A Lawyer Who Plows Paddy Fields in Goa Special

Posted Jul 24, 2009 by Armstrong Vaz
He dons a black suit in the court room and forcefully pleads his client’s cases before different judges in Goa. But back home in his village Ambaulim in Salcete Taluka of Indian state of Goa, the advocate discards his fancy court room clothes.
He dons a black suit in the court room and forcefully pleads his client’s cases before different judges in Goa. But back home in his village Ambaulim in Salcete Taluka of Indian state of Goa, the advocate discards his fancy court room clothes and soils his hands and feet, plowing his paddy fields.
Yes, while paddy cultivation is looked down upon many educated youth of Goa, this practicing lawyer John Fernandes, has no qualms about lifting his plough and march into his paddy field.
Given his multi-faceted personality, John is involved in many social activities and campaigns for the eradication of problems which affect the youths of his locality. Chronic alcoholism and gambling are two such evils which have plagued his locality for a long time and he has been involved in the fight against them.
“When I was a parish youth member of Our Lady of Lourdes church in Ambaulim, I put forth the idea of fighting against gambling which were going on at the bars. It may be about 18 years back. And gambling is coupled with alcoholism,” recollects John.
John has launched an awareness campaign in the area in which he is trying to convince individuals from his village and those who are into chronic alcoholism to kick the habit.
“I also constantly motivate the member of Alcoholism group that are functioning in my village. I also celebrate my birthday with them. We have filed complaints before the concerned government departments over the illegal bars flourishing in the village. I try to set example to the villagers by celebrating my marriage, baptism and first birthday of my son without serving any liquor."
Apart from the Alcoholic Anonymous group there are no other groups that are involved in the fight against alcoholism but the villagers have gotten together under the banner “Villagers of Copelabhat”.
John is concerned that the Goa Excise department are flouting the rules to give permits for new bars near religious institutions and schools.
“Licenses are given to bars close to schools and religious institutions by manipulating laws. Few years back the education department of ADIE Quepem opened a primary school next to bars in ward Bamnabhat. The bars belongs to an ex-sarpanch of the village. In spite of press coverage of the irregularities, the ADIE did not bother to shift the school. So finally I had to file a writ petition in the High Court in order to have the school transferred.”
John attributes the reasons for addiction to alcohol to lack of guidance, availability of money at younger age, lack of active social groups and the existing social conditions of the village are some of the reason. He says that in his village, the political clout is equally responsible because for many years those with the political power in the village were directly or indirectly linked to bars.
John says the church is not doing much to fight the menace and suggests that the church should constantly attack alcoholism through sermons, try to educate the younger generation about the evil effects of alcoholism in the catechism classes, preach to the followers to celebrate festivals without liquor and concentrate on individual counseling with those who are addicted.
John believes that he born to fight; for people’s cause in court room and outside it.
“I believe there is a need for me to my village so the almighty had sent me at the right time and prepared me for the cause. I have not specialized in any particular field of law but I take up both civil as well as criminal cases.”
Besides alcoholism and gambling, John devotes his time to protecting the environment. He is one of the campaigners against mining.
“I am fighting against mining because unplanned mining is destroying Goa and its people, particularly villagers from the hinterland. This one will see in the years to come. The fight is to preserve environment, our water resources, agricultural land, forest land, rivers, nalas (small rivulets). I am an environmental student. As a lawyer I am helping those who are fighting against mining to protect environment and Goa. About two years back I got involved in the mining fight. It is the villagers of Colomb who motivated me to fight against the onslaught of mining.”
One of the reason for keeping the land fallow in Goa is due to the problem of stray cattle, says John.
“If the stray cattle menace is solved, then the people will certainly start cultivating fallow land. People should follow the multiple cropping system. Everyone should engage work in one’s own field to meet the shortage of labor. As for me, I go to plow my paddy fields early in the morning or on Sunday.”
And he has a message for the educated youths of Goa.
“Inculcate the dignity of labor, keep away from vices and contribute to protect rich environment of Goa, our motherland any way they can.”