The discrimination and exclusion of marginalised castes and tribes continues despite, and sometimes because of, development policies by the State and its many tiers. This was the overarching sentiment expressed by speaker after speaker from Pernem to Canacona, at a programme organised by People’s Forum on BRICS Goa along with Social Justice Action Committee on 1st October at T.B. Cunha Hall.
Dadu Mandrekar, poet, writer and Dalit activist, reminded those present about the Constitutional imperatives which envisaged equality and affirmative action.
Rajat Ibrampurkar, a youth activist from Ibrampur, voiced his concern that to this date the people of Shahu Nagara ward in Ibrahimpur village, Pernem do not have basic amenities like toilets, and are being excluded from the same even when their village has been selected as a model village under the Sansad Adarsh Gram Yojana. He lamented that the availability of these amenities even under the Yojana is being made subject to the ward residents performing caste-based jobs which they have given up.
Favita Dias, a lecturer in sociology, gave a documented evidence that exposed how reservations are not being implemented in Goa, despite the Constitutional mandate. Krishna Velip, a pharmacist, impressed on the need for public awareness to ensure State accountability in implementing affirmative action principles.
The crass continuance of casteism in denying people basic amenities as well as access to lands cultivated by them, , and further discriminating against them in day to day life, was vociferously illustrated by AvInash Jadhav in his testimony of the situation at Satari.
The ousting of people by development discourses, was vividly explained by DevidasGaonkar as he narrated how the Forest Department ignored community knowledges in its afforestation and in stated sustainability initiatives at the Wild Life Sanctuary at Cotigao, to implement its targets. He also indicated how the Government denied tribal communities access, besides grabbing land from their control.
This discussion was also reflected in the photo-poster exhibition, where the stark contrast between an airport centric ‘aerotropolis’ economy like that envisaged at Mopa and a sustainable people-centric tribal economy, was depicted.
SulochanaPednekar highlighted the issues arising for nomadic tribes in Goa, whose right to life and in particular shelter was being denied. .
The photo exhibition also sought to draw attention to the use of colonial provisions in law, through which places of peoples devotion had become privatised in Goa, unlike in most of India.
Through testimonies largely from the affected tribal and caste communities, the gathering called on BRICS leaders to forge an understanding of conservation which uses the creative internal resources of indigenous people to protect biodiversity, generate growth, enhance the quality of lives in the very domains people live in, instead of displacing those who have for centuries been the custodian of these resources. It also called on BRICS leaders to affirm a politics of equity and universal representation and celebrate both the resistance to discrimination and affirmative action, favouring the marginalised. Those at different levels who violate this principle must be held accountable, the statement passed at the end of the Workshop said.