Protecting our shared inheritance

The elections are over. After much thinking, many complex issues have been condensed into a single vote. Mining is one such issue which few people are impacted by or care to understand. Everyone knows deep inside that something is wrong, but what is it and how do we solve it?

This election, the Goenchi Mati Movement proposed a comprehensive manifesto. The goal of the manifesto was to put forth a workable solution to mining, one that could be accepted by all stakeholders. Happily, we have support from a broad spectrum of people, including from leaders of the mining affected, the mining dependent and even a miner.

The larger idea was to simplify the decision making for the voter. The amounts lost due to illegal mining and the lease renewals is nearly 15 times the annual government budget, making it the single most important issue facing Goa. Within mining, the choice of who to select was also simplified to a yes / no decision. Either a party accepts the Goenchi Mati manifesto in totality or not. Happily again, we received strong support from political parties as well as individual candidates.

We cannot safeguard our inheritance by voting once in five years, just as we can’t safeguard our family gold by checking our safe once in 5 years. We need to build robust control mechanisms and then monitor things constantly. If we take our eyes of the ball, the thieves will make merry. The amounts at stake are enough to corrupt those who need to be bought. And corruption is an art – here a car park, there some building materials, an approval for Ladli Laxmi and soon everyone has taken a favour from those who are robbing from our children.

So what should we do? The first thing is to ensure that everyone knows about the extent of the mining loot, and the proposal by Goenchi Mati. The Rs. 10 lakhs loss per person should wake up every warm body. While the manifesto itself is available in seven languages / scripts, and in three audio versions as well, dissemination in the age of the sound bite is still slow. With the voting behind us, it would be a good time for individuals to take the Goenchi Mati manifesto around and explain the loss and proposal to everyone. After all, if we are all custodians of our shared inheritance, shouldn’t we all know how we are shirking our moral duty and letting our children be robbed?

Multiple avenues are available. It may be discussions with the youth, or in gram sabhas. It could be through khell, zatra or tiatr. Funny videos on whatsapp. Songs like Goenchi Doulat by Francis de Tuem. Only our creativity limits our reach.

A related activity is ensuring all 251 election candidates have read and understood and have made their perspective explicit. This is a simple matter of 5 people from each constituency taking the trouble to visit all the election candidates, explain the manifesto, and record the reactions.

 The Goenchi Mati Manifesto is still a road map. Much detailing is required. Expertise of many kinds is needed. We also need to continuously incorporate inputs from citizens so that we achieve a plan that is fair, practical and politically workable.

One immediate starting point is the District Mineral Foundations (DMFs), set up for the mining affected. Already Rs. 75 crores is available to the DMFs but not a single paisa has been spent. Indeed, not even a single project seems to be proposed. The Goenchi Mati manifesto proposes participatory budgeting for the DMFs.

“Participatory budgeting (PB) is a process of democratic deliberation and decision-making, and a type of participatory democracy, in which ordinary people decide how to allocate part of a municipal or public budget. Participatory budgeting allows citizens to identify, discuss, and prioritize public spending projects, and gives them the power to make real decisions about how money is spent.

PB processes are typically designed to involve those left out of traditional methods of public engagement, such as low-income residents, non-citizens, and youth. A comprehensive case study of eight municipalities in Brazil analyzing the successes and failures of participatory budgeting has suggested that it often results in more equitable public spending, greater government transparency and accountability, increased levels of public participation (especially by marginalized or poorer residents), and democratic and citizenship learning.” – Wikipedia.

A team of volunteers have started developing processes and templates for Goa to implement participatory budgeting for DMFs. If this is successful, surely participatory budgeting can be extended to panchayats and municipalities.

Another area of activity is to further develop different aspects of mining going forward. What is required to form and effectively manage a state mining corporation? What expertise is required to achieve zero loss and zero waste mining? What is needed to make the Permanent Fund achieve intergenerational equity? What changes would be needed if the NPS manages our permanent fund? How will the Citizen’s Dividend be distributed? How will the beneficiaries be identified? What controls are necessary? How do we implement radical transparency? How do we reward and protect whistleblowers? And what policies, legislation, rules and regulations are required for each of these aspects?

We call upon the people of Goa to join the Goenchi Mati Movement in order to safeguard our shared inheritance. The last decade has made it clear that we cannot rely on politicians to safeguard our childrens’ interests. We must recognize the power of the people and deliberately exercise it. Not just once in five years. All the time. It is hard work, and the distractions are many. The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.

By 

Rahul Basu 

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