Connect with us

Fly on the wall

The FDA is guilty of criminal neglect for not checking for formalin earlier



  • Sujay Gupta 


At the same time, finding villains and politicking over formalin trivializes an important issue; Is it really such a scare or is it hype?

The Food and Drugs Authority of Goa under the department headed by the Honourable Health Minister Vishwajeet Rane, has ended up giving one of the worst performances ever by an authority formed to safeguard and control the safety of what we eat and drink.

A check on the safety of fish, which is synonymous with life and living in Goa, should have been a long standing process and not a knee jerk response to some command or order. Behind the political showmanship and drama indulged by the Congress is a basic fact. If there is indeed a mafia which is bringing formalin laced fish into the goan markets from outside, rather than fill the markets with Goan fish, then it is the FDA which should have had systems in place to ensure that this formalin laced fish was stopped from entering Goa by land or sea. If there is indeed such a “mafia” a term which the Congress has coined for wholesale fish traders who control the trade in South Goa, what did two Congress Chief Ministers Digambar Kamat and Luzinho Faleiro, MLAs from Margao and Navelim respectively, do during their tenures and then subsequently to control this “mafia”. Can Mr Luizinho Faleiro deny that the person named as a “mafia” in the Assembly by Faleiro- Maulana Ibrahim, was and perhaps even now continues to be very close to Digambar Kamat even as there are allegations that he is close to Vijai Sardesai.  Faleiro should ask his party colleague Digambar Kamat if he feels Ibrahim is a “mafia”.

The point is, if there is any mafia operation in the Margao wholesale fish market then the whole line of politicians who have tacitly or overtly backed those who are being allegedly called the mafia, should be held accountable and that includes Luizinho Faleiro and Digambar Kamat.

The Congress, and its acolytes and drama queens and kings, and court jesters and singers have preferred to deal with the formalin scare, with theatrics and politics with a shallowness and immaturity which would have ashamed even school boys.

But while there is no cure for political immaturity, there can be no excuses for administrative inefficiency and insensitivity on an issue of such critical seriousness as the safety of fish in Goa. When the FDA team reached the Margao wholesale market on the day of the raid, it appeared that they were absolutely clueless as to how tests for formalin should be carried out. While the fish was washed and water samples tested, several questions need to be raised as follows

  1. a)Was the top layer of the fish as well as insides tested
  2. b)If yes, were the samples stored and transported to the FDA laboratory in a manner prescribed?
  3. c)Most importantly, how many times in the past has the FDA carried out formalin checks on fish? And if the answer to that is hardly any or none, then the FDA must be pulled up for criminal neglect

The FDA fumbled on the basics. It wasn’t even sure of whether formalin is naturally found or not and what was permissible or not. They worked like blind men trying to identity parts of an elephant called formalin.

At the same time many experts, so called experts and social media overnight experts unleashed a volley of supposedly informed opinion which were bandied as facts. The truth is that the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth has not been made available. But let us try and look for a clue in the embers.

Anil Chatterjee a Marine Biologist, opined in national newspaper “Formalin is not a naturally occurring compound. Compounds like amino acids can be naturally present but formalin cannot be naturally present.  Dr Joe D Souza, formerly of the NIO added, “Formalin is a toxic chemical which is a preservative”.

While these understandably worried reactions should be taken on board to avoid complacency on safety, it is also important to put the danger or otherwise in perspective

According to the American National Cancer Institute, “In 1980, laboratory studies showed that exposure to formaldehyde could cause nasal cancer in rats. This finding raised the question of whether formaldehyde exposure could also cause cancer in humans. In 1987, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) classified formaldehyde as a probable human carcinogen under conditions of unusually high or prolonged exposure

It’s important to note this. The words used are “probable” and under conditions of “unusually high or prolonged exposure”

Chemical Safety facts .org a website of the American Chemistry Council lists formaldehyde as “a simple chemical compound made of hydrogen, oxygen and carbon. All life forms – bacteria, plants, fish, animals and humans – naturally produce formaldehyde as part of cell metabolism.

A senior doctor who has dealt with the issue during his research and practice based in Mumbai told Spotlight “No data exists to show the carcinogenic potential of formalin as an ingestant. All info is regarding formalin exposure as an inhalant or contactant. Even the cancers are of the upper respiratory tract or of blood, not gastrointestinal tract. Formalin evaporates on storage, washes away on cleaning with water, gets denatured on cooking”

Therefore, formalin, as an ingestant, can cause harm only if we drink it or eat fish raw. Do we?

Much of the discourse around the “scare” has happened without putting perspective and context. The aim was clear. Find a villain and then find a master of that villain and if that master is a politician, the plot thickens. The so called mafia’s control of the fish operations and pushing Goan fishermen out of the market may be a factual narrative but there is no context between this and the formalin scare.

It is time that the health minister gets the FDA to work and deliver on promises like making available safety kits. There’s a Central Institute of Fisheries and Technology is based in Panjim. However the kit isn’t available there, even though the Health Minister said that they have provided an on the spot testing kit. ICAR kochi apparently has the kit.

According to information circulating on social media, a company called HiMedia laboratories based out of Mumbai is manufacturing this for ICAR. In the next few weeks these kits are to dispatched across India and should be available online to buy.

The FDA should focus on getting these testing kits and more importantly educating  people of the extent to which formalin can effect health.

Currently the actions of the FDA do not appear healthy while that of its minister reeks of a dose of cheap politics of acquiring personal brownie points and that too for a very shoddy operation of the FDA which deserves brickbats and no brownies.

 (Sujay Gupta is the Founding Editor of the forthcoming news website The Goa Spotlight.)

Twitter: @sujaygupta0832

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fly on the wall

By changing the date on the ‘birth certificate’, can you make Goa mining leases younger?



Sujay Gupta

A powerful lobby including the state is pushing for mining restart immediately, which will never happen. The state is meanwhile turning an absolute blind eye towards recovering amounts accrued due to illegal mining under Section 21/5 of the MMDR Act

The earnestness in the attempt to pacify the “mining dependent’ and the powerful mining lobby which often dictates the course of events, by promising a resumption of mining, is devoid of reality. The sooner the mining dependents understand that a forced resumption is simply not possible, a more pragmatic approach to mining resumption can be taken. And pragmatism comes from two aspects.

The restart of mining has to be on the foundation of legality with the principal objective of ensuring zero waste mining, proper utilisation of all minerals and most importantly the zero tolerance to illegal mining. The bottom line is, and this needs to be etched in stone, is that economic reasons for restarting mining cannot be bigger than the interests of the state to protest and preserve its mineral resources, exploit them judiciously for the greatest good of the state, and not necessarily the players who have dominated the mining trade for years and whose operations were called to account and did not pass the test of judicial scrutiny.

What is happening is exactly the opposite. The state instead of following this principle, is using, the sentiment in the mining belt, to restart mining, to push for the extension of eases of the major Goan mining players, by re- fixing the official start date of mining leases, to give then a fifty year period which ends in 2037.

The move is as follows. Amend the Union government’s Abolition Act that converted all concessions into mining leases. This without quite waiting for a Supreme Court verdict, on a petition filed challenging the abolition act. This verdict, awaited for long, will interpret whether the 50 year life period for the leases is to be considered from 1961, then all the leases end in 2020 and if considered from 1987, then the mining leases end in 2037.

It is unfortunate that there is an absolute tirade on social media with the new found twitter army, obviously backed by mining interests which tweets away about mining resumption. The demand is understandable but don’t they know that NO restart is possible in the immediate future and we are looking at a well over a year from now at the very least because there is no single valid lease and there is no Environmental Clearance.

Even in the absolutely unlikely event of the government taking an executive decision to make amendments to the MMDR act to extend the existing leases (almost zero possibility), it is not as if they can open their mines and offices and start mining. Even at the cost of repeating this, environmental licenses cannot be resurrected. The process of getting a fresh EC takes at least a year and does one think that there will be no legal challenges to each EC application and process?

Very strangely, the Goa government- least on paper, and the Goa Assembly- which passed a resolution, feels that an executive action changing the date on the “birth certificate” of the start of Goan mining will circumvent Supreme Court decisions and a road map laid down for restarting mining with a clean slate. Will the change of date- if at all, restart mining on a clean slate? The answer is obvious

The fact that such a move defies the fundamental ruling of the Supreme Court, that the excesses and illegalities of mining must be accounted for, fines and dues accrued due to illegal mining be recovered under the MMDR act, has been conveniently bypassed. While “mining dependents” have been fed doses of hope, it has led to them either living in denial or expecting a miracle, beyond logic or reason.

First, recover the money earned from illegal mining and give back to state and people

The key to understanding the mining dependent, and not the mining giants, feeling of getting choked, lies in the fact that there is no spending power and no money coming in either. This situation can be handled, without having to forcibly restarting mining, without cleaning the slate. The government has to be honest, completely honest, in recovering amounts due from mining companies for illegal mining. The Goa Foundation which has moved the Supreme Court on the issue of recoveries from mining companies stated in a media conference in October, as reported in the local media that “an amount of Rs 3,431.31 crore is due from the mining companies for undertaking illegal activities. The largest amount recovery due is from Vedanta Limited that is Rs 1,647.41 crore. The CAG in its report has pointed out that seven mining leases were involved in undertaking mining activities in excess of the mining plan, the total value of which was around Rs 1,529.64 crore… Another ten leases were involved in mining in excess of environmental clearance limit with a total recovery value of Rs 374.99 crore.

The Goa Foundation (GF) in its presser further stated, as reported in the media “CAG has also pointed out the government failure of short recovery of royalty from nine leases to the tune of Rs 17.98 crores with the total due to short recovery is around Rs 1,508.70 crore.

In 2014, the GF won a Supreme Court judgment that ended up declaring the last 5 years of active mining in Goa (2007 to 2012) as fully illegal. According to the Goa foundation, the petitioner in virtually every case of illegal mining against the Government, (which has been contested by the government and mining companies), the amount recoverable from the illegal miners was estimated by the at Rs. 65,058 crores, which amounts to Rs. 4.5 lakhs per person in Goa today. The Goa Foundation, as per its calculations, states that these renewals led to a further loss of Rs. 79,000 crores. In effect, each resident of Goa lost Rs. 10 lakhs each.

While the amounts can be contested, with mining companies reacting strongly saying that the figures are grossly exaggerated, the fact that all mining between 2007 and 2012 is “illegal” has been clearly underlined in an unambiguous manner, both in the 2014 an the 2018 judgments ( which struck down the renewals of 88 leases)

The Supreme Court also ordered the setting up of a Special Investigating Team (SIT) and a team of chartered accountants to recover the amount from mining companies, which were allowed to extract ore in violation of the law.

The government is guilty of camouflaging this or diverting attention from this aspect. And surprisingly, the “mining dependent” lobby is staying clear of this, which gives rise to strong suspicions that they are merely fronting for the mining lobby.

Apart from the SC directions, the government is mandated by the very same MMDR act to recover amounts illegally earned by recovering and selling mineral without “lawful authority”

Section 21(5) in The Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957, mandates this. It states:

“Whenever any person raises, without any lawful authority, any mineral from any land, the State Government may recover from such person the mineral so raised, or, where such mineral has already been disposed of, the price thereof, and may also recover from such person, rent, royalty or tax, as the case may be, for the period during which the land was occupied by such person without any lawful authority.] 6[(6) Notwithstanding anything contained in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973 (2 of 1974), an offence under sub-section (1) shall be cognizable.]

It is clear from the Supreme Court judgments that the land was occupied by the mining lease holders unlawfully, since the leases were not renewed and the renewals done post facto have been struck down.

The State of Goa has to be accountable for not recovering either the mineral, which ahs been disposed of, or the price accrued from its sale. There is no argument to justify that the sales of proceeds of ore illegally mined cannot or should not be recovered

What we need to take home from the entire debate on restarting mining

Mineral wealth belongs to us. Our mineral policies are ensuring the depletion of these collectively owned assets with the real owners, the people, receiving only a few crumbs. And while mining companies have made phenomenal amounts of wealth, the state has not received the benefits of this wealth generation for its people.

For example in Goa, over eight years of mining (2002-2012), the public exchequer received less than 5% of the net value (economic rent) of our minerals. The loss was around twice the amount of the state’s revenues over the same period. Per household losses were greater than assets owned by such households. Had this amount been saved instead, the income generated could have eliminated poverty. Instead, everyone lost equally, and a few became rich enough to corrupt our democracy and violate every possible law.

Continue Reading

Fly on the wall

Vishwajit Rane: The renegade who may well become Goa’s raja




Junior Rane has adapted to the Modi- Shah syllabus better than Goa BJP veterans

Vishwajit Rane left the Congress within an hour of taking oath as a Congress MLA in 2017. He came out of the Assembly and simply vanished. Some Congress MLA’s were asked to look for him everywhere. One of them even went to the loo but got no relief. Even before the angry Congress could say p**s off, Junior Rane was in the BJP, then in the cabinet, and is now in the shortlist to become Goa’s next Chief Minister if his career progression takes the same course.

Meanwhile, the AICC general secretary in charge of Goa, is unable to be in charge of his own MLAs who seem to be disappearing from the Congress radar like the Bermuda triangle. The Congress is shrinking. Literally, figuratively and where it really counts, numerically.

Along the way, it has lost another key ingredient. Romance. The Congress was always the much loved, but errant schoolboy who was punished in 2012 and rewarded in 2017, with 17 MLAs.

Then instead of building on this, the Congress has got completely disintegrated while the BJP, which saw Congress rule from the opposition benches, has matured and excelled in the art of defection politics. The romance towards the Congress has been lost because the people of Goa are witnessing its abject weakness in standing up to the ruling party, keeping its flock together and even managing to convince the independents and free floating MLAs to back them. Even in print fiction and films, the romantic hero has inherent strength. The Goa Congress clearly does not.

And it is here that Vishwajit Rane comes in handy. The BJP, as Manohar Parrikar’s health deteriorated, got into a mode which has become its template, pure politics, hard numbers and devoid of any sentiment. And above all, utterly ruthless.

Evidence of this was amply showcased during the visit of BJP central observers Ram Lal and BL Santosh in mid September. MGP’s Sudin Dhavlikar, one of Goa’s senior most politicians with a burning desire to become CM after a quarter of a century in politics met them and literally begged to become Chief Minister. He even said that the MGP with 3 MLAs would merge with the BJP taking the strength of the ruling party to 17 and giving it a better bargaining position with its allies. When he realised that his pitch wasn’t cutting much ice, Dhavlikar, like a tragic hero took his shirt off to show the several stitches around his torso, the result of a major surgery he needed. The melodramatic flourish was to intended to move the hardened observers of the BJP into being sympathetic to a long term ally, who was ailing, and for whom, becoming Chief Minister was one of his final desires of his political life. The last flourish, got him no claps, or sympathy. He left the room with bigger bruises to his ego. Later, one learnt that that the hard-nosed observers had a smirk when they recounted the incident to other party men. It was clear that they were in no mood for sentiments or desires of expectant politicians. Unless of course there was a clear return on investment.

And Vishwajit Rane, provided that return on investment. In a party which increasingly favours politicians who can deliver MLAs and MPs, it doesn’t matter if they are home bred or got through mergers and acquisitions. Junior Rane himself was acquired. But unlike many of the veterans in the BJP including core group members like Rajendra Arlekar, Damu Naik or Lakshmikant Parsekar, Vishwajeet Rane has more BJP central leaders on his speed dial, than these veterans ever had in their long political careers in Goa.

The young man from Satarri, is the quintessential new age BJP politician who will score high marks in a Modi- Amit Shah class. Suave, wily, ruthless, emotion less, he travels light with no ideological baggage and sees politics in terms of cold hard electoral achievement. Look at the way he quietly handled his and his new party’s fortunes, when Parrikar fell ill. He stayed away from the limelight, even as the more alpha male political leaders with ambitions stayed in the limelight. His expected and official line was that the Chief Minister is recovering and everyone stands by him. But it was he who knew that for the BJP to have the juice in the tank to last he full term without the government being toppled, the congress had to be broken. This would ensure that the MGP and the Goa Forward too, saw reason to keep supporting the BJP, and not limit its support only to Manohar Parrikar.

Dayanand Sopte has for long being a Vishwajit Rane loyalist. It was Rane who managed to wrest him from the BJP to the Congress. And now he was wrested him from the Congress into the BJP. Even in Goa’s chequered history of defections, this stands out.

So this is what Rane is that others aren’t. He represents a new breed which is a pure deviant of the old. It also, in a sense, marks the party in Goa moving out of Manohar Parrikar’s shadows into the control of the Centre. And Vishwajit Rane has become an important point man in Goa for the central BJP, irrespective of whether he actually becomes the Chief Minister. He will continue to be a power Centre. The frustrations of the old guard are emerging like seldom before.   Francis D Souza, the long time number two in the government first found himself slipping down the pecking order and then his failing health pushed to the fringes of oblivion till he was finally dropped. Ironically, he was in the same hospital where Manohar Parrikar was treated in the USA when Parrikar decided to drop him from the cabinet, from his own hospital bed in AIIMS Delhi. The other minister dropped Pandurang Madkaikar too has been literally incapacitated, due to a reported stroke, apparently induced by the intake of medication directed at enhancing energy levels. D Souza has lamented that the party has no use for him, Parsekar has said he is keeping his options open.

Leaders like like Rajendra Arlekar, Laxmikant Parsekar , Dayanand Mandrekar and Francis D Souza, who were once absolute heavy-weights actually do not figure in the scheme of things. This was evident when Laxmikant Parsekar reacted with shock and disappointment when he learnt from the media, really, that the Congress MLA who defeated him in Mandrem, Dayanand Sopte had joined the BJP.

These leaders have realised that the current party culture has fundamentally changed. The party has moved on, much like in Delhi. The concern here is that, like in many other parts of the country, the BJPs dominance in Goa will be disproportional to its mandate. The concern also is that regional forces which have built their politics and their movement around having an independent command, have to keep backing the BJP, in order to avoid mid-term polls. Manohar Parrikar’s health condition is hazy but there is no indication that he’s on the road to complete recovery. This is a very unfortunate but a hard honest reality. The political ground reality, entering in a post Parrikar (politically speaking when he may have no option but to demit office) era, is that the regional allies will see more sense in backing the BJP than the Congress.

The BJP interestingly is playing an immediate short term game. It is not looking at 2022 when the next Assembly elections are scheduled. It is looking at the 2019 Lok Sabha elections when it needs to win both the Goa seats because every seat will count. And the BJP, unlike the Congress puts a higher premium on controlling states.

While you will still hear words like ‘development’ and ‘jobs’ and infrastructure, the aim is just to keep a government together. And the renegade of the Congress, Vishwajit Rane, is poised to be the raja of this mandate. One isn’t saying that he will be Goa’s next Chief Minister but he is surely on a very very shortlist of those who are equipped to excel in a syllabus which is suited to his brand of politics.

Continue Reading

Fly on the wall




A story of hope, expectations and the belying of them


It’s the autumn of the patriarch. The leaves are in a free fall, many wilting, as the season changes, from the sparkle of yore to onset of a long dark winter. The season outside Manohar Prabhu Parrikar’s suite in the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, is changing. The days are short, the nights are getting longer. And colder.

Across the country, in the extreme South west in the land of Goa, home to Parrikar, the season is changing too. But here it’s the political season. It’s getting bleaker and gloomier and looking into long nights of despondency, staring not only at what will be missed when the colossus of Goan politics, decides to step down, his spirits and will still intact, but his body wilting.

From the time he lost his beloved wife Medha, (who was close to the family and who he met during his days in IIT Mumbai), to a debilitating illness, Manohar has been a mother and a father to Utpal and the younger Abhijat who was only seven when he lost his mother, balancing his heavy political commitments and playing the role of both parents. At times he has had to turn back from trips and rush back home because Abhijat wanted his attention and was crying out for him. If you recall, the post Medha days were his own early days as Chief Minister and very soon and over the years, that feeling there was “none other”, in his family , spread to the party. This is when Parrikar, in his forties, was not just the matriarch and patriarch of his family, but began to assume the role of the party patriarch and gradually hold total sway, not just when he ruled as Chief Minister but even when he was toppled and then was leader of the Opposition.

Whatever one may say of Parrikar in the context of U turns and non delivery, which is coming his way, the Digambar Kamat era from 2007 to 2012 was marked by a period of waiting. 2012 was not just about the return of Parrikar. It was the end of a long wait. And when he won a resounding majority, the emphasis that there was “no other” was and was also sought to be established. Wearing his simplicity on his sleeves, he went to work on day two of his Chief Ministership. He left home without breakfast and strolled into the canteen of the state secretariat, at an hour when some of the staff were sleeping. He, almost in embarrassment, woke one up and asked if the canteen had eggs. The startled staff, egg on their faces, woke up to their new boss. Breakfast was served, as dawn broke into day.

What Parrikar served on his plate that day and became a constant on his menu, was the dish of indispensability. He not only felt but believed that no one knew a subject better, no one had better solutions, no one knew the road map, from now to the immediate future, and the distant future and nobody could do it better. This much many of us knew. Added to this, was his resounding belief that there would be no need for someone to do it better.

Between 2012- to 2017, the honeymoon of belief and expectations saw through a little less than half his term when he moved to Delhi, as India’s Defence Minister, the sagacity of that decision still in doubt, in the context of the slide Goa witnessed. A part of the problem was Mr Parrikar himself because did not just see himself as part of the solution. He saw himself as THE solution. His ride back to power on the altar of anti-incumbency turned on him like a violent tide towards the end of the BJPs ruling term between 2012-17, with a Parrikar- Parsekar government. Somehow solutions were eluding the infallible Parrikar. Somehow, the dirge of unemployment cascaded and offset the advantage of doles in the form of fancy schemes like Griha Aadhar, Ladli Lakshmi and Dayanand Social Security.

The 50,000 jobs and Rs 25,000 crore investment expected through the IPB route was not fulfilled in the earlier term forcing industries minister Mahadev Naik to admit that it wasn’t a target which would be achievable  in the first term and that the BJP government in the next term would do it. (He had assumed that his party would win. It didn’t but still managed to form an unliklely coalition government with Goa Forward and the MGP). This hasn’t happened in a year and half of this term of the Parrikar government.

While there have been some big ticket policy decisions like the IT and the start up policy, the devil is not in the details but in the implementations. The solar policy framework has been tabled. And while these are the showcase items which the government will go to town with, there is a perception of inertia which needs to be shed, coupled with the feeling that big ticket decisions which go against the basic grain of people’s thinking, are linked to the ultimate benefit of a big ticket conglomerate close to ruling party interests. And importantly, Mr Parrikar, who has cultivated and actualized the principle of “there is no other” has had to be the recipient of public angst , as a fallout of such perception.

The pollution control boards massive U turn in allowing the MPT to operate its coal berths to transport the coal of the Adanis and the Jindals, the mishandling of the mining crisis where the focus on recovery of dues accrued through illegal mining is less of a priority than moving the centre to restart the discredited mining leases. This through amending the Abolition of concessions and conversions to leases Act of 1987, to allow the mining leases which have lapsed t o come back to life and function for 50 years from 1987 i.e  2037 ( read

From people fighting against coal pollution, to the mine owners and many affected by mining closure, to  the political powerful taxi lobby which do not want app taxis or regulated meters, to the hapless and restless tourism stakeholders frustrated at the apathy of not having an organised taxi service,  all have grouses ( justified or otherwise), each of these lobbies and their opponents in this cause have felt slighted one way or the other and the blame for each cause from each stakeholder, for and against, has landed on Parrikar’s door.

In the twilight, when the leaves fall in the autumn of patriarch Parrikar, he will perhaps see, the nothing has really grown under his banyan tree. The BJP is struggling to emerge from its shadows and see the light of a new leader. It is unable to come to terms with giving leadership to a state where the cabinet is really among equals and not about  collective nodding to the all knowing supreme leader. Because when the all knowing supreme leader decides to, or is forced to by the vagaries of health and nature, to relinquish, there is no replacement. Some shoes just do not fit. And in this case, it’s just as well. But, with so little or planning about a second line of leadership- where the emphasis is on a line of leaders- what is underlined here is that there is hardly any BJP without Parrikar. And this is a sad castigation and not at all a jewel in either Parrikar’s or BJP’s crown.

The BJP waits. And so do the allies. The desperation, even to get external leaders to merge is a reflection of the emptiness within

At a get together this week (third week of September 2018) in Fatorda where political friends and other consumers and participants in Goan politics met, the significance of Manohar Parrikar’s contribution to Goa was discussed with diverse views and with only once constant- the significance and influence of his footprint cannot be ignored. One argued that he was the best but could not deliver to his potential, also stayed as a thought well worth considering.

But what will continue to linger is that the as he leaves behind a political desert when he could have created a permanent meadow, is that he is lonely. And when you think of powerful leaders, generals or even dictators (as he was sometimes referred to by opponents), there is a very fine tribute essay to novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez by author and writer S Prasannarajan  that one recalls. Referring to the interplay between reality, realism, fiction and faction, in the novels of Marquez, Prasannarajan  refers to The General in His Labyrinth, one of  Marquez’s major post-Nobel Prize novels.

In his essay “El Realismo, Gabo, Forever”  (Marquez was fondly known as Gabo), Prasannarajan writes “The novel on the last lonely days of Simón Bolívar could have easily been called ‘The Autumn of the Liberator’. Bolívar the liberator is less than his historical size: humanised and shrunken, a pastiche of the magic that was: ‘a master of the arts of war, no one surpassed him in inspiration.’ Now, ‘I’m old, sick, tired, disillusioned, harassed, slandered, and unappreciated.’ The Liberator cries out in hopelessness as his idea of unity disintegrates at the same speed his body does”.

The tragedy of Goa is that it still waits. For a liberator. For a replacement. For another Parrikar, that Parrikar who will match up to the expectations of 2012, because that is when his return was most desired and longed for, and not necessarily for this man, who needed better circumstances and time to fulfill what, he truly was capable of.

But in his loneliness, lies Goa’s helplessness. It waits, like the two characters, who are tramps, Estragon and Vladamir in Samuel Becket’s Waiting for Godot. It is a play about waiting: two men waiting for a third, who never appears. ‘And if he comes?’ one of Beckett’s tramps asks the other near the end of the play. ‘We’ll be saved’. And till he comes, one can’t move on as this section in the play reveals

Estragon: Let’s go

Vladimir: We can’t

Estragon: Why Not

Vladimir: We are waiting for Godot

Goa waits for its Godot. Perhaps it has always waited. And perhaps this is an opportunity to find one. But as we get a ringside view of the wait and the frustration, the enormity of the tragedy that has enveloped Goa sinks in.

On the Ring Road, in front of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, as dusk will fall each evening, a precursor to a long long night, the most prominent Goan in that hospital, will keep thinking that if fate and opportunity gives him another chance, he might take one last shot at reversing, Goa’s rapid plunge into the heart of darkness. Alas.

Continue Reading


Get all stories delivered to your Inbox