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Goans undoing Portuguese injustice

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By Satish Singh

After 450-year-long colonial rule of Portuguese, the Goa got independence on 18th December 1961, but for this, Goans struggled up to long time. When India became independent in 1947, Goa remained under Portuguese control. The then Prime Minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru insisted Portuguese ruler of Goa to became part of India, but they didn’t accept his offer.  

The Goa’s liberation was started by Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia on 18th June 1946. Dr Juliao Menezes who was originally inhabitant of Goa also fought along with Dr. Lohia in this movement. They together started civil disobedience movement against Salazar’s dictatorial regime in Goa. Thereafter too, Dr. Lohia and Dr Menezes led many movements against Portuguese. In the Goa liberation movement, the role of Dr. Ram Manohar Lohia was remarkable. In this year, Goans are going to celebrate 75th anniversary of Goa Liberation Movement.    

Dr. Juliao Menezes attended Berlin University in the 1920s and graduated in medicine. Dr. Menezes met Dr.Lohia at the same university. In India, Dr. Lohia went to Dr. Menezes,s house in Assolna at Goa on 10th June 1946. At Assolna, they discussed the situation prevailing in Goa during that period and decided to protest the ban on public meetings imposed by the Portuguese Government. This was the first civil disobedience movement against the then 435-year-old Portuguese rule. The Goa liberation movement was started to end Portuguese colonial rule in Goa. The movement was started with small revolts during the 19th century, which became powerful during the period of 1940 to 1961.

If we analyse the defeat of Portuguese in Goa, we find many causes were responsible for their failure. Portuguese commerce across western Portugal lost its empire due to the change in the world order due to world war second. Changed scenario made colonialism no longer acceptable across the world. The world war made clear that power has been shifted from Europe to America. Besides, the Portuguese administration in Goa was very corrupt. The salaries of the officers were very low, and they did not feel any hesitation to accept bribes from anyone. The bulk of the Portuguese officers were selfish. All the top generals of Portuguese were died, and lower rank officers were not capable to continue Portuguese rule up to long time. 

In 1492, Goa became a part of Adil Shah’s Bijapur Sultanate, which established Goa Velha Old Goa as its second capital. The former Secretariat building in Panaji is a former Adil Shahi palace. It functioned for the Portuguese as the official residence of their Viceroys. The Portuguese in the leadership of Afonso de Albuquerque, the second viceroy invaded Goa in 1510 for defeating the Bijapur Sultanate and succeeded in his attempt by the help of the Hindu Vijayanagar empire. After this victory, Portuguese established a permanent settlement in Velha Goa. 

Goa had become important in all respects for Portuguese. Goa was the base for Albuquerque’s conquest of Malacca in 1511 and Hormuz in 1515. Even, Albuquerque started a Portuguese mint in Goa.  Albuquerque wanted to make it a colony and a naval base. Goa was also made capital of the Portuguese Kingdom in Asia. 

Portuguese control over the sea of South Asia enabled them to control the lucrative spice trade during the 16th century. At that time, agriculture was main source of income of two third population of Goa. Spices were mainly cultivated in Goa. Apart from this, Mango, Cashew, Coconut, Banana, Pineapple, Jackfruit, Paddy, Ragi, Sugarcane, Groundnut, Brinjal gourd, Long beans etc were cultivated in Goa.

At the market of Goa, goods from all parts of the East countries were available. Separate streets were designated for the sale of different classes of goods. Bahrain’s pearls, China’s porcelain and silk, Portugal’s velvet, and drugs etc were available in Goa’s market. Fine peppers came from the nearby Malabar coast. Goa was then called Goa Dourada or Golden Goa. Especially the Portuguese took benefits by sending spices from Africa to Lisbon.

Portugal had a service-based mixed economy in which the government had privatized many state-controlled firms and liberalized areas of the economy. However, their economy was running by the help of revenue & trade benefits which were particularly coming from Goa. The main goal of Portuguese empire was trade, not colonisation or conquest. ​Portuguese ship was bringing into the European market gold, ivory, copper, and slaves at the beginning of the 16th century. By the help of trade & colonial empire, Portugal created the largest commercial and maritime empire which extended from South America to the Far East, and along the coastlines of Africa and India.

During the rule, the Portuguese made no capital investment in Goa. They made no attempt to industrialise the Goa. They encouraged reckless exploitation of the mineral wealth of this small area. They granted as many as 375 mining leases for the extraction of iron and manganese ores. Portugal was the world’s richest country when its colonial empire in Asia, Africa, and South America was continued, but they didn’t use the revenue & profits logically. Even, available wealth was not used to develop industrial & other infrastructure. As a result, Portugal gradually became one of western Europe’s poorest countries in the 20th centuries.

After independence, Goans started to do more efforts for improving the economic condition of the state. Due to the efforts of the state government and Goans, economic activities are consistently increasing. As per available data, Goa’s economy is now in good condition, but during Portuguese’s rule it was not as good as today. Today too, the backbone of the economy is agriculture. This is still main source of livelihood of two-thirds of the population of Goa. The Northern Goa borders Maharashtra State while Southern area is bordered by Karnataka State. Goa has good treasure of biodiversity, spices and other agriculture produce. Besides, Goa has a strong presence in mining, tourism, and pharmaceuticals sectors. Mining of iron ore and manganese, pharmaceuticals, iron, and steel industries are present in North Goa while mining and shipbuilding industries are present in South Goa.

According to the Economic Survey, the gross state domestic Product (GSDP) of Goa showed a 12.14 percent growth during 2017-18 when compared to the previous fiscal. Even, the state government during the budget 2019-20 estimated the state GDP at Rs. 84,888.9 crore. The GSPD estimates at current prices for the year 2020-21 (advanced) is estimated at Rs.92,260.53 crore. Goa’s per capita income (advanced) at current prices is Rs.5.92 lakh which is highest in the country.

The growth rate of GSPD is expected to be at 8.6 percent for the year 2020-21. Goa’s economic growth is driven by the splendid performance of industrial sectors such as mining, tourism, and pharmaceuticals. In the sector of power generation too, Goa is steadily becoming self-reliant. For example, as of November 2020, Goa had a total installed power generation capacity of 584.83 Megawatt (MW).

There is no doubt that the economic condition of Goa was not good at the time of Portuguese. The Portuguese exploited the natural and human resources of Goa for their own benefit. Though, today, with the help of mining, tourism, pharmaceutical industry, etc., the economic condition of Goa is constantly improving.

(Author is Chief Manager at State Bank of India, Mumbai and editor of “Aarthik Darpan” an in-house journal of SBI.  Singh is also a freelance writer.  The views expressed are personal opinion of the author. He can be reached at satish5249@gmail.com and singhsatish@sbi.co.in.)

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