Till the eighties and mid nineties, the coastal belt of Benaulim was known as the hub for carpenters and bakers of south Goa. And at every feast in the south, they would ritually display their furniture and wares at roadside bazaars where the feast was held, while proudly proclaiming their origins. The whole family would eagerly await such a festival and help out at the stalls. Today, it is doubtful whether this trend still exists. The whole family would eagerly await such a festival and help out at the stalls. Today, it is doubtful whether this trend still exists. “We live in the midst of the greatest change taking place among our youth,” said Reverend Father Pedro D’Costa, assistant parish priest of John the Baptist Church, Benaulim.
While disorganised tourism on the one hand creates a booming economy in coastal areas, on the other, it is destroying students’ aspirations and this arguably has a direct effect on the new generation who are leaving school for ‘fast money’, said a Colva priest.
The steep increase in the number of dropouts has become a problem for schools in the coastal belt; the actual dropout rate has been understated concealing the real truth, said teachers in Benaulim and Colva who share this view.
Visit a school in Benaulim and Colva and you will come across youth aspiring for a career in catering abroad or on the ship. Most male students study up to the XII standard and then opt for a short-term job-oriented course.
However, the flip-side is that dropouts are improving the tourism economy in Colva and Benaulim. “A student who has dropped out of school wants to make fast money,” said a teacher from Colva. They lease out their residences to foreigners or build extra rooms to rent. On loan schemes they purchase two-wheelers to rent to foreigners. Besides this, they also purchase tourist taxis to drive the foreigners around. For this, they employ experienced drivers and pay them well.
Other activities that these dropouts engage in are local commercial fishing, running shacks, boat cruises, water sports etc. By the time the sun goes down, they have earned a few thousands of rupees already.
Recently a village youth even started an ice cube making plant.
The problems of society are being blamed on teachers, said some Colva school teachers. However, what people fail to realize is that teachers have no control over the readiness of children to learn. More often than not, the students do not come to school regularly, they come to school too tired to learn either from working or from being in an environment that will not allow them to sleep, said a priest from Colva.
Development of tourism has come in the way of whatever motivation there was for our male youths. Not pleased with the next question, Ms Carmelina Fernandes, the sarpanch of Benaulim stated that even the few doctors that we have either gone abroad or are aspiring to go abroad.
Girls in both the constituencies’ are better than the boys when it comes to studying. Girls tend to acquiesce more readily than boys to teachers. Another threatening fear is that student girls are being lured to leave school. Some girl students are following in the footsteps of their dropout boyfriends. Dropout boyfriends are usually insecure with their girlfriend’s higher educational qualifications and bribe and blackmail them with rich gifts of gold, cosmetics and the latest designer wear. The hapless girls are of course led to believe that for the rest of their lives they will be pampered by the dropout. Though the issue is quite minute, it could grow and become a menace for families. It is assumed, said a Colva priest, that in five to ten years Colva and Benaulim will be bereft of ethical professions such as doctors and engineers.
According to Mr Naik, branch manager of Bank of Baroda, Colva, the driving forces affecting the economy of Colva are tourism, fishing and real estate. Tourism is generating 25 per cent of its economy and supports a downstream sector such as transport and the realty. With the recent Fema guidelines keeping away foreigner from investing in India, tourists prefer to reside in Goan homes, rather than hotels, and Goans are happy with this arrangement. Tourists also prefer to have a vehicle at their disposal rather than to opt for the exorbitant taxis or the pitiful public transport and the locals are happy oblige. They rent out cars to tourists for a fairly good price, Mr Naik said.
Almost every resident owns a couple of two wheelers and a tourist taxi. Based on the banks borrowings and deposits, the tourism industry generates more than 35 per cent. New shops and residents are spruced up every year and the coast boasts of dozens of boutiques and business centres in the courtyards of homes. Homes are refurbishing; the fancier the accommodations, the higher the rent. And it is providing jobs for more and more migrants. Banks too are working on infrastructure loans for housing, personal business, car loans.
Benaulim has a population of around 12 to 15,000. Though 50 per cent comes from a farming background, and 10 per cent have started farming which is attributed to agriculture machines, offsetting the labour market. In spite of the vast scope of business opportunities in agriculture, coconut farming and horticulture and panchayat schemes on offer, there are no takers.
The lack of labourers is our main problem, she said. “Our youth are shying away from their traditional profession, fishing and looking at other prospective avenues,” Ms Carmelina said. With no alternatives, their parents either lease out the family business or employ outsiders to manage the business. Another reason for fishing being affected is the 200 mt SEZ. Shack owners and hoteliers are employing a huge amount of migrant workers, approximately about 75 per cent, the Benaulim panchayat said.
Benaulim and Colva are attracting many banks, and it is rumored that the Bank of India and HDFC are among the list seeking a suitable place to open a lending branch, here. Banks such as Bank of Baroda, SBI and ICICI are looking at NRI and NRE incomes; many from north India are investing heavily in properties and real estate in Goa, preferring the coastal areas and farming and education loans are the poorest.