Unraveling six decades of Goa’s transformation

Professor Seema Salgaonkar recently released a book, ‘Goa @ 60: Transition of Goa Post Liberation’ that gives insights about Goa post-liberation

Danuska Da Gama| NT

In the last sixty years after liberation, Goa has undergone significant change. In an attempt to document this transformation and analyse the politics, economics, social aspects, and technological advancements, the author and history professor Seema Salgaonkar speaks to us about her book, ‘Goa @ 60: Transition of Goa Post Liberation’, which took a year to complete.

Excerpts from an interview:

Q. What prompted you to write this book?

The state of Goa, like any other state, has been undergoing a period of transition. The first major transition occurred when Goa was liberated from Portuguese rule in 1961, becoming a Union Territory of India. Democracy was introduced, granting people universal franchise, followed by various socio-economic reforms. The subsequent years witnessed numerous events and changes across different facets in the state. Now having completed over 60 years of liberation, I believe it is the right time to introspect on the state’s journey to date. I felt the need to scrutinise the state’s transition, critique the processes and the resulting transformations, aiming to generate concrete suggestions for shaping the roadmap for Goa @75.

It was recognised as the best-placed state for infrastructure by the Eleventh Finance Commission of India. Also, India’s National Commission on Population rated Goa as having the highest quality of life in the country. In the Human Development Index, Goa ranks third among Indian states. Consistently, it has held the top position in per capita income among all Indian states. Progressing from a small colony to a Union Territory of India and now a full-fledged state aspiring for greater achievements in economic, social, and political realms, Goa has evolved significantly. The 60-year period from 1961 to 2021 has brought about noticeable socio-economic transformations in this small state. Based on this premise, studying the democratic transition of the state of Goa becomes an intriguing prospect.


Q. Can you shed light on the highlights of the transition in Goa?

Goa’s aspiration for democracy has led to continuous self-transformation. Introduction of tenancy reforms, holding of Opinion Poll in 1967 and voting in favour of the anti-merger, Goa’s Statehood, etc, helped in strengthening democracy in the state. It is also interesting to understand the kind of political leadership that evolved in the state over the last 60 years, the role they played, the qualities they possessed, the decisions they took and how it impacted the state and the people of Goa. It is also intriguing to witness how Goa’s economy transitioned with vicissitudes of agriculture, role of industrial sector, position of mining, and increasing predominance of the tourism sector. The evolution and changing role of grassroots institutions (Panchayats) in Goa also forms a major highlight while understanding the process of transition of Goa.


Q. Goa has had a fair share of fall-outs. State a few and how it has shaped Goa?

Democracies can never be fully consolidated as it is a system which is more redistributive in nature. So there will be constant engagements in the processes such as asset redistribution, poverty alleviation, educational and land reforms, reforms for inclusion, delivery of public services, social justice, executive accountability, etc. However, there are certain fall-outs which did and can threaten the democratic edifice of the society. For example, the defections witnessed by the state where ambition overpowers ideology, increase in personality-based voting, subtle invasion of dynasty and family raj politics, etc, results in trust deficit. While we are talking of Swayampurna villages, there are certain challenges such as dismal participation at the Gram Sabhas, lack of sync between youth and panchayats, constant interference by the MLA, etc, which pulls back the state from achieving the expected success at grassroots governance and rural development. In spite of Goa’s size and high literacy rate, Goa still has the potential to be an ideal example for functioning of the Panchayati Raj System. Another fall-out is the over emphasis on tourism, where traditional occupations of Goa are going extinct. These indigenous occupations are important to Goan society as they are an important fabric of Goan culture and its rich heritage.


Q. It is interesting to see you touch upon technological aspects that have played a role in transition, tell us about this aspect you have covered?

Today, we live in what is described as the VUCA world—Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous. Goa too is poised for transformation, with different strategies of planning, risk management, change-adaptation and problem solving. Technology can play an important role in achieving advanced citizen centric administration which can ensure transparency and accountability. There has been significant progress in Goa, both in streamlining administration and digitising citizen facing services. It is expected that new technologies will improve the effectiveness of government agencies in delivery of public goods such as health, education, social security and transport.


Q. How has the status of women in Goa changed with time?

The status of women in a society is the true index of its cultural, social and political levels it has achieved. There is a consensus that the status of women in Goa is better than her counterparts elsewhere in the country. The small size of the state, which reduces the distance between the rulers and the ruled, facilitates egalitarian distribution of the benefits of development. This has improved the standard of living of women in Goa, especially in the field of health and education. The existence of Uniform Civil Code (UCC) also contributes in strengthening women’s position in Goa. The percentage of girls pursuing higher education is reflecting an upward growth, girls are excelling in sports, they are contributing to the Goan economy and with the provision of 33% reservation at panchayat level women are redefining horizons at grassroot. As per the national statistics of 2022 on issuing of driving licenses to women in the country, Goa came second with 33% of the total persons receiving a learning license being women. But with all these positive standouts, we should not presume that ‘all is genderly well’ in Goa.  Despite high per capita income, advanced literacy and the general impression of highly emancipated women, Goa is witnessing rising incidence of issues such as female foeticide, domestic violence, and sexual harassment cases at the workplace. Even though, due to 33% reservation, women are getting elected at rural level, they are yet to make a substantial mark at Goa Legislative Assembly. However, the strength of women voters is well recognised today. A few strategies such as calling of Mahila Gram Sabhas, adopting gender responsive budgeting, promoting women entrepreneurship can go a long way in achieving gender parity in Goa.


Q. What do you make of the communities in Goa, and how has the change over time impacted the people at large till date?

Assertion for identity has always remained a core component of the struggle for existence by the Goan community. Sense of being Goan gives a sense of pride and joy, a sense of belongingness, social security and psychological stability, besides giving a sense of collective existence. There have been tough times when this identity was threatened but each time Goan people arose with new fervour, kept aside their differences, and protected its identity. With Goa undergoing drastic changes demographically, economically and culturally, today there is increasing fear in the people that the Goan Identity is getting weakened. The influx of migrants, lop-sided development, increasing commercialisation, declining traditional occupations, the ascriptive interests overpowering the community interests, and lack of committed leadership are some of the reasons which have given rise to these fears. There have to be early steps taken for protecting Goan Identity. People residing in Goa should realise and perform their responsibility towards building a sustainable Goa. M. Boyer in his poem ‘Goa’ had said ‘Atam Goenkaranim urlelem sambavpachem’ means that Goans should take care of what is left of Goa.