On Statehood Day, there was an announcement that Goa will be preparing a Vision Document for the next 25 years.
It does sound like a good initiative, and the state, which has been progressing in a fits-and-starts manner with decisions often drawing protests, does need a plan that takes into account all aspects, especially possible future changes in demographics, all environmental concerns and also the best sustainable development practices.
Yet, a plan is only good if there is people’s participation in the planning process, and it is not just a top-to-down exercise, where people’s needs and aspirations are ignored.
A plan is also good if, after it has been found acceptable, is executed without deviating from what it proposes. The only deviation possible should be to keep pace with global changes.
If one looks back to just a few years ago, there have been a lot of plans made in various departments that have been altered to suit changes that the government in power desires. Currently, the Regional Plan 2021 is under the scrutiny of the people for certain amendments. That should not occur as it invalidates the planning process.
But, before Goa jumps into a Vision Document – it is not the first time that we are hearing of such a document from this government – there is the need to look at another plan that exists and ask what has happened to it. The Goa Golden Jubilee Development Council had also formulated an exhaustive plan for 25 years until 2035.
We are at the halfway mark since the golden jubilee of Goa’s liberation and the target date of 2035. We should have achieved about 50 per cent of the proposals listed in that plan. But instead, we have to ask whether that plan has even been implemented. Even partially.
On Liberation Day 2019, the chief minister announced that this plan would be implemented. What happened after that? Do we need a new plan, when we have one that was never implemented?
Goa doesn’t require to get into a whole new planning exercise for a new vision for the next quarter of a century. The Vision 2035 document has to be revisited, and, in light of the technological advances since the day it was finalised, it will need to be tweaked to make it more suitable for implementation.
Just a couple of years ago, this was exactly what was suggested by Dr Raghunath Mashelkar, who was the chairperson of the Goa Golden Jubilee Development Council.
Had the state governments since 2012, when the report was presented, seriously considered it and worked towards implementing the proposal, Goa could have been quite far ahead on a path that is a lot different from the one it is currently taking.
For one, it had proposed that “Goa should emerge as Sushashit Goa, the most well-governed state in India”. For this, the Council had set three cornerstones of high-quality governance – fairness, accountability and transparency in all endeavours in the public domain.
If that is to happen, then in all fairness, for transparency and accountability, the Vision Plan that is currently being proposed has to be placed before the people for their input before it is finalised.
People’s participation has to be given the most importance, for going by experience, without this the plan will be challenged by the people.
If Goa does need a new plan, then the Vision 2035 document has to be taken as the base and built upon. There were many proposals in that plan, good ones at that, drawn up by a totally non-political council.
One of the proposals of this report, the concluding one actually, was to measure and monitor happiness in the hope that Goa becomes the happiest state in India.
Going by the repeated agitations seen in Goa, it is unlikely that the state will obtain that happiness index to claim to be the happiest in the country.
The fact is that Goa has lost plenty of opportunities to plan for the future, and this has been happening since the 1960s, long before Goa obtained statehood. We even had a government, which in the years Goa was a union territory, had boasted of having returned to the Centre funds that had remained unutilised.
Imagine how much could have been achieved at that time if only there had been a vision for the future of Goa.
But that’s in the past. It is the future we need to look at with a vision that is neither blinkered nor myopic. It has to be visionary. Any plan for the future must safeguard the identity of Goa and the land. Without that, the Goa that current generations know will vanish to be replaced by another.