Government announced recently the provision of Rs. 400/- per month per student of primary schools which impart education through Konkani or Marathi as an incentive to them. Indeed, in Goa, the language of study at the primary level should be either Konkani or Marathi. Konkani is the mother tongue of the people of Goa. Marathi is and has always been the literary language of a large segment of our population. There is no justification for English as a medium of instruction at the primary level. It should be the second language from the third standard onwards. The Diocesan Society of Education should ensure that its primary schools teach through Konkani and Marathi and stop teaching through the English medium. Konkani should be taught in the Devnagri script as it will provide access to Marathi and to Hindi which is the national language. Children will learn the romi script when they learn English.
The importance of national languages and the assertion of national cultural identity is growing everywhere in the world. In emerging India, it will be necessary to be fluent in at least two Indian languages, the local language and Hindi for success. English is at present the main international language. In this globalised world, the importance of English is inescapable and English may be taught as a subject from the third standard. Parents have the right to decide on the medium of instruction for their children. However, under Art. 21 A of the Constitution it is for the State to determine the medium of instruction in the schools to which it will provide grants for free education.
In the next generation those who are not fully conversant with national languages are likely to be deprived of jobs and other spheres of activity. Emigration will also become difficult. All countries including those in the West and the Gulf countries have enhanced their immigration controls and increasingly provide jobs only to their own nationals.
It is incorrect to say that studying at the primary level in the local language impairs academic performance. During the colonial rule some children would study in Marathi primary schools and then enrol themselves in the Portuguese Lyceum. They performed as well, and sometimes better, than their counterparts who did their primary education through the Portuguese medium. Some of them went on to become ministers in the Portuguese Government, senior advocates and judges at the Supreme Court of Lisbon and distinguished themselves as University professors and in other fields of activity in Portugal and elsewhere in the world.
Every child should get quality education. It is essential that schools should be equipped with qualified teachers. It is of fundamental importance to have quality training programmes for Konkani and Marathi teachers. There are some such training programmes at present but they need to be much more comprehensive and effective.
Government should schedule programmes to sensitize parents as to the need for their children to learn in the mother tongue. The State Government and the schools may collaborate with the West Zone Cultural Centre under the Union Ministry of Culture to conduct programmes for children so that they appreciate their national heritage and culture. There are also private organizations such as SPIC MACAY and INTACH that conduct similar programmes for children.
Government declared last month that it will grant a one time financial assistance on humanitarian grounds to those persons who were directly or indirectly involved in the freedom struggle of Goa but could not be declared as freedom fighters for failing to meet the eligibility conditions as provided under the Freedom Fighters Welfare Rules. It is necessary that the specific criteria to identify the recipients of this proposed financial assistance are made public.
It is very important to preserve the memory and teachings of the leaders of our Freedom Movement. In 2011, I arranged for a portrait of Dr. T. B. da Cunha, known as the Father of our Freedom Struggle, and at my instance it was unveiled in the Central Hall of Parliament on December 19, the 50th Anniversary of Goa Liberation by the Speaker of the Lok Sabha, in the presence of the Prime Minister, Union Ministers, Leaders of Opposition in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, Congress President and the three Goan MPs. The portrait is now on permanent display at the Parliament House along with those of the foremost national leaders Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Nehru, Sardar Patel and others. Thereafter, I requested the then Speaker of the Goa Legislative Assembly that the portraits of Dr. T. B. da Cunha as well as of the other leaders of the Goa Freedom Movement be displayed in our Legislative Assembly. He wrote to me that it would be done but this has not happened so far. It should be done now.
Selected writings of Dr. T. B. da Cunha were published in 1961 under the caption “Goa’s Freedom Struggle”. The book is presently out of print. It should be reprinted and included in the curriculum of schools and colleges so that it provides a much needed sense of direction to our society.
There is concern expressed in Goa about the large scale influx of migrants into our State. Goa needs migrant labour. However, uncontrolled migration into the State can upset its demographic composition and lead to social and economic problems. There are several laws to control migration into the State but these laws are not being implemented effectively and remain largely on paper. The Interstate Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act of 1979, The Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition) Act of 1970 and the Goa Daman and Diu Inter State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Rules 1982 are some such laws. The 1979 Act provides for registration of all contractors who employed five or more interstate migrants on any day of the preceding twelve months. The contractors must furnish details of the workmen, issue a pass book with passport size photograph to every workman indicating where he is working and other details. The State Government is required to appoint inspectors to oversee implementation of the Act. The law directs builders and labour contractors to provide residential accommodation, sanitation and other facilities to the workers engaged by them. Yet, these provisions are ignored and much of the migrant labour lives in slums under the most unhygienic conditions which pose major health hazards to the migrants as well as to the local people. The machinery for implementation of the Labour legislation needs to be strengthened urgently and it should not fall prey to inducements from big employers and contractors.
All migrant workers should be registered compulsorily in the Panchayats and Municipalities. Aadhar cards as well as Public Distribution System (PDS) cards should be issued to them to avoid having to buy foodgrains and kerosene at high prices. The State Government should hold a yearly audit of all contractors who employ migrant workers and submit a report to the State Legislature for its scrutiny. It should also open an Internet portal indicating the contractors and migrant workers in Goa for public information and verification.
(The writer is a former Union Minister)