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The Day the Music Died in Aldona

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Aldona resident and writer DEEPA GEORGE, in a special to The Goa Spotlight gives us a sense of the real mood in Aldona, beyond the rhetoric and promises of the Health Minister, after the body of Januz Gonsalves was cremated “by mistake” after his body was wrongly given to the CCP for disposal

 

ALDONA : There seems to be a palpable gloom that hangs over Aldona and it’s not just the return of dark thunder showers. The sudden death of a young 24 year old boy from Goncoi, Januz Gonsalves of a cardiac arrest while playing his favourite game of football was sad enough. Giving it a further macabre twist, was the discovery on the day of his funeral, that his body was missing from the morgue of the Goa Medical College and Hospital (GMC) at Bambolim. The horrific fact that he was cremated the previous day along with three unclaimed bodies as a mistaken body swap, by the Corporation of the City of Panaji (CCP) just made this tragic death even more dreadful.

The trauma and pain that the family has gone through in the last two weeks is unimaginable. Despite the situation, with no body to bury, the family went ahead with his Eucharistic celebration as planned on Saturday, 29th September, choosing to focus on celebrating the life of this ‘quiet, soft spoken youngster with a shy smile’.

While the family’s dignity through despair is commendable, all of Aldona has naturally erupted in indignant rage, with many demanding the resignation of the Health Minister, Vishwajit Rane over the gross negligence on the part of GMC. Social media and the page, Aldona Matters on Facebook was abuzz with Aldonkars demanding action and justice to the bereaved family.

While the Health Minister, in typical knee jerk response has ordered the suspension of the professor and HoD of forensic medicine Edmund Rodrigues, the morgue’s junior technician, Machindranath Jalmi and postmortem attendant Prakash Narvekar; he has also promised a new 108 ambulance service in memory of Januz and an emergency room at Aldona besides other modernising measures to get the GMC morgue in order. Typical, as it seems that it takes disasters to get the government to fly into action and face saving mode.

The incident also highlights the lack of health care facilities in the state, given that it took more than an hour for an ambulance to reach Januz, necessitating the family to rush him to Mapusa in a car instead. Says an irate Aldonkar Hestor Sequeira, “All these promises are false and made too late; everything will be forgotten in time. We, the people have to keep up the pressure.”

Commenting on the lack of medical facilities and the pathetic state of affairs at Primary Health Centres in villages, Mr. Sequeira shares his own personal account,  “When I was suspected with dengue, I went to the Aldona Health Centre only to be told that they don’t have the necessary facility and that I had to go to Mapusa Health Centre. On reaching there, I was annoyed to find that they didn’t have any dengue testing kits. All health centres are frugally staffed. Instead of focusing on multi speciality hospitals and motorbike ambulances, the Health Minister should focus on getting his act right by bettering the conditions and facilities at these health centres in villages. Besides, you can’t have partiality in hiring staff. It is a known fact that the Minister has employed many people from his constituency at GMC. Why was Dr. Edmund Rodrigues’ term extended when he was to retire? These questions need answers and a thorough investigation should be done. It is clear that this Ministry is incompetent.”

As allegations flew thick, there were many conspiracy theories that did the rounds. One being a supposed organ donation racket as a possible reason for the missing body. Dismissing these rumours, Savio Figueiredo – the community pharmacist clarifies, “All organs are rendered not transplantable and unusable within 10 minutes or less of the heart stopping( cardiac death) .So there is absolutely no chance or possibility of such organ harvesting in this case.”

While all this talk takes centre-stage with people jumping to conclusions on various aspects, Januz’s family is still coming to terms with their loss. Keeping away from controversy, Miles Gonsalves, Januz’s brother is stoic, “Our loss cannot be compensated. This incident just highlights the gross flaws in our systems and sadly, those in power only act post the occurrence of such tragic events. For us, our only solace or consolation is in getting a thorough investigation done. We hope processes and systems are put in place so that this incident is never repeated. I am quite certain that Januz’s case isn’t the first such incident. This may have happened to some less privileged persons who may have just accepted it without questioning. Perhaps, it’s just come to light in the case of my brother.”

Life moves on and as a sense of closure, in memory of Januz, the family is organising a quiet procession in Aldona on Wednesday, October 3rd starting from the family home in Goncoi, following his favourite path through the fields past Columba Residency behind St. Thomas Girls High School finally ending at Tercena. Says Miles, “Januz loved to walk and he would take this path often. We want this to be a quiet remembrance of our brother with light music and candlelight – just as he would have liked it.” He appropriately adds, “Given how quiet and reserved Januz was, it is ironic that in his passing away, he has created a furore he would never have imagined.”

May this furore stir people in the right direction – in demanding better medical facilities, processes and systems – the only meaningful tribute to Januz’s memory and a fitting closure to his family.

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Spotlight Narratives

A nut peeling machine which removes layers of cost and difficulty in Satarri

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RUPESH SAMANT/DEVENDRA GAONKAR

GOA (Sattari)  A small make shift shed on the road in Hetodem village, 10 kms away from Valpoi, just 2.5 kms away from Mahadayi Wildlife Sanctuary, is witnessing a revolution which can attract young blood towards agriculture.

A small arecanut peeling machine or arecanut de-husking machine has become a major assistance to the hundreds of farmers who had to depend on the manual labour to peel the arecanut before drying it and selling it in the market.

Mind you! This is not country’s or Goa’s first Arecaut Peeling Machine. There are few such machines already in the market but Ashok Joshi’s gadget is different from the rest.

Explaining the economics behind the machine, he said the manual peeling requires Rs 30 per kilogram cost, while the machine has reduced it to Rs three per kg.

The decades of experience in farming has come handy for Joshi, who has improvised this machine which manufactured under the banner of Shree Agro Industry. Neel Shah has partnered with Joshi.

The machine has two variants – a single phase two Horse power and another is 1.5 HP. “The output of the machine is tremendous. The 1.5 HP machiner can peel 35-40 kg of Arecanut per hour,” he explained.

The farmer-turned-entrepreneur manufactures the machine in his own small make shift shed. Right from design to welding, everything is done at his shed. And feedback received from the buyers is helping him improve it.

“We have fixed 6 inch pipe so that the peeled shells are thrown at a distance without creating dust pollution during the process. The manual peeling used to create health hazard for the labourers,” he said.

The machine is eligible for 75 per cent subsidy from the government since it is certified by the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) and State Agiculture department, it is “It requires small space, there is no need of alignment,” Joshi explained.

“It works on electricity. Our attempt is to get it run on Solar Power,” he said.

This encounter with a green story revives our faith in Golden Goa. In this state, which is obsessed with tourism and mining, Ashok Joshi cements our faith in rural enterprise in Goa.

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Mining belt Goans: Wake up and see where the money meant for you lies

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By Sujay Gupta

The order of the High Court calling to account the legality and sanctity of the Goa District Mineral Fund, assumes significance and has sounded out alarm bells, over how public funds earmarked to manage mining environment , have been handled.

At a time when the closure of mining has led to joblessness and the absolute stalling of any growth and huge hit on the economy, Rs 180 crores is a big amount. ( Rs 90 plus crores from North Goa and Rs 85 plus crores from South Goa

And if these funds are available, then the government must disclose if it has a plan or a road map for its utilisation.

The district mineral fund was set up with the following priority areas. Toilets in schools in the mining areas, tree plantation, improving health facilities, establishing a road bridge network, de-silting of water  bodies, assistance in agriculture and animal husbandry and so on

And this isn’t the first time. In March 2018, the HC ordered the member secretaries of the District Mineral Funds to issue advertisements in leading English, Marathi and Konkani dailies every month until July 2018, specifying the availability of amounts in DMFs, the benefits available to people. and calling for applications from mining-affected people to seek benefits. It also asked for DMFs to be publicised widely through radio stations, notices in panchayat offices directions and building awareness at village level through village heads. None of this has happened

DMF HAS NO LEGAL SANCTITY

It’s legal sanctity and its self imposed mandate  to be the custodian of funds it receives, to be spent for public purposes has been subjected to legal scrutiny and rightfully so, by the Goa Foundation. And the High Court’s observations on a petition filed by the Goa Foundation, is an embarrassing indictment of the government. “It is clear that these randomly put together groups, operating without legal sanctity cannot be entrusted with public funds of Rs 180 crore. We direct that the District Collectors of both North and South Goa districts to forthwith take charge of the funds of the District Mineral Foundation. We direct that the office bearers of the “SO CALLED” District Mineral Foundations of both the districts will not take any decision nor will they have any authority to deal with the amounts of the foundations.

The non action of the government, on these fronts border on actually insulting the court . The nonchalance of the state to a High court is an arrogant act which cannot pass muster

180 crores of money was parked with a “so called foundation” which was not registered as a trust

While the Advocate General of Goa, tried to make a case that the state was in the process of registering the foundation as a trust and amending or framing the rules governing the functioning of the District Mineral Foundation, the Court was rightly concerned that 180 crores of money was parked with a “so called foundation” which was not registered as a trust, nor does it have any legal sanctity or mandate. The utter callousness with which such a massive amount of money has been dealt with, is shocking. “Such adhoc assemblage (referring to the manner in the DMF in the two districts were formed) put together by the state, under the banner of District Mineral Foundations, hardly has any legal sanctity. To make matters worse, the entire corpus of Rs 180 crores is handed over in custody of such assemblage. We were concerned about the credentials of these two groups”.

The composition of the DMF does not inspire confidence 

The composition and the manner in which the DMF was set up, leave room for such concern. When it was formed, the south Goa DMF chairman was Nilesh Cabral, then just a BJP MLA from Curchorem and north Goa DMF chairman was Subhash Malik, one of the directors at Goa State Horticultural Corporation Limited.

The rules of formation of the DMF mentioned that the committee of the DMF should  “consist of persons each of whom shall have knowledge in the field of mining, engineering, medicine, forest, wildlife, agriculture, biodiversity, rural development and planning”

Look at how the High Court reacted to this.“The qualifications do not even mandate expertise. Almost all vocations or careers are covered. Likewise, any private person can claim knowledge in these general fields,” the order states. Almost all DMF members are private persons, the court observes. The High Court called the state of affairs “shocking”

The DMF rules do not have a provision to set up a committee of officers in ex-officio capacity as is generally done in handling such matters.

The rules were framed in January 2016.The Notification regarding District Mineral Foundations for North Goa District and South Goa District was issued on 30 November 2017, which was published in official gazette on 7 December 2017on 23 March 2018, the Foundations held their first meeting.

The District Collectors have, for the time being, made custodians of the DMF and for practical reasons the secretaries of the DMF have been asked to carry out day to day functions under the District Collectors

Why are mining affected people not a part of the District Mineral Fund

In an article in the Down to Earth Magazine headlined, “Bombay HC questions DMF administration in Goa, identifies loopholes in state law” Chinmayi Shalya writes

“Some of the issues flagged by the HC for Goa DMF are the status quo in many other places. For example, lack of knowledge of mining-affected people about DMF and their rights under it, is the case in almost every mining district. The district authorities are barely making any deliberate effort to reach out and making them aware. How will the mining-affected people then engage in DMF planning or identifications of beneficiaries that the law requires?” says Srestha Banerjee, programme manager, environmental governance-community support programme, Centre for Science and Environment (CSE)—a public interest research and advocacy organisation based in New Delhi.

The CSE, which has been working on DMF, has also been underscoring the critical need for awareness and capacity building among mining-affected communities so that they can be part of the DMF decision-making in their respective districts. “There is also a need of DMF office to co-ordinate the process of planning, investment and monitoring. It cannot be left to intermittent meeting of the DMF body,” she concludes.

No lessons learnt from the past

The sad reality is that the government has not learnt any lessons from the past. The narrative of “illegal mining” is all about the failure of governance of Goa’s mining operations. It started off by the mining department issuing fake challans of payment of royalty during the peak of the mining boom from 2007 to 2010, allowing hundreds of tons of iron ore extracted by dubious means or plain stolen to be transported and exported.

The clue to illegal mining lies here

If one really wants to unearth the genesis of illegal mining in Goa, the clue lies in tracing the antecedents of the iron ore lying in the jetties in the mining belt for transportation or looking at transport challans during the 2007 to 2009 and matching them with records of ore export  in the leases from where the ore was ostensibly transported.

The almost fraudulent manner of setting up the DMF in the two districts of Goa, follow the all too familiar pattern of institutions formed to govern, moderate and  control the mining  space have failed, in a manner which is inefficient, callous and perhaps deliberately devious, meant to protect those who  have attempted to beat the system.

Rs 180 cores of money, meant for the ultimate benefit of the people of Goa, has to be in legal hands and within a legal framework. Most importantly, with this latest indictment of the High Court, the buck must stop at the door of the mines department, which has been without full time minster for close to a year now, since it is held by the Chief Minister who has been ailing.

But it is the sickness of the mines department, its inefficiency and its robust attempts to lean towards the mining lobby and not really for the benefit of the economy of the state, that needs to be addressed on a war footing. Currently, it is only the Courts which are capable of  prescribing a correct line of treatment.

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Lillette Dubey plays enthral Goan audiences!

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Rahul Chandawarkar who watched both the Lillette Dubey plays at the Kala Academy earlier this week comes away impressed with the popular actor-director.

Theatre buffs in Goa were treated to some high quality theatre on October 3 & 4 at the Kala Academy in Panaji. Noted theatre and film personality, Lillette Dubey of Mumbai staged two of her latest plays, namely, Gauharand Salaam Noni Appa on two consecutive evenings.

Both plays were distinctly different from each other and that only added to the charm.

The first play, ‘Gauhar’ inspired by Vikram Sampath’s ‘My name is Gauhar Jaan’ and penned by the popular playwright, Mahesh Dattani was directed by Lillette Dubey and traced the story of one of India’s first mass media superstars at the turn of the last century.

An Armenian Christian who later converted to Islam, Gauhar Jaan was a naturally gifted musician with a wide repertoire. One of the earliest women artistes who seized the opportunity that came with the advent of recording technology, hers was the first Indian voice to be recorded in 1902, and during her life she cut close to 600 records, with her fame travelling as far as Europe, with her face emblazoned on matchboxes and postcards.

The  play was completely special. Indian classical music was sung live on stage and always effortlessly. Rajeshwari Sachdev, who plays the younger Gauhar stood out with an outstanding performance in which she ended up singing not just in Urdu, but also sang in Bengali, English and Tamil even!

Rajeshwari breezed through the role of the younger Gauhar and impressed everyone with her easy charm and eloquence.  On the other hand, Zila Khan, the daughter of the legendary, Indian sitar maestro, the late Ustaad Vilayat Khan making her English theatre debut with this play was an able foil to Rajeshwari. Zila, who learnt Indian classical singing from  her father could break off into song at the drop of a hat. Her many renditions during the play received spontaneous applause from the audiences.

And while Rajeshwari and Zila held centre stage, the other supporting actors were no less competent.

Denzil Smith in his role as an Englishman from the recording company and also as Gauhar’s Armenian father was extremely convincing. Danny Sura in his role as Gauhar’s, Pathan manager looked the part, while Rajeev Siddhartha as Gauhar’s paramour and a rich Indian zamindar also did a very good job. Similarly, Gillian Pinto and Nandita Dubey who played the role of Gauhar’s assistants brought a lot of energy on stage.

The play was a period play and with even the most minimalistic but intelligent use of props was able to transport the audience to both the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. It must be mentioned, that the period costumes designed by costume designer, Pia Benegal, daughter of the noted film maker, Shyam Benegal gave the play a definite edge.

On the other hand, the second play, Salaam Noni Appa was diametrically different in every way. As Lillette told us backstage on the second evening, “I like to make very different plays. This way, the audiences get to watch a wide variety.”

Salaam Noni Appa is based on Twinkle Khanna’s comic short story and is a heart-warming, romantic tale.  The 90-minute play that ran without an intermission depicted a delightful story about the wonderful unexpectedness of life. Where new adventures, new experiences, lie in wait behind the corner at every stage of our lives. It is a tale of discovering love in the autumn of life, and of finally being true to oneself.

Scriptwriter Adhir Bhat has adapted the original short story and converted it into a very funny play which had the audience in splits throughout the play.

Lillette played the role of Noni Appa, while talented actress, Jayati Bhatia played  the role of her sister Binny in the play. Both sisters are widows and decide to spend time together. It is interesting to see how the two sisters share a very happy rapport with each other, while still quarrelling and arguing over the smallest of things.

Binny decides to hire the services of a yoga teacher Anandji to teach the two sisters yoga at home. Adhir has weaved in many a funny line in the script during the yoga sessions making play light hearted and fun.

Noni begins playing cards with Anandji after every yoga session and finds his easy going demeanour attractive.  Seasoned actor, Yateen Karyekar who plays the role of Anandji has also done a very good job in keeping the play interesting. Rishi Khurana, who plays the role of Baburam, the Bhojpuri speaking Man Friday in Binny’s house is hilarious and plays the his role to perfection. The charming, Gillian Pinto, who had played a role in the previous play, Gauhar, plays Noni’s  daughter and Anandji’s cantankerous wife with perfection albeit a very bad throat before the play. “I am constantly drinking hot water with ginger!” she told this writer backstage before the start of the play.

Interestingly, this was the very first time that Lillette was bringing her plays to Goa without a sponsor. In an exclusive chat with the thegoaspotlight.com before the tour, Lillette had said,  “I am betting on the theatre loving  Goan audiences to fill up the auditorium and make both shows housefull!”

Speaking about her theatre company, Primetime Theatre, which is  soon going to complete thirty years, Lillette said that she had started her company primarily to preserve the ‘Indian-English’ voice in Indian theatre. “Our plays are rooted in the Indian ethos and enacted in everyday Indian English, just as we speak on a daily basis,” she said.

According to the actor, this strategy had helped them reach a wider audience not just in India, but even across the world. “Let me give you an example!” she says enthusiastically. “When we staged renowned playwright Mahesh Elkunchwar’s play, ‘Aatmakatha’ ( autobiography) in Indian English in Los Angeles to a mixed American audience, they were virtually gobsmacked with the power of the play!”

Lillette has also been an active traveller and has been taking her plays to several two-tier and mini metros in India. “Yes, I believe that audiences in cities like Amritsar, Jalandhar, Kochi, Thiruvananthapuram and Vishakhapatnam appreciate good English theatre and want to see more plays.”

This was also one of the reasons, she was bringing the plays to Goa. “Absolutely. Goa is so close to Mumbai, yet not too many English theatre troupes have travelled to Goa to stage plays. I have been invited only a couple of times in the past. This is why I am going out on a limb to perform live in Goa. I am hoping the Goan audiences come and watch us and encourage us to come again!” Lillette said.

And while Lillette has acted in both films and stage, she admitted that it was the stage where her heart belonged. “The choice between the two is a  no brainer!” she said with a laugh. “Films are a director’s medium, where the actors are mere pieces in a larger jigsaw puzzle. While the stage is an actor’s medium. There are no retakes here. It is a more challenging medium than films. If you make mistakes, you stand exposed immediately,” Lillette said.

According to Lillette, she does films because she gets to act with interesting people. “But my heart and soul will always remain in theatre. People often watch my films and then come to see me on stage. This suits me,” she said.

She is gung-ho about the world of theatre. “Theatre will never die. Mumbai which is the capital of commercial theatre has theatre activity booming in English, Marathi, Hindi, Gujarati and so many other languages. If you pick up the weekend newspapers in Mumbai you are spoilt for choice. There could easily be at least 25 theatre shows playing over the weekend!”

Speaking about her theatre company, she said that every  attempt was made to pick original scripts written by writers like Mahashweta Devi and Girish Karnad and theatre scripts written by Indian playwrights like Mahesh Dattani and Partap Sharma. “We are consciously building up a body of work for future generations to work with,” Lillette said.

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