Is the perception that Goa is being overwhelmed by in-migration backed by data? Or is it just convenient political posturing?
This question is, by and large, tackled by Sandesh Prabhudesai in his book Ajeeb Goa’s Gajab Politics. The first edition of the book was released some time back and the latest edition with an analysis of the 2022 election was released on the 21st of this month.
The book is packed with chapters on the contemporary political history of Goa after liberation and covers religion and caste politics in great detail. It also attempts to delve deeper into how land has changed hands over these past 500 years and before.
The sheer wealth of detail packed into the book makes it difficult to read. Reading it from cover to cover is not recommended. It is better if one has a reference point or a topic of interest before attempting to open the book, or else one is bound to get lost in the labyrinth of plots and subplots.
Now, less about the book and more about the question of in-migration, often blamed for undermining the Goan identity and pushing land prices out of the hands of the average Goan.
Truth be told, Goa’s biggest migration took place between 1961 and 1971. This was when the population grew by 34.7 per cent, which was unusual. The explanation is that soon after liberation, Goans who had migrated out of Goa returned and with them came people from neighbouring states.
Truth be told, Goa’s biggest migration took place between 1961 and 1971. This was when the population grew by 34.7 per cent, which was unusual.
In the following decade, the population rose by 26.74 per cent, which was in line with the national growth rate. After this, a rapid decline started and by 2011, the growth rate was down to 8.23 per cent, which is roughly equal to what it was before liberation.
One explanation is that in-migration is declining, and this could be the result of an economy that is becoming modernised. This is the more likely explanation because Goa’s fertility rate is also plunging. Goa is presently among nine states in the nation where the fertility rate is below replacement levels.
The next census will throw more light on migration trends. However, at this point, it might be safe to say that the in-migration curve is rapidly declining. So, in the end, Goa’s identity might be saved not by politics, but by smart economics.
Another perception is that land is being converted at an alarming rate, and this could spell disaster for the state. According to the book, around 71 lakh sq mt of land was converted in the five years between 2017 and 2022. At first glance, this seems like a huge figure but closer examination proves the opposite.
The next census will throw more light on migration trends. However, at this point, it might be safe to say that the in-migration curve is rapidly declining.
If one were to consider the entire area of the state, which is 3,072 sq km, the quantum of land converted is just 0.19 per cent of the total area. If one were to leave out forest area, which is 2,219 sq km, then the land converted is 0.47 per cent of the non-forested area.
And lastly, the land converted is 0.56 per cent of the total land under cultivation. In essence, this means the quantum of land converted in five years is a drop in the ocean, and the perception that Goa is being destroyed by land conversions has no merit.
Another perception is that agriculture is dwindling. However, figures show that land under cultivation of areca nut, banana, pepper, cashew and other horticultural plants has doubled.
Only paddy cultivation had reduced from 50,302 hectares to 41,970 hectares. That is a reduction of 8,332 hectares. And the large bulk of this land has not been converted to a settlement zone.
These figures alone show that the “save Goa” mission needs clarity on what needs to be saved before attempting to save it. Also, Goa’s Gajab politics might not be all that bad after all.