goa Legislative Diploma and the cabinet has granted approval for a bill.
The government, it appears, through this bill wants to become the custodian of comunidade land.
The new bill indicates:
(a) That the comunidades will need approval from the government if they want to develop their own land through private agencies.
(b) The process of election of members of managing committees will be improved by amending articles 39, 50, 70, 327 and 334-A of the Goa Legislative Diploma No 2070.
(c) New articles 334-C,339-A and 339-B will be inserted in the code so as to grant land through long leases for such period, on such terms and conditions it deems fit to government departments; government undertakings or any statutory bodies constituted by the state government.
(d) Properties vested with the administrator of comunidades will be considered public properties to face eviction.
(e) Government will pay a circle rate for land acquired, bought or leased from a comunidade.
The comunidade system is what Goa is all about. Unfortunately, we have not been able to get the best of the system to pass down through the years, with many leaders of the system (members of the managing committees) ripping the system apart for personal gain.
There are 229 comunidades in Goa, and to get even a handful to function the way they were envisaged is a herculean task. Greed having taken over, sharing is caring has turned into an outdated adage. Now the comunidade land is eyed greedily by unscrupulous outsiders.
When a code of the comunidade needs to be amended or changed, all comunidades are sent a notice to delegate a member for a convention that is headed by the proxy of the governor.
It is during this meeting that changes, if any, are discussed, made and then submitted to the legislative council for approval.
The general body of all comunidades is supreme. This is legally accepted and can be seen in judgments passed by the High Court of Bombay in Goa. But these decisions are either ignored or overlooked time and again.
Honestly, the personal greed of quite a few, which is an understatement, has led to the sorry plight of the comunidades today.
Comunidades in South Goa, a part of the Novas Conquistas, are managed differently than those in the north. The difference can be seen not only in administration but in the mindset and the way of living.
Instead of sharing, the emphasis is on looting, and success is measured by the amount looted and how far it is kept away from the law.
This is the sorry state of affairs.
Ours is a case where coffins need not be disposed of, but hoarded, to hide the shame connected with the burial of our glorious past.