Toilet remark controversy leaves Goa Congress red faced

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Panaji, Aug 13 (IANS) A raging controversy over a disparaging critique made by one of the Congress’ senior-most leaders generically referring to NRI Goans as ‘toilet cleaners’ last week, has left the Congress leadership in Goa in a state of embarrassment.

Remarks by former Chief Minister Pratapsing Rane last week, which suggested that many Goans migrate to Europe and end up as ‘toilet cleaners’, have now put him in the dock, with embarrassed Congress office bearers in unison demanding action against him, even as social media memes and angry diatribes by NRI Goans continue to take digs at the remark.

Rane has, however, claimed that his remarks were taken out of context.

“We have already complained to our High Command about how the comments made by our senior leader Pratapsing Rane have affected the sentiments of Goan brothers, Hindu, Muslim and Christians who are working to support their families and the state through remittances. We hope our central leaders will act on our complaint,” state Congress spokesperson Urfan Mulla told IANS on Monday.

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State Women’s Congress chief Pratima Coutinho has also demanded an apology from Rane.

Last week, Rane had said: “People who don’t live in the mining belt want to talk more about the industry. They come from the areas where people go abroad for living. We don’t know what kind of job they do there… I have heard that they clean toilets there.”

The Goan migratory penchant isn’t a new phenomenon.

According to Selma Carvalho, a UK-based author of Goan origin who has authored several books documenting migration from Goa to Europe, Africa and the Middle East, the migration dates back to more than a century and the remittances from NRI Goans have provided a vital fillip to the retail and building industry in Goa.

“The bulk of the Goan migration, whether they worked in Bombay or Zanzibar, were low-skilled labour. They ran laundries, bakeries, butcheries, worked as cooks or stewards in hotels. Despite their lowly station, they did remarkably well, were well respected and thought of as entirely trustworthy,” Carvalho told IANS, adding that the early settlers in the African continent started out as small shop owners, but several entrepreneurs eventually grew into formidable business houses over time.

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“Later in the 1970s and 1980s, many worked as ‘houseboys’, drivers and hotel staff in Kuwait and other Arabian Gulf countries. In the late 1980s, began the migration to Britain, where they are employed in factories, as janitorial staff in hospitals and airports, in retail and the hospitality industry,” she said.

The outrage over Rane’s comment has attracted much rancour, with NRI Goans posting videos urging the Congressman to understand dignity of labour and that it was lack of jobs in Goa which forced them to migrate to greener pastures abroad.

London-based Goan Sweden Pedroso even posted a toilet-cleaning video challenge for the former Chief Minister to emulate.

Rane’s son Vishwajit is currently a cabinet minister in the BJP-led coalition government.

The septuagenarian politician’s own proximity to Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar and reluctance to sufficiently criticise successive BJP-led regimes has also been a cause of embarrassment for the Congress.

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Rane, who could not be contacted for comment, has however said in clarification that efforts were on to “malign” him.

“I meant to say that Goans irrespective of where they work they should have better quality jobs and I deny having said what they are attributing to me,” he has said in a statement to a section of the media.

–IANS

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