Monday, March 1, 2010

Goodness interred with (tiger) bones

The efforts to save Goa must
supplement with viable economic
alternatives in the mining
belt, says Dr OSCAR REBELLO

Rajendra Kerkar is simply a phenomenon of simplicity. Meet
him once and he stays with you forever. Firm in his
convictions; High on ideals; and passionate about the
environment this is Mr Courage himself.

I had the opportunity of interacting with him in Oman at the
Global Goan Convention. His electric talk on Goa's Mhadei
basin and the eco hot spots he so relentlessly strives to
preserve enthralled the entire audience and had us spell bound.

"Goa, at its very inception, had no Ram, Allah,
Christ as her Gods -- those came much later, he
says. Peruse her age old folk songs, her folklore
and you'll learn that all these songs rise in
prayer,in honour of Mother earth and her bounty.
Goa's true religion is her environment," he claimed.

"To the extent," he asserted in a lighter vein,tongue firmly
in cheek "even in present times our three recent Chief
Ministers Parrikar, Rane and Kamat have revolved around,
worshipped and deified a natural fruit -- Monseratte -- a
mango." Touche.

Generations of Goans will have to be eternally grateful to
guys like Rajendra, Ramesh Gauns, Claude, Seby, Nandkumar
Kamat and a host of other unsung heroes, who are struggling
to protect our rivers, our forests and our wild life.

And then, the dirty cowards try to shoot the messenger. The
conservator of forests, Mr Shashi Kumar tries to put Kerkar
in the dock, accusing him to be an abettor in the tiger
poaching case, only because he spilled the beans on the

Who was Rajendra Kerkar's secret source, then? Who was deep
throat? Who was the leaking sieve?

Let's give Mr Shashi Kumar the answer -- "We,the
people of Goa, were his sources." He did it for all
of us and the unborn kids of this land. Does that
suit you? Now, go ahead you know your answer. Come,
get all of us.

On the other side of this divide are our mining lobby, of
course, smacking their lips and lazily yawning, eyes alert,
waiting for the next kill in case Kerkar falls.

Blessed by the Patron Saint of Mines, from Margao, illegal
miners will have a field day ravaging the earth,
disemboweling it mercilessly in our deep jungles if not for
the valiant efforts of Kerkar, Claude & Co.

The commonest argument you get, from the pro-mining lobby
when you bump into them at cocktail parties, is that all
environmentalists are a bunch of frauds only engaging in
extortion of a perfectly legal business which is providing
employment to thousands and increasing taxes for the state.

Green is mean -- they say. So to play Devil's Advocate, let
us buy our beatific mining lobby / government's argument that
Greens are impediments to the state's giant economic march or
whatever. Let us assume all greens are evil.

How does all that change the visible and monumental carnage
happening on Goa's eastern belt? It is a fact that mining
takes place in reserved forests. It is a fact that people in
mine affected areas suffer from severe respiratory ailments.

It is a fact that rivers Kushavati, Valvanti are
choked with silt and refuse to breathe. It is a
fact that traditional farming is obliterated as a
profession in these areas. It is a fact that mines
may pay off for private profits but it is a heavy
price that the public has to endure.

These are facts that are indisputable and we need solutions.
The solutions to these problems must come from the mining
lobby itself who are fortunate to have made obscene profits
at Goa's cost. True, many have donated handsomely to charity
and to social causes: to temples and educational outfits but
those times have changed.

With Gen Next looking to head family-run mining businesses,
we need this generation to focus on the environment. All
corporate social responsibility efforts must be targeted to
cleaning the crap your businesses are leaving behind.

Forget the Gods and the art galleries for now, we need a
Herculean, titanic struggle to clean our rivers, reforest
denuded areas; invest in farming/horticulture and replenish
the earth. These efforts must be visible, palpable and
sustainable and illegal miners must be sent packing pronto
and with God speed. We will need to look for viable economic
alternatives in the mining ravaged belt.

So, the story of Kerkar then, must be told,
repeated, and reaffirmed ad nauseum, in schools and
colleges; at festivals and cocktail parties. The
story of one man's sterling courage and
conviction,who put his all on the line, for us
Goans and asked nothing in return.

Circulated on Goanet on 28 February 2010

No comments: