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Mainstream, VOL LIII No 24 New Delhi June 6, 2015

On Goa’s Statehood Day

Saturday 6 June 2015, by Eduardo Faleiro

On May 30 we celebrate the Goa Statehood Day. On this day, in 1987, Goa ceased to be an Union Territory and became the 25th State of the Union of India.

Goa was liberated from the colonial rule in December 1961. After liberation a major contro-versy arose as to whether Goa should remain a separate territory or should merge into a neighbouring State, Maharashtra or Mysore. In 1967, an opinion poll was held, the only such referendum in independent India. It decided that Goa, Daman and Diu should remain a separate entity with the status of a Union Territory. Thereafter all the three major political parties, the United Goans, Congress, and Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party sought State-hood for Goa.

This demand was raised in March 1971 by A.N. Naik of the United Goans Party who moved a private members’ resolution to this effect in the Legislative Assembly of Goa, Daman and Diu. It was approved unanimously. Sometime thereafter, Purushottam Kakodkar of the Congress introduced in the Lok Sabha a Bill demanding Statehood for Goa and in October 1976, R. L. Pankar of the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party moved a private members’ resolution in the Legislative Assembly also seeking Statehood for Goa. Dr Jack de Sequeira, Law Minister Pratapsingh Rane, A. N. Naik, Dr L. P. Barbosa, Chandrakant Chodankar, Roque Santana Fernandes, Punaji Achrekar, Teotonio Pereira, Luta Ferrao, Leo Velho, Dr Silverio D’Souza, Jagdish Rao and this writer partici-pated in the debate. Replying to the discussion, Chief Minister Sashikala Kakodkar said: “In the early years after liberation the MG Party stood for merger with Maharashtra and fought for it through the opinion poll in a democratic way. The verdict of the poll went against the merger and the MG Party accepted the people’s verdict because it believes in the wisdom of the electorate. Goa, Daman and Diu are and should be what the people of this territory want to make of it.”

When I was elected to Parliament in 1977, the Union Government was led by the Janata Party. Whilst Prime Minister Morarji Desai was opposed to small States, Home Minister Charan Singh supported them. Jayaprakash Narayan, the patron of the Janata Party, also supported small States. In 1969, in an article in the Hindustan Times, he called for “breaking up oversized States such as UP, Bihar, MP and a few others...” “The breaking up of large States, apart from resulting in a more compact, efficient and close to the people administration, should also go far to mitigate linguistic jingoism,” he wrote.

My first speech in the Lok Sabha on April 4, 1977 and several of my subsequent speeches in Parliament dealt with the need to provide Statehood to Goa. I submitted that

“Union Territories came into existence under peculiar circumstances. In 1957 or thereabouts a States Reorganisation Commission was formed to reorganise the States on a linguistic basis. It was found that there were some small pockets which for some reason or the other could neither be constituted into separate States nor could be joined or annexed to existing States. These were areas like Manipur, Tripura, NEFA and so on. It was understood that after these areas had attained a certain level of economic and educational development they would be merged into a neighbouring State. It so happened that years went by and the people of those areas affirmed unanimously that they did not want to be merged into any of the existing States. This is how Manipur, Tripura, Nagaland and other North Eastern States came into existence.

“The case of Goa is quite different so also that of Pondicherry. Pondicherry which was under French rule and Goa, Daman and Diu which were under the Portuguese rule joined the Union of India. Here you have two territories, small in area but with a fairly high level of economic development, literacy and cultural development. These were people who just came out of the colonial rule and who for centuries had been denied self governance.

“In this country no one is deliberately discriminated against, no people, no region, no creed is deliberately discriminated against in this free and democratic country of ours. But sometimes, unwittingly, discrimination creeps in and then it is incumbent upon the sovereign Parliament of this nation to correct such anomaly. Unlike in the States, in the Union Territories, the Lt. Governor is the authority who yields all the power. The Chief Minister and the entire cabinet of an Union Territory are put at the mercy and disposal, as it were, of the Lt. Governor. This is a very anomalous situation.

“On the floor of this House, I appeal to the conscience of the members that this type of situation, taking people from the colonial rule and not giving them full rights which their brethren enjoy in the rest of the country should not be allowed to continue. It runs against all the tenets of our polity and the conscience of this House should be aroused to grant statehood to at least some of the Union Territories. The people of Goa must be granted statehood. This is the birthright of the people of Goa.”

In 1980, Smt Indira Gandhi returned as the Prime Minister. In 1981, I introduced in Parliament the Statehood of Goa, Daman and Diu Bill 1981. Rajiv Gandhi, the then General Secretary of the AICC, assured me that the subject would be considered sympathetically by the government. When Rajiv Gandhi became the Prime Minister, I felt that I should obtain an assurance from him regarding Statehood for Goa on the floor of Parliament. I could not personally raise the issue in Parliament since I was a Union Minister. Hence, I asked my colleague from Goa, Shantaram Naik, to mention the matter in the Lok Sabha. Shantaram agreed. I took him immediately to the chamber of the Prime Minister in Parliament House and informed Rajiv Gandhi that Shantaram Naik would raise the issue of Statehood of Goa in the Lok Sabha and the government may reply favourably. Accordingly, the matter was raised by Shantaram Naik and a few days later Chintamani Panigrahi, the Minister of State for Home Affairs, indicated that the government was favourably inclined in this regard. The Statehood for Goa followed.

Goa has achieved remarkable progress over the last five decades, particularly in core sectors such as education. Significant headway has been made in the fields of healthcare and development of infrastructure though there are obvious deficiencies in all these sectors. We must face the multifarious tasks that confront us today with courage and determination, with a rational outlook and commitment to a value system anchored on work ethics and the quest for excellence.

The author is a former Union Minister.