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The slow death of a Paradise

Travelling has always been helpful for me to grow up as an individual. Travelling by buses or by trains gives that extra opportunity to observe the landscape, the locale and the natural beauty. Being from Konkan a land where lord was utmost liberal in ushering natural beauty, has only helped me in enjoying the nature all over. Last week i traveled to my native place and it has given me two stories to write…

Travelling to native place, especially during summer time has been kind of a routine for most of the people from coastal best of Maharashtra. No wonder you will find the trains, buses and now even flights full during this season. I have been to my native place countless times and am witness to changing times, sadly enough, the change is not for good though.

There was a time when Konkan was a serene place, the only mode of reaching there was a red state transport bus, the journey of which was nightmarish to say the least.  However, in the hindsight, i sometimes feel that it was good that there was least connectivity from urban world. People were sanitized from the ills of modern lives. There was greenery everywhere, the summer vacation meant that you would be treated with real Alphonso mangoes, jack fruits, cashew nuts and other seasonal fruits. Those who enjoyed sea food would also get it in abundance. Life moved at slow paced, the needs of the village folk were minimal and hence they had time in aplenty. I would spend my evenings near the Terekhol Creek where my brother ran a small canteen. Villagers would flock that canteen and i would listen to endless tales of village politics, ghosts, evil spirits and other such stories which i would not get to hear in city. At times i would treat myself at the cost of my father or my brother by attending a “Dashavatari Natak” which ran till early in the morning. Those were magical days, people were simple, their aspirations simple and lived in complete tandem with nature. Both never violated each other.

With changing times, the reach of Konkan Railway, the extension of mobile services, the splurge of cable television meant that the remote hamlets of Konkan too started dreaming of coming in tune with changing times. People felt that they have been left far behind and so the mad rush began. The politicians milked the people showing them dreams of turning Konkan into California.

My part of Konkan, from where i belonged, which is called as “Tal Konkan” was still very scenic, still very virgin. In early part of 1990s the Usha Ispat Company first appeared in the scene at Redi some 04 kilometers away from my village. The company promised employment to local youths. However, soon it was found that the nature of job was that of labourers.  Cheap labourers and Engineers were hired by company and brought all the way from UP.

People started renting out their houses to these migrant employees and their families and soon the intrusion began. After some years another big company landed and it started buying land, people found easier way of making money by selling off their land. Then after some years a politician brought the entire stretch of coast of my village barricaded it and announced that he would build a private port and jetty, from where the manganese would be shipped to other part of the world. The annual ritual of Ganesh Visarjan was blocked as the coast was barricaded. People by then started realizing the folly they had made, but it was too late and the wheel was already turned and now could not be stopped.

This time when i visited my native place, from Sawantwadi to my native place, i found plots, where once cashew and mangoes were grown, rice was tilled, were now on sell, hoardings of builders announcing proposed row bungalow projects were on display on these plots.

I deliberately visited villages like Talawane & Kondura during my recent visit as i had heard that there was rampant mining. The entire stretch once was as greener as it could be with coconut, cashew, betelnut, mango and other plantations. Today the entire plantations are cut off and the mountains are barren and are dug all over. The mountains which once looked as a bride now looks like a wounded ailing person shouting for help. For few thousands or lakhs people are selling off their lands to these land and mining sharks.

What happens with this sudden richness? Do people grown financially literate enough to ensure proper investment of this new found richness? The answer is NO. People start renovating their houses, build bungalow, buy new gadgetry, cars, bikes. Today, younger generations of rural folks have better mobile phones than we in the cities have. The money so earned do not last even a generation. What next?

The same story happened in Thane district in 1980’s. When people started shifting to Kalyan Dombivli belt the local Aagri people, who were the land tillers sold off their land to builders and developers for few lakhs and now they are nowhere to be seen.

My Paradise is sliding the same way. But, alas, no one is prepared to listen. I do not say that change should not happen. Konkan should also progress, but most certainly not the way it is happening right now.

One thought on “The slow death of a Paradise

  1. Kamal Kothari

    Yes Vijay I agree 100%. We are ruining the environment for a few pennies worth of pleasure and treasure. These patches are now lost forever. Konkan rail was no doubt required but the mining companies have done the biggest damage. Konkan, our beautiful coast, will never be the same ever again! Thanks highlighting this issue.

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