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from Daijiworld's special correspondent

Pernem (Goa), May 12: The canoe which once upon a time facilitated Goa's struggle for liberation from oppressive Portuguese rule is lying unattended on Shapora river bank in north goa's Pernem taluka bringing down curtains on the great freedom struggle story.

It was unexpected and unceremonious winding up for this three-generation old canoe service across river which, in the past, had seen its owner turning into a freedom fighter for his skill in secretly ferrying heroes of Goa's liberation, from Goa to Maharashtra and back.

Inauguration of a bridge across Shapora river by chief minister Pratapsingh Rane earlier this week saw the winding up of the small but a legendry canoe service which was used covertly to ferry Goa's freedom fighters.

"We are left with the golden memories of the past. I have stories of how freedom fighters were secretly travelling to liberate Goa from the Portuguese clutches. But those stories will not fill our stomach. The canoe service stands discontinued now after the construction of the bridge, forcing my family to look for a job," rues 65-year-old Ramnath Halarnkar, who used to ferry freedom fighters across the river. And because of his close association with the activity he himself was bestowed freedom fighter's title by the government.

"We are jobless now. We managed to eke out a living till now by ferrying people," said Sagar, Ramnath's son, who is running from pillar to post, hunting for a job now.

"The canoe was famous for ferrying freedom fighters before liberation. But when the Portuguese government came to know about the link, they jailed my father," recalled Sagar.

Sagar represents the third generation of this family who have made their livelihood by ferrying people across river in canoe. "My grandfather began this vocation with a tiny canoe," stated Sagar, pointing out to the 150-year-old canoe docked on the river bank.

The antique canoe, though dilapidated, is still preserved by the Halarnkar family in remembrance of their grandfather.

Though there is enough history and patriotism in their booty, Halarnkar family is left without any source of employment. "We met the chief minister with a memorandum. He has asked us to visit again," says Sagar.

Respecting the family's contribution, the local panchayat had moved a resolution demanding emploSagar says with expectations in his eyes.


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