Mother tongue Hindi led to gaffe, says Rly official

Mother tongue Hindi led to gaffe, says Rly officia; apologises to Goa BJP MLA

Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant. (DH Photo)

Accused of calling a Goa BJP MLA a person of "Portuguese descent", a South Western Railways official on Thursday said that it was an error on account of his mother tongue, Hindi.

"My mother tongue is Hindi. Instead of saying 'the Portuguese' I said 'you Portuguese'. I am sorry about that," South Western Railways manager Ajay Kumar Singh said on Thursday. He was summoned to the State Secretariat by Chief Minister Pramod Sawant to offer a public apology to BJP MLA and former cabinet minister Alina Saldanha.

Singh, who functions from the headquarters for the South Western Railway division in Hubli, was in Goa on January 20, to inspect the double tracking efforts being carried out by the Indian Railways, which has been held up in some places to due protests from local residents, especially in Saldanha’s constituency of Cortalim.

The official had a verbal exchange with Singh, after Saldanha and a group of her supporters objected to the double tracking efforts, claiming the project would lead to demolition of heritage homes along the tracks.

Singh is alleged to have said: "India has houses that are 5,000 years old. Goans were the invading force who came about 500 years back. When you all came, you also must have destroyed houses here... By you I meant Portuguese".

On Thursday, Sawant had summoned Singh to Goa for the purpose of expressing a public apology. "Such an insult of Goans, especially a Minister cannot be tolerated," Sawant said.

Goa was a Portuguese colony for 451 years before it was liberated in 1961.