Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Thinking About Babush – I : Mapping the terrains of the operation

On the 23rd of March, despite opposition to 10 of the 11 seats being contested at the Panchayat elections, the panel floated by Atanasio Monserrate won all 11. How does one make sense of the results of the recently concluded elections to the Taleigão Panchayat? The dominant view within the opposition is that Monserrate is the embodiment of evil, and that all of Taleigão cowers in fear. Other views would argue that he has filled Taleigão with migrants who blindly vote in his favour. Others argue that some sold their vote for the gifts of a thousand rupees, a bicycle or a sewing machine. I believe that the story of Monserrate is a little more complex than this, and we need to necessarily rethink our evaluation of him.

Countering the allegations that he bribed the voters, Monserrate reportedly responded that we should not insult the voters. Monserrate makes a valid point here. As with any allegation of corruption, there is a certain political point that Monserrate’s opposition is trying to score. The point is to undermine the individual decisions of those persons who voted for Monserrate. The suggestion is that they are not free-thinking, concerned and responsible citizens. It is scornfully suggested that they are merely opportunists who will vote for the highest bidder. While I have no doubt that in fact money did exchange hands and that gifts of cycles and sewing machines, drink and chicken were in fact made, I would choose to look beyond the allegation that the votes of the people were purchased. The reason I choose to refute the argument that votes can be purchased is because this scornful position refuses to recognize that the persons who accepted these gifts were in fact making calculated political decisions. Just like the ‘apolitical’ stance taken by Goa and Taleigão Bachao Abhiyans, the argument that votes can be sold, refuses to appreciate and engage with the politics of the people.

To begin with, whose is this scorn? Clearly it is the scorn of those who do not need a thousand rupees a vote, or cycles or sewing machines. It is the scorn of the haves for the have-notes, the haves presuming that it is only they who well and truly appreciate what democracy is all about. The gifts were accepted because these gifts, as petty as some of us may consider them, did make a difference to the economy of the households that they were presented to. Further, the gift-taking is in fact a rather complex participation in democracy. The gift-takers recognize that the politician cares for them only to the extent of their votes, that the system will not address their condition. Thus, if they have to vote, they will vote only if you pay (gift) them to do so. It is thus, through this gift-giving, and their construction of themselves as a vote-bank, that they force the electoral process to in fact work. If they didn’t, then given the fact that most of the middle class does not vote, the electoral process would grind to a screeching halt! Our scorn for the gift-taking therefore, is extremely problematic and ironically, politically naive!

This political naiveté is built on the incredulousness of the upper orders who are convinced of their own political maturity and the corresponding immaturity of the labouring classes. They reason that it is because these labouring classes are so immature that our democracy is today malfunctioning the way that it is. These orders refuse to see that these ‘malfunctionings’ of democracy are in fact the result of the deeply problematic socio-economic divides that persist in our society, and that we repeatedly refuse to address. It is because we refuse to recognize this fact, and persist in our confounded arrogance, that a good portion of the opposition to the development lobby in Goa is primarily engaged in ‘creating awareness’. They are firmly convinced that the only reason for the silence of the majority is because this majority is not aware. It is because we stubbornly refuse to consider the alternative, that they are politically astute individuals making carefully calibrated decisions that the tide we seek to stem continues to inundate us.

If we recognized the ‘maturity’ of these gift takers and recognized that gifts are accepted because these gifts made a difference to the economies of the households that accepted them, our positions and our strategies would change instantly. We would recognize that the presence of ‘outsiders’ in our villages, and their transformation into vote-banks for the unscrupulous, can be addressed if, and when, we address the issue of their poverty. If we are able to ensure that their working conditions are better, the salaries they are paid are higher, and that social welfare extendable to any worker, we would see a significant drop in the arrival of these outsiders. This for two primary reasons; first, because it would make employing ‘external’ labour more expensive (especially if one is talking of housing migrant construction-labour); and secondly, with an increase in pay-scales and benefits, the Goan, who in facts demands a more mature work environment, would begin seeking employment within Goa. As is increasingly becoming clear to me though, much of the oppositional space in Goa is captured by elites, who do not want to see radical change, but want only a return to the status-quo. Secondly, when the non-elites among this opposition take charge, they unfortunately don’t seem to be able to articulate their demands in broader terms. On the contrary, they too get caught in the whirlpools of the discourse established by the elite. As a result, rather than seeing solidarity with the ‘outsider’, they too begin outsider bashing. As a result, there is no substantial progress towards resolving Goa’s crisis.

To return to this matter of respecting the voter though, while Monserrate’s objection may have helped us see a valid point, he too is guilty of disrespecting the voter. There is a certain perversity, when one hands scraps to the needy, even as the socio-economic and ecological base of these needy are being destroyed. In addition, it is clear that while Monserrate may share scraps, it is a lion’s share that he keeps for himself.

As I will try to elaborate in the next segment of these reflections, while Monserrate has offered his constituency a political dream that they can identify with, in reality he offers them only a mirage, one that will never be realized concretely. What clinches the deal for him however, is the fact that he has managed to offer concrete glimpses of this mirage. This, is enough for the hopefuls of our land. On the other hand though, his opposition offers no dream at all. It offers only a return to a fast-disappearing status-quo. And NO-ONE wants to return to that, except the elite. If the opposition to Monserrate (and the rest of the brokering political establishment) are serious, then they need to not only present to the people of Goa a dream, but put their actions where their talk is and working toward presenting a concrete example of the dream that they offer.

(Published in the Gomantak Times, 1 April 2009)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Keeping Goa Clean and Green - Scrap dealers, Regional Plan and Sensibility

Last Thursday (5 March 2009), Azad Maidan in Panjim was the site for a protest demonstration organized by the All Goa Scrap Dealers Association. The reason for demonstration was to draw attention to and protest the sealing of scrap-yards in various parts of Goa, as well as the harassment that they face at the hands of the police, various authorities as well as village organizations and panchayats in the State.

The scrap dealers at the meeting recounted a tale which indicated that though they have been harassed since at least 1999, this official harassment has now become unbearable. Their scrap yards are being summarily sealed, without notice, based on the argument that these sites are hazardous and the breeding ground for disease. Now this is a bizarre argument and needs to be addressed.

It is true that scrap-yards are sites of potential hazards and disaster. However, this is only when scrap-yards are not subject to controls and not properly managed. To their credit, the Scrap Dealers Association has itself indicated that there is a need for a law under which the operation of the scrap yards could be recognized, managed and monitored. There is no law they argue that can deal with us and our livelihoods, and rather than just shut us down, the State needs to actively create a system and framework through which we can be regulated and monitored.

The Draft Regional Plan on 89 indicates that there is a legal framework for solid waste management, the Municipal Solid Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules 2000. It also indicates however, that “it now needs to be addressed at the implementation end. It is here that the institutional framework and the “will” to tackle the problem seems to be lacking”. However, this is where the brilliance of the Draft Plan ends. It makes no reference to the clearly widespread network of scrap dealers across Goa who would be a useful ally in the attempt to keep Goa clean and green. This gap merely reiterates the point that I, and others, have been consistently making; that the Draft Regional Plan, needs a lot more work before it can be presented to the population as a serious effort at Regional Planning. What is even worse is that the absence of any process to actually involve groups in discussing these policy issues (since the pro-developer State government is only interested in spatial planning issues) has meant that this and other crucial issues are being left unattended to. As the Scrap Dealers Association warns us, a failure to attend to issues of scrap, and on the contrary to attack those who deal with it, will result in Goa being awash in a sea of highly hazardous waste materials. The crucial point that we have to grasp is that while scrap yards are hazardous, they can be managed. To leave industrial waste just lying around, is to invite large scale pollution and health risks over generations.

Where does one locate these scrap yards is a crucial question that even the Association tries to deal with. They point out that when the scrap yards were started they were located at the edges of towns and villages. However, with the expansion of the cities, these scrap yards are now surrounded by dwelling places. The Association suggests to the government that they allocate sites for scrap yards in remote locations, and that those managing these places be licensed and that there be regular and frequent inspections of these sites within the framework that needs to be articulated.

I would however differ with the scrap dealers, and I suspect with most of the Goan population, on this point. One of the fundamental problems with industrial and consumeristic society is that it seeks to hide the unpleasant aspects of production so that we can continue to consume by focusing on only the pretty stuff. As a result, we continue to generate waste and problematic social relations. I would argue that scrap-yards must be allowed to exist within the limits of villages and towns. Such a location would resolve a number of issues. By placing it within the limits of these areas, it would generate a natural system of monitoring where the residents of the area are themselves interested in the systematic maintenance of the scrap yard. It is such stimuli that produce the socio-political context for effective local self governance. Further, such a location would impose on the now rather unaesthetic scrap yards, the requirement to improve their aesthetic appearance. An aesthetic location also holds the possibility of being a more labour-friendly location. Too often the issue of waste-management is not seen from the perspective of the labour employed there. To include such a perspective and focus would generate a more holistic and sustainable waste management system.

It is possible that these scrap-yards would need spaces outside of towns and villages as well. My argument is that in placing these scrap yards within habitations, we also create a more effective system of collection, where merely by the locating the scrap yard within the village or urban neighbourhoods, people realize that throwing tube lights or batteries outside the house, is not only a waste management problem, but also an economic waste that also lays the foundation for health problems of future generations. In one shot the majority of waste-management problems in Goa could be resolved by integrating the Scrap dealers Association into the attempt to keep Goa garbage free.

Locating the scrap yard within the village and town, would allow us the opportunity to prevent the demonisation of the communities engaged in scrap-collection. Lets face it, one of the fundamental problems with the opposition to the scrap dealers is the fact that they are largely ‘lower-class’ Muslims. Building an integrated system of waste management, and marketing the same, would also help us resolve the communal tensions that are being produced, by showing how Muslims in fact contribute to the safety and economic well-being of the villages and towns in our State.

Rather than extract payment from the scrap-dealers, the State ought to subsidize their efforts by providing them land, providing them at subsidized rates the necessary technology to maintain responsible scrap-yards. In return for this State support, the scrap yards could be required to ensure basic labour standards within their establishments, and also further their outreach into the communities that they already service.

There can be no doubt that the Scrap dealers perform a valuable function to Goan society. To hound them, is to lay the logs for our own funeral pyre. What we need to do, is to involve them into the Regional Plan process, so that we can emerge out of the process with a legal framework, an administrative setup and social engagement that would ensure a lack of mistrust, misinformation and a healthier (both economically and physically)

(Published in the Gomantak Times, 11th March 2009)

Taking Caste Seriously II - Why Brahmin bashing will not further the Goan Revolution

It is something of an article of faith in some circles to place the ills for much that is happening in Goa at the feet of the Saraswats[1]. These circles indicate that the Saraswats have always been a dominant force in Goan society and especially so after Liberation. They control the mining industry, through this they control educational institutions until very recently almost all of the newspapers in Goa, with the development of technology they also control the local audio-visual media. Further it is pointed out, that from A – Z, all government departments are headed by Saraswats who ensure that on retirement, their position is taken over by another Saraswat. It is through this presence in all key posts and institutions these activists argue, that the Saraswat is able to control the fate and politics of Goa, manipulating every situation to come out the winner. What we should know these circles argue, is that there is no such thing as a Congress agenda or a BJP agenda in this State; there is only a Saraswat agenda, and they will sleep with whoever promises to deliver it.

The above argument may be true; especially if the first half of these arguments can be established. Control over institutions and resources presents groups with not just economic capital, but social and cultural resources that allow for dominance in society. One can be recognized as dominant not purely through physical domination and economic might, but by also being recognized as providing ‘high culture’. And this is where I would like to introduce a spoke into this pleasant idea that we can blame the Saraswats for every ill in Goa. Dominance in a society is not possibly entirely through physical domination, especially by a group that forms a small percentage of the total population. Such domination is possible only through the active participation of other groups in this domination.

The emphasis on Brahmins as the object of attack for creating a caste-violence free society obfuscates the issues rather than contributes to addressing the matter. Being anti-brahmin is not enough. On the contrary, it is not what is required in the first place. What is required is a hostility to the entire edifice of Brahmanism that is propped up by brahmanised groups that are not always Brahmin. For example, the Chardo[2] landlord who hates the Brahmin is not being anti-caste, but merely fighting a caste battle for dominance. When he wins this battle, it does not translate into any form of liberation for the dalit[3] below him. A friend succinctly captured the sentiment when he remarked “For the Chardo being anti-brahmin, is being anti-caste”.

In early 20th century Maharashtra, moving toward kshatriya status was seen as one route toward social mobility and challenging caste violence. Gail Omvedt, a Dalit scholar, identifies Shahu Maharaj of Kolhapur as the harbinger of this process. While being staunchly against untouchability and instituting policies of positive affirmation (reservation) he did much to challenge caste violence. However “the desire to be considered a kshatriya meant accepting many brahmanic norms; it meant accepting sanskritic rituals, and it gave sanction to all the similar efforts going on throughout the Marathi-speaking areas whereby ‘Maratha’ and those of similar caste were encouraged to consider themselves kshatriyas…use the Gayatri mantra, use vedokta rituals and so forth”. The result of this move was to weaken the critique of Brahmanism and shift the focus of the battle toward the brahmans. It was this strategic mistake that caused Dr. Ambedkar to clarify to young Marathas that “you are against brahmans but not brahmanism; we are against brahmanism”. Indeed, from the plethora of Maratha samaj in Goa we can see that this trend has had some influence in our State among the dalit groups here.

An anti-brahmanical ideology twines the two factors of class and caste to move away from the casteist strategy of blindly identifying a single or couple of caste groups as the enemy. Employing such an ideology we realise that among the Goan Catholic the all-encompassing terms of bamon[4] and chardo don’t capture sociological reality. They are merely umbrellas that club dominant bamons and chardos with the dalit bamons and chardos in the same group. By erasing the difference between the so-called ‘first class’ and ‘second-class’ bamon and chardo we erase also the clarity that the interests of these two groups are not the same. The ‘first-class’ group has more in common with each other and with the Saraswats and the Dessais[5], than with their ‘second-class’ compatriots. However, by placing them in one group, we create the illusion that they have common interests. One has only to take up this analytical lens and use it to explore the dynamics of the Goan upheaval (fitna) to realise how things clearly fall in place after one has done so. The cobwebs are swept clean and the logics for associations (i.e. GBA) are as clear as day.

When asked to define who was a ‘Dalit’, a Dalit scholar remarked that a Dalit is one who practices equality. Sanskritisation is a process that stands at counter to the realization of a Dalit identity. Among the Hindu, the process encourages one to mimic sanskritic ritual and identify with it. What this implies is a lack of respect for one’s own position and an acceptance of the hierarchies that Brahmanism sets up. In the current political context, it also encourages dalit groups to see themselves as opposed to those who are not Sanskritised. Thus, rather than fighting for radical equality that destroys caste and class hierarchies, these dalit groups become the foot-soldiers for Hindutva, a logic that privileges upper-caste norms. Like foot-soldiers, it is these who die on the battle-field allowing the generals to gather the spoils. Among the Catholic too, Sanskritisation plays a role, as the ‘first-class’ among them accept Sanskritic virtues as defining both the qualities of Indian-ness, as well as the marker of ‘high culture’. This acceptance of Sanskritic virtues can coexist with their ‘Western’ ethos, since Brahmanisation exists in a symbiotic relationship with Western imperialism. For the ‘second-class’ among the upper-caste groups, and the dalit Catholic, mimicry of their Sanskritised co-religionists ensures that they expend money in conspicuous consumption, as they try to become the bhatcars[6] of old.

It is possible that the Saraswat may control most of the significant institutions in our State and define what high culture is. But this is possible only because of the active support of other caste groups, and the unquestioning attitude of the dalit. The Dalit route would be not to attack the Saraswat (and thereby become casteist) but to attack the inequalities within the system. The Dalit route would set up parallel goals, the achievement of which will signify social mobility and achievement. In other words, the Dalit agenda in Goa would involve lending support to the ongoing fitna and demand transparent and accountable governance and public institutions. It would set up an alternate cultural framework that does not celebrate what is given to us as high culture. Above all, it will be based on respect. Those who come in its way, we will have to deal with.

(Published in the Gomantak Time, 25 March 2009)

[1] Saraswat or Gawd Saraswat Brahman is the dominant Brahmin caste in Goa.

[2] Chardo is a Catholic dominant caste that sees itself as Kshatriyas.

[3] I distinguish here between dalit (a person who is oppressed) and Dalit (a person who possesses Dalit consciousness).

[4] Bamon is the Konkani version for Brahmin, in particular I am making reference here to the Catholic Brahmin.

[5] Dessais are another dominant caste group in Goa, seen as Kshatriya.

[6] Bhatcar is the Konkani term for land-lord.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Taking Caste Seriously: Why the Goan Fitna needs a rigorous caste-based analysis

Subsequent to the conclusion of the public meeting held on the 13th of March at the Clube National against the Ordinance amending the Land Acquisition Act, a little group gathered to catch up with each other and throw around a few ideas. In the midst of this camaraderie, one of the colleagues, no doubt charged with emotion after the meeting, proposed a route to mobilizing against the Ordinance. “Why don’t we mobilize on the basis of caste” she said. “The situation on hand is clearly about caste” she continued. “The Ordinance benefits hotels (Marriot and Cidade) owned by the Saraswats, while on the other hand the fisherfolk loosing their homes to the CRZ, the village groups to mining are all clearly from ‘lower’ caste backgrounds.” If there was any levity in the group it all melted away with that statement. They looked at her in shocked silence for a while, and then threw up their hands! “Oh no! We don’t believe in caste! We can’t do that!”

Now I don’t as yet want to explore the possibilities as to whether there is in fact a Saraswat versus the rest divide in our society that is at the root of the troubles that Goa is facing. What I would like to take up however is the response of the group to this suggestion. “We don’t believe in caste” and therefore we cannot mobilize on the basis of caste. One very often runs into this sort of response, especially when it is so clearly evident that the battles that are being fought are in fact being fought by ‘lower caste’ groups struggling for recognition, livelihood or access to justice. The very simple question that I would like to ask these touch-me-nots therefore is the following. Does the acknowledgement of racial discrimination make us racist?

It shouldn’t be difficult for Indians to answer this question. Most Indians who have gone abroad, and more recently almost any Indian, after such fiascos as Harbhajan’s “Teri maa ki/ you monkey’ escapade, will vociferously claim that they are racially discriminated against by white people. If they then recognize that they are being racially discriminated against, does this now mean that all of us Indians are racist? Clearly not! If therefore we can admit the fact that the mere recognition of discrimination on the basis of race does not make us racist; then similarly the recognition of discrimination on the basis of caste does not make us casteist. To what then can we attribute our hesitation to discuss caste based discrimination?

In 1932 in the course of the Second Round Table, Dr. Ambedkar raised the issue of separate electorates for the Untouchables. The concept of separate electorates had already been extended to other minority groups, including the Sikhs and the Muslims. Gandhi however would have none of this. Arguing that this would result in the disintegration of the Hindu community, he took to his favourite method of protest, the fast. As his health worsened, Ambedkar was forced to give up his demand for separate electorates and settled for reservations, while the Untouchables were included, against their will, into a combined Hindu electorate.

I raise this fact of history to argue that the suppression of caste questions has been a fundamental feature of Indian political mobilization, especially that of the national struggle. The issue of caste-based discrimination was just not seen to be as important as that of the larger objectives of independence. Since the questions of upper-caste dominance were not effectively addressed prior to Independence, the departure of the British resulted in the upper-caste dominance of the country that we are witness to today.

It is my belief, that no issue of justice in this country can be effectively addressed, unless we also seriously address the issue of caste-based discrimination. Our failure to do so is ultimately based on our own membership within dominant caste groups that benefit from the status-quo that result from not addressing caste-based inequalities. Our discomfort with discussing the inequalities born of caste is not because we don’t believe in caste. On the contrary, it is because we know that once we open that Pandora’s box, the benefits that have accrued to us, and not to others will become so blatantly obvious.

We may not believe in caste, and yet we practice it on a daily basis, through the minor inflections of our speech, by how seriously we take people, by what we consider beautiful and what ugly. We practice caste-based discrimination when we recognize that some people have fallen on bad times, and other people are just poor, when we recognize some people as coming from ‘old families’ and others as having ‘no culture’.

Taking caste seriously would allow us to rupture the communal divides of Catholic, Muslim and Hindu along which we tend to break society down into. Inquire into caste, and you will see how groups mobilize not necessarily across religious lines, but definitely along caste lines. When they do mobilize along religious lines, it would be interesting to see whose interests are being served by this mobilization. Is it merely that of the upper-caste groups within the religious fold, or is it the interests of all of the caste-groups? Surprisingly, it is an emphasis on caste in such states as Bihar that has curbed the growth of both Hindutva, as well as Muslim fundamentalism. It is in light of these arguments that I am personally convinced that an emphasis on caste would in fact help the ongoing Goan upheaval (fitna) take up the essential justice questions that must be addressed if the so-called ‘Goan negativity’ has to end.

Having said so, there is a need for us to subsequently articulate the learning from caste-based analysis sensitively. Our caste locations provide us with a predilection for certain positions. These positions may not be shared by all persons, based on their own caste locations. It is true that not everyone within a dominant caste will give up their unequal privileges without a fight. However there will be those from such a caste, who will see the point, and lend support to the fight for equality. To argue that one’s mere location in a caste makes one anti-egalitarian is to fall right back into the casteist trap. Thus what one will eventually fight are the monsters of Brahmanism, rather than Brahmins themselves. Having said this however, alliances need to necessarily be forged among the Dalit groups in the Goa. There is really no alternative before us. Such an alliance will help us curb the evils that Brahmanism has bred in our State and country; that of Hindutva, the accompanying ills of minority (Muslim, Sikh, Christian) fundamentalisms in the country, as well as the orgy of consumerism that is pushing many in this country and also in Goa, into the arms of a slow, shameful and miserable death.

(Published in the Gomantak Times, 17 March 2009)

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Legalising Arbitrariness: The tale of Goa’s sordid descent into legal collapse

What is law? When is it to be respected, when should it be challenged and when should its purported authority be flouted? These are questions that have plagued the Goan citizen ever since the movement against the large scale degradation of the Goan environment in the name of development began. This is a question that needs to be answered if we are to bring some relief to the State. Happily, the circumstances over the past few days provide us with a route to an answer to this question.

The Law is the covenant by which we agree to be governed. The covenant assures us that through the operation of law we will be assured security, peace and predictability through which we can continue with our lives, unhindered and able to develop our capacities and potentials. This covenant binds all the parties to it, State, government and citizens; no one can be outside this covenant. If they are, then they need to be brought into the embrace of this covenant. As long as the Law assures us security, peace and predictability, this Law is to be respected and followed. When the Law does not do so, when we see it being unpredictable, and resulting in a disturbance of the order around us; when the law perpetrates inequality, inequity, injustice, then it is clear that the Law, this covenant must be renegotiated and a new Law brought into place.

Goa is clearly in the throes of a crisis. The State is like a beast, a bull run amock. It cannot be controlled, it does what it wishes and the Law cannot bind it. On the contrary, it seeks to undo the Law so that it is unfettered to do as it pleases. For the State, now, it is the voice of man that replaces the abstract voice of Law. This voice is used to bind the citizen, so that what we increasingly have is a strange kind of tyranny under Law.

Take for instance the case of the Regional Plan process. What is the law under which this entire process has been initiated? What provisions of the law govern the process through which village committees are constituted and then go on to fulfill their tasks under the Regional Plan process? The answer is none. There exists no law, what governs the Regional Plan process is the word of the Chief Minister (who may be here today and gone – God willing – tomorrow) and the word of bureaucrats with their own vested interests. Because there is no law, the process in each village has been different. Some have 5 member committee, other 16, some have met with the Gram Sabha, some have not. Some have prepared ward maps others have not. It is an entirely arbitrary process. Arbitrariness as any student of law will tell you, is something that the Law abhors and strikes down. And yet the same merrily continues in Goa. Law is dead.

The Law to avoid arbitrariness indicates that there must be a process, clearly laid out and applicable to all, without exception. The proposed amendment to the Goa Panchayati Raj Act is a wonderful example of how the State of Goa seeks to ignore this golden principle and institute options through which the voices of the men that control it, rather than the Law, may prevail. The Panchayati Raj system is about including the voices of the people to a greater degree and making their voice binding on the village executive, i.e. the Village Panchayat Secretary. What do the proposed amendments do? They allow the State via its many executive bodies to compel the Secretary to do its bidding. Even more horrifying are the powers granted to the State executive under Section 244 C which allows the Executive to transfer proceedings from one authority to another without clearly indicating on what grounds it does so. It’s a case of if-at-first-you-don’t-succeed, try, try again! If it looks like one authority will not give you the perverted decision you want, simple, just transfer the matter!

The straw that breaks the camel’s back however, has to be the ordinance approved to save the Cidade de Goa. Ordinances are to be resorted to only in the case of emergency. Normal procedure is to pass changes to the Law via a legislature. A fundamental norm of parliamentary democracy was flouted in the instant case. This particular ordinance is shocking in its audacity. That it has been instituted to save just one hotel – Cidade de Goa- is bad enough. What is worse is that once written into the law books, this exception will be extended to all illegalities and irregularities in Goa. Ofcourse, this largesse of the State will be extended only to those who can purchase the State, not for the much touted, but much sinned against, common man. What the ordinance essentially does is to say that if you somehow managed to evade laws and agreements, and got approvals, permissions and licenses from the State, then if you are rich and influential enough (which is how you got those permissions in the first place) we will forgive you. On the contrary, given the number of State dinners that take place at the hotel Cidade de Goa, we will award you handsomely!

What is going on in the State of Goa is the systematic institution of arbitrariness. What the examples above represent is the insertion of arbitrariness into the law and legitimization of this arbitrariness. Unfortunately however, it is only going to delegitimise the Law. Further what the political establishment doesn’t seem to realise is, that arbitrariness, is opposed to the spirit of capitalism. Predictability of the system has been identified by many scholars, not least of whom being the venerable Max Weber, as a fundamental requirement for capitalism to take root. In destroying the basis of a predictable system, in the name of Capitalism and ‘Development’, what the State is doing is laying the basis for is a total destruction of economy and enterprise in the State. What it is creating scope for is private profiteering, and this is very different from capitalistic entrepreneurship.

The length, strength, and duration of the protests against the State and its combination with the profit interests of a few indicate that the people are tired of this nonsense. It is in this context that we have to realise that the actions of the State are the desperate attempts of a crumbling regime. The State of Goa will have to be rearticulated soon. I say State, since it is not just the Government in power, but the whole political complex that prevails – Government and Opposition- that is guilty of these actions. Every time a genuine objection is presented before the State that should be protecting us, the rules of the game are ‘legally’ changed. This change would not be so problematic if it weren’t for the fact that these changes are being wrought to methodically destroy all systems of law and order to institute chaos within the State. This state of chaos will be such that those with brute power will win. What these forces don’t seem to realise though, is that two can play a game.

(Published in the Gomantak Times 4 March 2009)