The 12th of January 2004 will mark the 25th Anniversary of the historic and very successful 1979 agitation launched by the students of Goa to demand 50% bus concession. Goa has seen student agitations on various issues but the one that took Goa by storm is the 1979 campaign for 50% bus concession. The student unity was rock solid, the agitation spread like wild fire, lasted a brief 12 days and secured the desired results.
The idea was conceived at a party. It was the desire that the student community in Goa should get 50% bus concession like fellow students in other states that fuelled the action. The powerful bus owner's lobby was being fully supported by the Government so we felt we were in for a long haul. The agitation spread from Pernem to Canacona and within 12 days of launching of the agitation the Government decided to concede to the demands of the student community for 50% bus concession. The police usually crush any student movement. But in 1979 we were a very formidable force. The police lathis and the tear-gas did not intimidate us. The police were no match for the student body. We had the unity and the strength the police could not match. We proved to be a formidable force to be able to challenge the then Government headed by Chief Minister Shashikala Kakodkar. It was the kindling of student activism in Goa. 1st Jan: We chose the first of January 1979 for launching the agitation. It was resolved that from that day we would start paying half fares. That morning it was just a handful of us. We started stopping buses outside Dhempe College at Miramar and informing the passengers on the buses about the campaign to pay half fares. After an hour we all moved to Ribandar and start stopping buses there. This being a very busy route and our numbers having swelled the commotion was instant. The cops also did not show up so we were able to disrupt traffic extensively. 2nd Jan: Next day the news spread to various parts of Goa. We decided to strike at Farmagudi. The ITI students were more aggressive and persistent. Hundreds of them marched out of the ITI premises at Farmagudi and it was a rasta-roko. All buses in both directions on the very busy Ponda-Panaji route were stopped and their tyres deflated. Nobody was spared and the scene was one of utter chaos. The students were on their first major agitation and the cops were caught unaware and unprepared. 3rd Jan: A defiant bus on the Panaji Miramar route was attacked by a mob of students. When senior leaders were rounded up, boulders were put on the Panaji - Margao route. 4th Jan: A Pernem based bus operator Ashok Mandrekar expresses solidarity with the students. Students boycott classes in support of their demand. Chief Minister Shashikala Kakokdar who was on a visit to Delhi returns and appeals to the students to withdraw agitation. Students defiant. A morcha of students at Margao lathi-charged. 5th Jan: Violence erupts at Mapusa and the Port town of Vasco. Principals of Colleges appeal to students to resume classes. 6th Jan: A total Bandh observed in Canacona. Government announces partial concession. Margao bandh observed. 63 rounds of tear gas shells fired on a student demonstration at Margao. A Margao student Nazareth Rodrigues injured and loses one eye. 4 policemen also injured. 7th Jan : Student' spurn offer of partial concession. Agitation spreads to other villages. 8th Jan : Violence won't pay, students told by CM. Students resolve to intensify stir. 9th Jan : Student Morcha held in Bicholim. 10th Jan : Chief Minister calls for Campus peace. Sympathises with student demand but says it can't be met due to administrative problems. Rally at Panaji resolves to continue stir. 11th Jan : Government offers students blanket 50% bus concession. Students take out a massive victory rally at Panaji and in other towns. 12th Jan : Students hold a mammoth victory meeting at Panaji. Agitation officially withdrawn. >From 13th January 1979 students across Goa start paying 50% bus fares as a matter of right. The 12 days of the student agitation were thrilling. Not for the hundreds of buses we deflated but the noble cause we all stood by. There was never the time for meals or a night's sleep. We spent all day addressing public meetings and organising students across Goa. Every night we use to congregate at a flat at Panaji to plan and devise the next day's strategy. The clueless Police CID used to follow us but could never track us down. Though our demand had all the fragrance they could not sniff our tracks. Our every move was kept a secret and none of our co-leaders let us down. Integrity was maintained throughout the agitation. The Opposition as they usually do lent us the moral support. The leader of the Opposition, the late Mr. Anant Narcinva Naik's son, Mr. Gaurish Naik was one of the leaders of our Margao battalion. He was severely beaten up by the Margao police and obviously the opposition voice soared. There were negotiations on a daily basis. Dr J.C Almeida the Development commissioner who was acting as Chief Secretary was the main negotiator on the government side. Various proposals came. The government was at one time ready to relent partly by allowing half fare for only travelling to school and back. But we insisted that the concession should be blanket and unlimited. The students of Goa deserve the credit for their sustained efforts during the agitation. But one bureaucrat who deserves his rightful share of honour is Dr. J. C. Almeida. Regardless of the pressures that he may been under from the various politicians and the very potent bus owner's lobby, Dr Almeida was very sympathetic with the rightful demand of students. Dr Almeida himself had six school going kids who travelled by buses unlike today when not only the close family but the extended kith and kin of most politicians and government officers travel to all places in the comfort of state owned cars. Dr Almeida was very accessible to the students. He spent late nights meeting with and negotiating with them. A true friend of the student community. He had the spine to tell the Government of Goa what was right. In 1979 we did not have the facility of today's telecommunication. Even a call to Margao was a trunk call, leave aside trying to contact Canacona or Pernem. Phones were also very scarce. Mobiles and e-mail would have done the agitation wonders. May be!. On the other hand what was a blessing was that there was no TV entertainment as today to distract our comrades. Students might have opted to be glued to their TV sets rather than attend a rally. We had a good dedicated team of student activists. Today we have all gone our separate ways and in various professions. One of us landed up being a very ambitious Power Minister and had to, not so long ago, recuperate at the Intensive Care Unit of Goa Medical College. One of our fire-brand colleagues landed being a judge and we are proud of him. One of us passed away two years ago. And it was at a condolence meeting in his memory that we had resolved that the need for that spirit of student activism of the 70's be brought back. But that still remains a dream. A dream I hope will one day will come true. All Political parties have their student wings but the success of the student agitation for 50% bus concession may have been so successful because it was led by a Union that had no political affiliation. I have always believed that a student union and movement should be non-partisan otherwise the rightful student cause gets deflated. However, the politicians have their own ways. They like to engage the student and youth and women wings to do all their dirty jobs. But when it comes to election time and distribution of tickets the wings are clipped. The students of today should be very conscious of their rights without abdicating their responsibilities. It is an irony that today our politicians try to project to the World that Goa and India has the best of educational facilities. But when it comes to their own kin it is a different matter. The sons of the most recent chief Ministers including the current incumbent Mr. Manohar Parrikar have gone abroad for further studies. Today one looks back and wonders why the agitation of 1979 had to be so violent. I had hoped that we could have achieved our demand without the students having to damage public and private property. But the Government did not feel that way and chose to test the power and resilience of the students. I am glad there was no loss of life though there were serious injuries. Overall it was a high price to pay but for the cause it was not a price in vain. Today the students of Goa enjoy 50% bus concession. No Government should tamper with this right of our students. Students will have to be very vigilant about this concession for the very simple reason that the students of 1979 put in a lot of effort and sacrifice to achieve something that they and the future generations of students should also proudly enjoy as a matter of right. I am glad to be around for the silver jubilee of the agitation. Life is so uncertain so who knows where I will celebrate the golden jubilee. But wherever I am, I will definitely do so. Aires Rodrigues Ribandar ########################################################################## # Send submissions for Goanet to [EMAIL PROTECTED] # # PLEASE remember to stay on-topic (related to Goa), and avoid top-posts # # More details on Goanet at http://joingoanet.shorturl.com/ # # Please keep your discussion/tone polite, to reflect respect to others # ##########################################################################