Saturday, July 31, 2010

It is not enough to be anti-mining

Nature Environment Society and Transformations (NEST) organized its third lecture in the series of Bikram Dasgupta memorial public lecture series on July 29, 2010 at Bal Bharati high School, Ribandar, Goa. The lecture “Goa: from trading port to tourism destination” was delivered by Raghuraman Trichur, Associate Professor & Department Chair in Anthropology at California State University, Sacramento, USA. Here are some notes from his lively lecture.
Discussion is important for knowledge production. Divides between various social sciences are artificial meant only to protect fiefdoms. Classical political economy is an area where all the subjects are rolled in one. It opens up intentions into actions and opens up various ways of opening up.
In Goa there is no connectivity in what historians say. There is no connectivity established to connect past with the present. Now how to see the connection between past and present? Goa history is a collection of evidences in the form of archival documents. It is like a Bollywood movie that has great characters but no story line to it. We all are living in capitalist society that is held together by conflicts. These conflicts unfold in various manners such as tourism, communalism, mining, racism etc.
Why tourism is so prevalent activity in Goa? Why Goa is dominated by tourism and mining? That is because certain forces are prevalent in Goa. They are called merchant capitalism that involves buying at cheaper rate from someone and selling the same at higher rate to someone else earning surplus in this trade. There are other two varieties of capitalism that is not dominant in Goa namely Industrial capitalism and Finance capitalism. Merchant capitalism in Goa developed in historical way. It is a part of colonialism. Portuguese wanted control of the port to source material from Asia to Europe directly. Earlier trade from Asia used to reach Europe via innumerable intermediary traders. The so called discovery of sea route to India by Portuguese sailor done away with need for intermediary traders. Merchant capitalism has its origin here. With direct trade from Asia to Europe (and also from Latin America to Europe with so called discovery by Columbus) merchants were becoming stronger that caused decline in influence of Feudal and Royal families. However merchants were culturally marginalized, example Jews.
Conversion to Christianity in Goa has not always been with the use of force. Lots of people also converted willingly to escape tyranny of prevalent caste system during Portuguese rule.
Portuguese carried on their colonial administration in Goa through auctioning of revenue collection system. Brahmins in Goa has a characteristic that is different to Brahmins in the rest of India. They are both landowning as well as businessmen. In fact they are merchants first before getting involved in mining. In the 19th century Portuguese Colonial power declined but local elites in the colonies became stronger in local economies. Portuguese had to depend upon local merchants to keep its colonial enterprise afloat.
Post colonial period economy and politics was dominated by elites. This was done through continues engagements in reproduction of dominance and eliminate everyone else. One example to this is in 1990s downfall of Du Pont project in Keri, Ponda was influenced by mining lobby that is dominated by merchant capital. If Nylon 6,6 had to come to Goa then power and influence of dominant elite would have eroded.
1960s witnessed rise of tourism in Goa. This is a historical response of marginalized population of Goa with eye for survival. Five star tourism institutions want to get rid of peasant households on coast. Peasant households erode five star type of tourism through their participation a control in the tourism trade on Goa Coast.
In Goa’s mining industry no processing neither value addition taking place. Merchant Capital and it is very exploitative in mining in hinterland and through environmental costs in tourism. Both do transfer of money and not products.
Tourism did not challenge the dominance of elites. Goa has a particular type of development – short circuit!
It is not enough to be anti-mining or anti-something alone. It is a distraction towards strategy to create power of the excluded people. There is a need to strategize to erode the influence of mercantile capital. In this process it is important to go back to the study of classical material and re-read. You may find gems for your strategy. We don’t have to be destructive but creative and consistent to be successful in the struggle.
Elites in the Merchant capital do many things to deep themselves in dominant position. Writing history is one of them. It is an act of power. Philanthropy is another thing that elites resort to keep themselves in power. There is a need to expose the nexus of dominance of merchant capital in Goa. Mahasweta Devi once asked “Why would soldier wield the sword? Obviously a sword is to eliminate the bad guy!” Pen is more powerful than sword. It is used to write, to convey, and to inform. We have the evidence but not able to connect and interconnect.
During Portuguese rule Ganvkaris were brought under the influence of few families. Rights were changed to ownership rights. Process of state formation is selective process involving only those were are politically engaged.
Tourism in Goa has been important process of confidence building for large number of people in Goa. There is a need to recognize history making ability of people. Historian of Goa has written partial history. We need to politicize what we learn.
There is need to capacity to understand diverse types of capitalism in the world simultaneously. In Goa there is primitive accumulation of capital through real estate as well as mining.
There is a need for creating new forms of resistance like environment movement. There must also be coordination between politics of mining protests groups with tourism protest groups. There is also the need protect state services like Health, Education etc. In 1980s 70% of the price was controlled by the State. Private sector had control over only 30% of the global price determination process. Now the private sector seeks to influence remaining 70% of the economy too. This will drastically push large number of people into marginalized position.
Why we need public-private partnership in Hospitals? Why can’t we just improve public hospitals? In fact public hospitals in Goa like GMC are better and affordable. The aim of private elements is just to exploit.
There is need in Goa to form a small voluntary study group dedicated towards study of classical literature such as 3 volumes of 'Capital'.
Raghuraman Trichur has authored an article titled “Politics of Goan Historiography” wherein his arguments are further elucidated. He also has worked on Goa for his doctoral studies in late 1990s.

Sebastian Rodrigues

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