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Editorial

People’s confidence in the quality of fish will be restored, only when safety mechanisms are visible and implemented

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The Goa government was quick to realise that the complete ban on fish imports would have led to absolute chaos in the market as well as a fierce backlash from locals, especially those who are preparing for weddings in their families and wriggled out of a an extremely messy problem by putting an all important caveat in their fishing ban order, stating that only fish which did not comply with the Food Safety and  Standard Act would be banned.

However the order, by no means is the final solution to the fish- formalin crisis. What it has done though it has prevented a massive escalation of prices and a severe shortage of fish for local consumption. But it still leaves all stakeholders with work to do and the state government to ensure much higher degrees of monitoring and compliance. Unless that is visible, there will be no restoration of confidence in the market.

This is what the Fisheries department needs to do

1)    Set up fish testing units (mini labs) at the Margao wholesale fish market and all other markets

2)    Have testing kits at all check points in the state with CCTV cameras and staff where every vehicle carrying fish is inspected and the inspection video and results and transmitted real time to the central control room, which should ideally be in Margao

3)    The government should proactively break the presence of a fish import cartel and ensure that there is no monopoly over imports and that all business is not concentrated by force in the hands of a cartel of fish traders. Import of fish should be transparent and without any coercion.

4)    There should be no flooding of the markets of imported fish. In fact priority should be given to the fish catch in Goa which can be sold in the Goan markets and only after the arrival of local fish, should imported fish be allowed to come in

5)    Work towards a long term course correction by seriously looking into the problem of LED fishing which has resulted in a severe depletion of fish catch in the Goan waters. Getting the fish which Goans like by enabling fishermen to go and procure them has to be a priority, which has been often blocked by fish import cartels.

Most importantly, the crisis needs joint interdepartmental coordination and synergy, by setting up a unified command centre for all decisions consisting of the health and fisheries and transport.

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Editorial

Rogue lathis of rogue cops in Goa, need a firm, sensitive counter attack  

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Template of torture in uniform hasn’t changed even though  the world has; a new order is therefore necessary

If you were to think that there is a sudden spurt in cases of police brutality in Goa, you wouldn’t quite have a finger on the button. The propensity of a section of the police force to get away with the use of force which crosses the boundaries of humanity and civility cannot be underlined enough. The difference now is that social media and as a result of it, the mainstream and digital media report and disseminate incidents of brutality with instant videos.

From the early nineties onwards to now, the template of torture has not changed though the world has. It starts off with excesses which are uncontrolled and go out of hand. When this leads to grievous injury or death, then a hasty cover up is planned in which the forensics department becomes a party.

The list is long, sad and sometimes surreal. And a look back is important because police torture is not an exception, not a blip on a smooth surface, not a speck of  dirt on a clean sheet. It is a constant and it is consistent

Let’s start with one of the most “high profile” ones in this decade,  that of seafarer Cypriano Fernandes, beaten by policemen while in custody and next morning rushed to GMC when he failed to regain consciousness. He died in custody two days later on January 9, 2011. Three policemen, PI Sandesh Chodankar, sub inspector Radesh Ramnathkar and hawaldar Sandip Shirvaikar were suspended and murder charges were filed against all officers on duty at the Panjim Police Station on the night of January 7 to January 8, 2011.

The Sub Divisional Magistrate’s (SDM) report stated that he died due to surface injuries with a blunt force object on the skull, elbow, joint, right aspect of skull and left hand. These injuries were “fatal” and the cause of his death. SDM Shabaji Shetye said “In my opinion, Cipriano’s death occurred in custody which was revealed during my course of inquiry as per the deposition of forensic doctors who stated that injuries on Cipriano were inflicted while in police custody.”

2001 witnessed the sensational case of Dattu Dessai of Cuncolim

who was killed in custody and later hung from a tree behind the police station and declared as a suicide, a wild theory, which was caught out during investigations

The trend of people arrested hanging in or outside police stations or brought dead to hospitals after arrest, is almost a norm, from Dattu Dessai’s case in 2001 to Shivaji Gaikwad’s case in 2012. One Shivaji Gaikwad was arrested on October 6 2012 for petty theft. It was a Saturday and he died in police custody the next day, for unknown reasons. Gaikwad died before he was produced within 24 hours in front of a Judicial Magistrate First Class.

But custodial deaths stretch way back to the early nineties and there have been roughly 20 reported cases of custodial deaths since then, which clearly indicates the high number of all cases of violence- beatings, torture which do not ultimately lead to death.

On February 11, 1992, in Calangute, Vidhyadhar Tuenkar was found hanging in the police lock up. It was registered as – hold your breath- an unnatural death. It surely was “unnatural” that a prisoner in a lock up would suddenly hang to death.

 On December 30, 1992, Mahendra Tari from Diwar died in the lock up.

 On May 25, 1998, Prakash Kalyan Rao Kulkarni was found hanging in the lock up of the Verna police station

Only twice, in the Dattu Desai’s murder, and the Abdul Gaffar Khan custodial murder case did the cases lead to conviction of policemen. Retired police inspector S V Caeiro and police constable Savlo Naik, facing a ten year imprisonment in the Abdul Gaffar Khan case moved a mercy petition before the Goa Governor last December. The Supreme Court convicted both of them for culpable homicide not amounting to murder turning down their acquittal by the High Court. Abdul Gafar Khan was apprehended by the police from Khareband and taken to the Margao police station shortly before midnight
and then brought dead to the hospital at 2.40 am.

But barring these two cases, punishments have more or less been limited to suspensions of cops.

Suspensions are no longer deterrents to either reinstatement in service after a short while and then promotions. The business as usual attitude where loss of service is not a deterrent, makes the common man in Goa more vulnerable to getting hit by rogue policemen. An endemic change is needed and this cannot be achieved by resorting to suspensions and then waiting for the heat to die down. Unfortunately both social media and mainstream media move to other stories and there is no activism in Goa when it comes to fighting human rights violations of this kind.

Crucially, a custodial torture or a death case ultimately ends with the investigating agency invariably filing closure report. The case is therefore buried, officers are reinstated and there is no course correction to prevent a repeat. To even expect the government to work on a policy against police torture and deterrents, which are beyond what is already built into the IPC and especially the CrPC, which deals with the procedure in criminal cases, is becoming futile. This is because there is no intent on changing the endemic defects. We look at five main points why the saga of custodial deaths has not ceased in Goa:

  1. a)No sensitisation of the force at entry level on protocol to be followed as per rules of arrest
  2. b)Torture as a tool of investigation itself has been used in cases involving ordinary civilians. In Goa, majority of police torture has occurred because the local police have been personally outraged and has sought to mete out jungle justice, with no respect for the law.
  3. c)Inquiries have often been entrusted to sections of the police force whom have worked with or supervised those who they are investigating and are personally close to
  4. d)Inquiries conducted by authorities other than the police like SDM’s have never been acted upon i.e Shabaji Shetye’s report in the Cyprianio Fernandes custodial death case
  5. e)Most importantly, there has been an attempt at a constant cover up and deviation and this was evident even in the case of Clint Rebello. The five suspended policemen of the Cuncolim police station, including PSI Mahesh Velip , have literally lied -as was found out during the SDM’s inquiry- that Clint was not brought to the Assolna outpost. It is believed very strongly that it was here that the young man was mercilessly beaten by the police after an altercation regarding traffic congestion on the streets of Cuncolim.

As reported in The Goan Everyday newspaper, during inquiry a driver of a 108 ambulance stationed near the Assolna confirmed that the victim of police beating, Clint, was brought there. The inquiry officer even found the leather belt used to beat Clint . The young man had complained that he was hauled into the police jeep at Betul, taken to Assolna and thrashed by cops. To cover their deeds, the cops filed an FIR against Clint Rebello  alleging that he had assaulted PSI Mahesh Velip, yet Velip was not subjected to any medical examination nor was there any visible evidence of any injury suffered by him

This pattern runs through in almost every case of assault which has led to deaths. A roadmap for dealing the police assault cases has to be prepared, where the human rights of the common man has to be the paramount priority. The excuse that inquiries by Human Rights watchdog groups demorlaise the police is nothing but an excuse to commit excesses

The way forward

  1. a)Suspended policemen should not be reinstated during the period of inquiry and if found guilty after the administrative inquiry, will continue to remain under suspension through the trial in court. The suspension should be converted to dismissal, if the trial court holds them guilty, with the provisio that if the conviction is overturned by any higher court, a re- appointment  can be done with no break in service.
  2. b)A human rights sensitization workshop should be conducted before the induction of new recruits into the force, and a periodic refresher course should be conducted by the training department for existing police personnel
  3. c)A periodic review should be conducted in police stations to see if police men are maintaining measurable and laid down norms of conduct with the public including those arrested or detained when in conflict with law. Failure to meet standards should lead to promotions ad increments put on hold
  4. d)Zero tolerance to police torture can be attained  only through when  exemplary punishment , including arrest when murder charges are leveled, is levied
  5. e)At the same time there should be system of rewards and accolades for police men who show courage and display sensitivity in their day to day functioning. These people should be recognised as shining examples of what the force wants to achieve.

The bottomline here is that comments like we need better training and sensitivity are so obvious that they sound like cliches. If the Goa police and its government haven’t been able to get their act together in 25 years, it is clear that they do not really see police brutality as an issue that has to be dealt with, with even minimum priority.

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Editorial

Sujay’s Take 9

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Founding editor Sujay Gupta’s video editorial on Manohar Parrikar calling for the meeting of BJP MLAs tomorrow is an attempt of the party to calm down nerves of Opposition which is gearing up for State wide protests demanding Restoration of Governance.

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Editorial

Sujay’s Take 8 : On Rebellion within BJP Goa

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Founding editor Sujay Gupta’s video editorial on the stand taken by senior BJP leaders including Francis D’Souza, Laxmikant Parsekar, Mahadev Naik and Dayanand Mandrekar spells clear divide in the saffron party’s local unit. Where will BJP head for after the current crisis?

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