Goa Liberation Day--Demographic churnings: Outsiders pour in as Goans leave

Many are aggrieved at the loss of Goan identity, language and culture as one-third of the population now comprise Indians from other states and Goan Catholic population is said to have dwindled to 23%

Goa Liberation Day--Demographic churnings: Outsiders pour in as Goans leave

Aditya Anand

Goa’s demography is changing with a large number of Goan youth migrating overseas for employment and making a beeline for Portuguese passport while Indians from other states are flocking to the small coastal state, their preferred choice of home.

Every year around December 19, writes Goan lawyer and political analyst Cleofato Almeida Coutinho in local English newspaper, O Herald, public discourse centres around the central government turning down the ‘demand’ of special status for Goa. The liberation of Goa was in fact annexation by the Indian government, say many who are aggrieved at the loss of Goan identity, language and culture.

The tiny state is marketed by the tourism industry as an upper caste Catholic state symbolized by Portuguese architecture, food, dress and ‘Susegado’ life style. “The ‘Goa Dourada’ of the 16th century is the imagery created and fostered over the years. After 60 years of integration into the Indian Union that imagery is now under attack,” Coutinho argues.

With large scale migration of the Catholic community to other parts of the world, especially England in search of employment,there has been large scale ‘lower community migration into Goa’,he claims, adding that this has led to almost 1/3rd of Goa’s population today being from other parts of India and Catholic population falling to around 23%, creating demographic problems for the traditional ‘Goa Dourada’.

When the Portuguese left in 1961, Goa had little or no industry. It had no higher education institutions except for a medical college and a pharmacy college. Except for Portuguese government jobs and a few iron ore mines, there was no employment opportunity. Only three major towns had electricity and just 30 per cent of the population was educated.

Today, Goa is the state with the highest per capita Net State Domestic Product (NSDP) in the country; two-and-a-half times the national average. Goa's GSDP at current prices has increased at a compound annual growth rate of 10.65 per cent from 2011-12 to 2017-18. It also has the highest number of vehicles per capita in the country and there is almost universal literacy among the younger populace.

Goa Liberation Day--Demographic churnings: Outsiders pour in as Goans leave

In another article this month, Alexandre Moniz Barboza, journalist and editor of O Herald, writes, “In December 1961, the territory was largely underdeveloped. Only roads connecting major towns had a coat of tarmac. The main industries were mining and cashew nut processing. Schools existed, higher education was limited to medicine, pharmacy, teacher training and some technical courses. That had to change and it did.”

But long-term planning was markedly absent, he laments, and points to crisscrossing of bridges over the River Zuari, or three bridges all within kiss-blowing distance of each other over the River Mandovi.

Writer and educationist Dr. Maria Aurora Couto observes, “In Goa we have had had problems of discovering and establishing an identity…the various strands and complexities can only be understood by a sense of experience and emotion rooted in one’s own family experience and in the experience of other families that have lived through the times recaptured in individual and family memories,” she says.

Goa at 60 continues to be a complex mix of languages, cultures and identity, a seamless blend of the East and the West, steeped in the past and thriving in the present. Would it rather have retained its Portuguese identity? Perhaps not; because Goans have the best of both worlds.

(This article was first published in National Herald on Sunday.)

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