The more things change, the more they remain. And so it is with GIDC and the lie that Goans are preferred for employment in industrial estates. GIDC continues to be corrupt and non-Goans get all lucrative jobs. You'd think MNCs/big players make huge investments but Goan contractors are lucky if they get some tertiary contracts in what are basically assembly line units. Also,It is amazing how Goa’s various rungs of the Mafiosi work in the twilight zone and the power they wield.

April 12, 2020

Under lockdown, bereft of ideas otherwise, I choose to share with you some of my articles written in my Lion Roars column way back in 2009, but relevant as ever. As you will see, nothing has changed a decade later within the Goa Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC) and it continues to be corrupt, as I have consistently written in my column Lion Roars. Enjoy!

A Laboured Lie

It happens all the time. Non-Goans get to take all those lucrative jobs (!) on offer at the industrial estates, though as you will see soon, there aren’t too many on offer. Here is a list of industry biggies of the kind Aleixo Sequeira said would give Goans jobs, if only we let them in, never mind if they trample all over us. The list given to me by the Voice of Villagers, Nagoa, gives the number of ‘contract’ workers employed at the Verna industrial estate (see lead picture), which the group that opposes any further massive and unplanned expansion of the industrial estate, obtained under Right to Information.

Shockingly, the data reveals that 2,421 contracted workers (daily wagers) were supplied by 72 labour contractors in the two years to April 30, 2007 when the data was issued. The deputy labour commissioner, Margao stated clearly he did not know how many of these contracted workers were Goan. His office did not maintain a job profile record of the contracted workers. In fact his office did not even have basic data.

The list: Ratiopharm -25, Ratiopharm -18, Dr Reddy’s Laboratories -10, Cipla -20, Sanofi Aventie -10, Cipla -20, Cipla -15, Lupin -16, Glenmark Lab -20, Glenmark Lab -10, Ratiopharm -40, Ratiopharm -100, Ratiopharm -18, Dr Reddy’s Laboratories -15, Marksan Pharma -20, Cipla -50, Lupin -150, Marksons Pharma -20, Marksons -30, Cipla -25, Glenmark -20, Ratiopharm 40, Marksons Pharma 40, Watson Pharma -15, Sanofi Synthelabo -150, Watson Pharma -10, Erica Lifescience -150, Ratiopharma -25, Aventis Pharma -50, Lupin -40, Lupin -25, Watson Pharma -20, Sonafi Synthelabs -19, Sonafi Synthelabs -20, Micro Labs -25.
The repetition in the number of companies is because these companies have bifurcated themselves for obvious reasons and deal separately with different labour contractors.

Don’t think these MNCs and big players would have added to their work force since then. They don’t because the MNCs which have global footprints (including some Indian companies) have units in Goa, and are basically assembly line productions or they provide research and development. Their initial investments are undoubtedly huge, but these investments hardly open out to Goan civil contractors, who, if they are lucky only get some tertiary contracts. Don’t you think it’s strange too that the 72 labour contractors well outnumber the number of pharmaceutical companies, which goes to prove that the lucre is in hiring cheap labour, and not as you are led to believe, in the jobs pharmaceutical companies provide. For the record, the deputy labour commissioner issued 1,149 licences to labour contractors as on April 2007.

GIDC’s cover-ups

It is amazing how Goa’s various rungs of the Mafiosi work in the twilight zone and also the power they wield.

Last week I acquainted you with two covert operatives who operate with impunity within the Goa Industrial Development Corporation. One is a field officer based at the Verna Industrial Estate –I called him Agent ‘S,’ the other is a deputy general manager at GIDC’s headquarters in Panjim. Call him Agent ‘B.’ The two influential operatives own utility buildings within the Verna estate. One is located behind the Chikitsa Hospital and obviously you won’t find their names on the building documents. They own another building at the entrance of the estate.

Agent B is married to the sister of an influential ex-MLA who lost his kurchi in the last Assembly election. Between the two Agents they own 20 plots at the Verna estate and a plot or plots possibly at every major industrial estate, certainly at the Kundaim, Pilerne, Sancoale and Madkaim estates which makes tracking them rather difficult, but fairly easy when it comes to ferreting out information from sources on various floors of the IDC building. Because when you rake in the kind of moolah these guys make, you tend to make enemies as well. For the record, there are 20 industrial estates. I am told if I look hard enough, I might find Agent B’s mother’s name mentioned in the documents of some of the plots he owns. And by the way, the two have a cosy partnership agreement working for them in the names of their parents, which means as stakeholders they are also shareholders.

The Food Chain

Contrary to popular belief, an industry minister does not rake in as much as say a GIDC chairman, because GIDC is a niche market for Agents S & B who are both so adept and accomplished in plot selling, that they are much sought after. By this yardstick, a company calling itself Meher Developments might be a front for Babu Kavlekar. This issue has been raised in the Assembly by Manohar Parrikar. It owns a plot at Verna. Thus the food chain at GIDC is restricted to a few, and it seems implausible but not impossible I am told, that Agents S and B have frequently done in their superiors when it comes to sharing the loot.

You will be surprised, I was, that when land for SEZs was being parceled out in a hurry to meet Kamal Nath’s deadline of 150 SEZs, much of the money, for instance, did not reach the main honcho at GIDC. One SEZ I am informed, came through the backdoor invited by the scion of a political bigwig now in the dusk of his long career mostly as chief minister. The ex-CM’s son and the son of a SEZ promoter studied together in the US of A and the former invited the promoter into his parlour, so to speak. The rest as they says is history. So really, not every industry minister makes a whack, he is sometimes called on to wait till election time, and part of this expense is paid for then.

Agent B + Agent S = Plot

It works like this. At the much wanted (vaunted?) Verna estate, IDC’s official rate is Rs 750 per M2. Unofficially, this has gone up to a band of Rs 1750-3000 depending on the location of the plot and its access to link roads. As a result, entrepreneurs who refused to part with slush money, were awarded plots in remote areas of the Verna estate. An equipment dealer with the name of a popular Hindu god paid Rs 3000 per M2 for his plot. I can’t reveal the size of the plot to feed you more masala, because that would reveal the name of the entrepreneur. This forces entrepreneurs like him to turn brokers, so they can at least recover or recoup some of their losses.

So, when a logistics company rhyming with the name some of you would pronounce ghanti, approached the owner of a company with a name that sounds like it rises at the crack of dawn, the latter simply pointed the former in Agent B’s direction. Within the boundary walls of Goa’s industrial estates and some don’t even have boundary walls, this is known as chain marketing. Nice touch. The ex-MLA with more than a family relationship with Agent B sold his highway side plot for Rs 10,000 per M2.

Which is why, some entrepreneurs possibly hang on for dear life to their unutilized plots. A Bangalore company bought two plots each of 10,000 M2 size at the Verna estate nearly five years ago. It has till date utilized only one plot. Which is why, GIDC is rubbing its hands in glee at the appetizing thought of all that SEZ land falling into its sticky fingers once the promoters are returned the money they officially invested. But that might take long, because there is this little question of how the unofficial money will be returned, if at all it is to be returned.

(More in the April 26, 2020 edition)