Thu, 09 Jul, 2020

Identifying the true Goemkar in a migrant-turned-Goan crowd

The Goa Legislative Assembly recently passed the Goa Change of Name and Surname (Amendment) Bill 2019, tightening the screws on migrants taking Goan names. However, there are questions that remain unanswered. What makes a true Goan? What prompts non Goans to adopt Goan names, and how can the government implement the change in law?

11th August 2019, 02:50 Hrs


The Goa Legislative Assembly has just passed the Goa Change of Name and Surname (Amendment) Bill 2019, laying down the criteria for migrants seeking to change their names. The move came following instances where non-Goans were found to change their original names and take up popular Goan names. In some cases name-changes have been made in complete violation of laid down procedures. 

The new bill has proposed a jail term for such fraudulent attempts to change names, while making an exception for Goans to change their names. Herein lies another paradox. What makes a true Goan? What prompts non-Goans to adopt Goan names? And how can the government implement the new law, are some interesting questions brought to fore in the recent turn of events. 

“There are many factors at play in this phenomenon,” says advocate Shailesh Kulkarni, a practicing lawyer. “Firstly, when the people from outside change their names, and show themselves as Goans, they can get benefits of government schemes such as Griha Adhar or Ladli Lakshmi.the question however is how are they able to change their names so easily, says the lawyer. “In states such as Maharashtra, it is very difficult to get genuine documents made, and further to change name as it needs lots of paperwork. If in Goa name change can happen easily, that means certain politicians and bureaucrats might have to do something with this,” Kulkarni says.

However, now that there is a law set to be in place, the government must set up a mechanism to address the issue, says Kulkarni. “Firstly, the government could outline which documents are valid and which are invalid when it comes to name change. Secondly, in an effort to identify people who engage in illegalities, the government could undertake a sort of combing operation,” he says. 

People who spoke to TG Life about the issue stated that this matter is deeply tied to politics. SInce Goa is a small state, it is easy to acquire information about government schemes, and voters have considerable control over politics. In many cases, a moderate number of non-Goans can evolve into a powerful vote-bank, and then influence local politics in their favour. 

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a student from Panaji cites a number of reasons among similar lines as to why non-Goans would want to change their names. “Many times, they are ridiculed by Goans as ‘ghantis’. They face a hostile environment in Goa, and many times their work related to government etc gets stuck up due to the attitude of locals. Upon noticing their non-Goan names, government officials might ask them to bring original documents from their native places.  So to escape the negativity, they quickly pick up the local language and take up Goan names,” he says. While he is worried about a demographic change in Goa, people who have been born and brought up in Goa should be considered Goans, says the student.

Taurappa Lamani, who also faces similar issues, states that his surname is associated with a derogatory term, as people who cause nuisance at the beaches are generally termed as Lamanis. Thus, negative connotations associated with the surname Lamani have led many to change their names, he informs. He adds that many people  change their names due to political interests or religious purposes. At the same time, he welcomed the newly passed bill. 

How will the passage of the bill benefit Goans is a matter of debate, but it remains a sensitive issue.

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