Is Goa loosing its distinct culture?

GOA: FORMER PORTUGUESE COLONY HAS CHANGED FOR BETTER …AND WORSE by Frederick Noronha Panaji (GOA), Nov 6 : This former tiny Portuguese colony and headquarters of Lisbon’s empire in Asia is becoming “more like the rest of India… with each passing day”. Both positive and negative changes have taken place here since colonial rule ended nearly thirtyseven years ago, says a new book by a Canada-based academic which zooms in to take a detailed look at this region. Goa’s Mediterranean buildings are decaying, and the region is losing its architectural and cultural uniqueness, says Professor Arthur G Rubinoff of the University of Toronto’s Political Science Department. But the economy has been making rapid strides. “What remains of the Lusitanian culture is largely being preserved for the benefit of tourists. An entire generation has come of age having known only Indian and not Portuguese rule,” says his just-published book called *Integration and Identity in Goa*. Its author has been doing research on Goa since the ‘sixties. Compared to the situation under Portuguese rule, Goa has now seen a high level of social development — as reflected by its high literacy, low birth rate, improved health care, and educational facilities. Goa Chambers of Commerce and Industry also boasts that this region has the distinction of having “the best quality of life… in the country” measured in terms of per capital income, level of literacy, per capita power consumption, birth rate, death rate, infant mortality rate, maternal mortality rate, doctor-population ratio, road length per thousand square kms, motor vehicles per hundred thousand people, and the ratio of population per banking office. Education, which was not much developed under the Portuguese, has expanded rapidly. Only one-third of Goans were literate in 1961, when Portuguese rule ended. Today nearly three-quarters are literate. Under Portuguese rule, there had been some 476 primary schools and 119 secondary schools. Higher education consisted of one Lyceum, one pharmacy school, and one medical college. Over recent years, the number of students has increased vastly. Goa, says the book, has also advanced in the field of economy. It has transformed from being an import-oriented economy supported by exports of mineral ore, to one sustained by service industries. But farming has become more commercial, as even small cultivators rely on daiy labour. Remittances from abroad have compensated for the decline of revenue generated by the mining industry. Some one hundred thousand Goans — mainly Christians — who are in the Gulf (West Asia) are equivalent to the amount of money generated by the state’s mining economy, says Dr Rubinoff. Bank branches have increased from two in Portuguese times to over three hundred today. But Goa also has problems of its own. One local newspaper called Goa “a small state with big problems”. Economic growth threatens to “overwhelm the scenery” that attracts tourists, luxury hotels obscure beaches, and buildings with Portuguese style architure are disappearing. Goa’s politicians have approved plans for gaming in offshore- casinos, and some hotels have begun transforming themselves into casinos. Says Dr Rubinoff: “The possibility that Goa will replicate Macao as another Las Vegas in Asia has generated fierce resistance from residents as the crime rate has soared and the number of murders averages between seventy and eighty a year.” Significantly, he addes that there are “indications” that the Bombay-Dubai mafia has established linkages in the state. Goa has also seen citizens’ protests over environmental pollution. These include disputes between miners and farmers over pollution, traditional fishermen and trawler owners over the harvest of the sea, and protests in the ‘seventies over a chemical fertilizers plant set up by US multinationals and Indian big business called the Zuari Agro Chemicals. “New forms of economic activity and the new style of administration since 1961 have brought considerable numbers of non-Goan Indians and foreign tourists into the region,” says the book. Migration patterns between Goa and other parts of India have “promoted integration (with the rest of India) and threatened local identity”. Urban sprawl — particularly in the larger town of the ‘Old Conquests’, or the areas of central coastal Goa conquered by the Portuguese in the sixteenth century — has led to deteriorating sanitation and living conditions. Fortunately, Goans remain largely appreciative of their diverse customs, despite attempts by politicians to exploit differences for short-term political differences. Just as in Portuguese times, emigration has served as an outlet for the discontented. It is estimated that there are about one hundred and fifty thousand Goans outside India. Ordinary Goans “increasingly feel” that they have not benefited from the region’s development or its integration with India, says Rubinoff. “Persons born in Goa before December 19 , 1961 are now eligible for Portuguese passports and citizenship in the European Union, accelerating emigration. Since April 1994 there has been a Portuguese consulate in Panjim to process applicants,” notes this book. (END) LUSITANIAN CULTURE that remains is largely being preserved for the tourists, says Rubinoff. Photo shows paintings at a luxury hotel.