Elections are unpredictable. The search for order in a seemingly chaotic political scenario in Goa is perfectly understandable. Goa is at crossroads. A lot has changed and a lot more needs to change.
In the forthcoming assembly elections, 11,56,464 people in Goa - 5,39,420 in North Goa and 6,17,044 in South Goa - are eligible to vote. (In 2017, voter turnout in Goa hit a record high of 81.4%.) Of these, 14,500 will be eligible to vote for the first time this year. What is it they want? Retaining the unique Goan identity, free and fair job opportunities, higher education, protecting the environment, and safety of women come up in discussions.
Duty and responsibility
It is every Indian citizen’s right, as well as duty, to vote. While in the past, many may have faltered, in these elections, the younger generation in Goa is taking this responsibility seriously and are keen to vote.
Shruti Salunke, 19, a first-year MBBS student from the Fatorda Vidhan Sabha Constituency, is all set to vote. “As a kid, I loved the concept of democracy and was waiting to turn 18 and exercise my right to vote. But over the years, after seeing all that goes around in the name of elections, I have lost faith. Even during this pandemic, rallies are being held... Having said that, I will still exercise my right to vote.”
From Quepem constituency, 19-year-old Mckayla da Costa, a geology and veterinary student, says: “Voting gives people the freedom to express their opinions and make collective decisions towards the change they deem right, irrespective of their status or background.”
First-time voters, irrespective of their age, are determined to exercise their right to vote. Ashish Deshpande, a 43-year-old professional from Maharashtra who has been residing in Margao, Goa, for a while, is all set to vote for the first time. “It is our moral responsibility to vote sensibly if we want to make a difference on the ground level,” he says.
Deshpande says he was in the US for 10 years, and this is first election since he got a voter card for Goa.
Secularism and more
Goa is known for its communal harmony; all religions co-exist peacefully. And this matters to the people of Goa.
John, a medical student from South Goa, voting for the first time, says, “I will vote for the most secular candidate there is. Honestly, I feel the quantity of tourists to Goa can be attributed to how peaceful it is, with all communities living in harmony. Anything that disrupts that will not only affect the social atmosphere but revenue too, as we’re dependent upon tourism.”
Mckayla has a different focus altogether. “Goa can be more than just a tourist hotspot,” she says. Poverty alleviation, employment, education, cleanliness and women’s safety, for her, are more important.
Making the right choice
If secularism and communal harmony are important considerations for many, others seek a sincere candidate who will work for the well-being of the people.
Deshpande says, “I will vote for a progressive, forward-thinking candidate who can envision and dedicatedly work towards the betterment of the society.”
For Sabrin Shaikh, a BA student, the qualifications of the candidate don’t matter. “I've found that even though education may guarantee intellect, it does not guarantee logic and wisdom. So, I wouldn't give these a lot of weightage, as one can have educational qualifications, but will still exploit the vulnerabilities of people.”
Mckayla agrees. “Leadership, decision-making and having good communication skills outweigh formal education," she says. "Basic knowledge of economics, sociology and history and a strong hold on language, should be bare necessities though,” she adds.
There is no place for hollow promises in the election manifesto, as far as the youth are concerned. Shruti Salunke, the medical student, concurs, “One must only vote for a person who is genuinely willing to work for the betterment of the society, because that is the need of the hour. We all are really tired of the fake promises and careless attitude of the politicians towards people.”
Conservation of the environment is a top priority for many. John believes that, with global warming, it’s high-time that development at the cost of destroying the environment is given a second thought. “After all, according to Emerson, we do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children. I think we need a better plan that guarantees both development and not encroaching upon our forests. It is our duty and that of our elected representatives to protect the environment and not destroy it for monetary gain.”
According to Deshpande, “Infrastructure development and environment preservation, should work in close synchronization. You can’t choose one at the expense of the other. While infrastructure is important for the growth and betterment of the society, environment is, for the sustenance of the future generations.”
Mckayla adds, “It would be nice if politicians follow up on this promise of building a Goa for future generations, instead of making rash decisions by simply seeing things in a five-year perspective. Asking the people for their opinions and consulting professionals for the bigger picture would be more meaningful in the long run.”
Winds of change
No one can forecast the result of the elections, but a safe, clean and green haven, with its own unique identity, is what every Goan wishes for.
Deshpande says, “I would like the Goa government to focus on building world-class industry, entrepreneurship and infrastructure for a better tomorrow.”
Salunke dreams of a safe Goa for women. “The recent rise in rape cases in Goa bothers me. Being a girl, I feel unsafe while stepping out. So, I would want Goa to become safe for women during the day and night.”
Sabrin is realistic. “I don't expect rapid results. Things need not happen overnight, but if they gradually do change, then we won't feel the need to gather and protest to ensure our rights.”
The youth live in hope and yet, want to be the change they want to see. “We cannot do away with the negatives existing in the state. As long as my government has the intentions and is working towards a better state, it is enough for me,” sums up Mckayla.