Giving Goa’s First Peoples, their Rights:
“It pains me that we have been so insensitive to their plight, so arrogant, so utterly ungrateful to those people. It is they who kept and keep our lands green, who replenish our forests, who keep our rivers flowing, who desilt village ponds and who have their intelligence and understanding of the processes of nature built eco-friendly khazan lands, sluice gates and an intricate network of dikes, bunds and their intelligence matched the builders of the dikes in Flanders.” ~Luizinho Faleiro
Even as the OBCs are the first peoples of Goa or original inhabitants and constitute 30% of the State’s population, they are the most neglected, deprived and harassed. They were generally oppressed by the higher castes and invariably reduced to bonded labourers. Luizinho felt deep anguish for these hardworking sections of backward classes. He therefore decided to understand their problems and work for their upliftment, with the same passion he fought the battles of the Labour Unions. The Community accepted his leadership and through his well honed skills and legal background, Luizinho was able to add muscle and teeth to the movement.
OBC Status & Reservations:
Through Luizinho’s intervention the communities were able to get OBC status, which was almost halfway to their recognition as Scheduled Tribes.
He also secured for them
♦ 5% reservation in educational institutions and
♦ 2% reservation in jobs.
When Luizinho became a Minister he succeeded in getting a cabinet approval to include the Mull Goenkars, into the Scheduled Tribes.
Free Legal Aid Melas:
Luizinho was also instrumental in giving them an opportunity to solve their old tenancy and mundkarial cases by organising Free Legal Aid Melas. Most of them were exploited since they did not have knowledge of law, hence Luizinho organised conventions under the Free Legal Aid Board which he then chaired. It was after this that all the organisation of the backward communities were merged into one, under the Goa State Scheduled Tribes Union.
Demands of the Community:
The community again put faith in Luizinho and he was again made their Action Committee Chairman. Their demands at that point of time were:
♦ To issue notification under Article 342 of the Indian Constitution to declare the communities as Scheduled Tribes
♦ To conduct a survey of the communities
♦ To grant a minimum of 30% reservation for them in all fields.
Luizinho opined that the movement was apolitical and hence their genuine demands should have been addressed, since the communities are getting restive. He believed it was foolish to ignore their demands and worse still to try their patience and humility.
In 2003, the Velips, Kunbis, and Gawda communities were finally accorded ST status by the Central government. By then lot of work had been done by Luizinho Faleiro, for their welfare in Goa. However, the Dhangars of Goa have not been so lucky. But apart from their demands for setting up a Tribal Welfare department and ST Commission, none of their other demands have been fulfilled. Even after the long drawn battle, the three communities have not been given political reservations. Their demands for demarcating Scheduled Areas under Forest Act has not been met till date. The government has fallen short in implementing the tribal sub-plan outlay and hundreds of vacancies for STs lie unfilled in various government departments. Though ST leaders have come into public life and laid down office, few have really sympathised with the STs and seriously tried to improve their lot, as did Luizinho Faleiro, through the early days of the struggle.