Goa's Spirited Online Weekly Magazine.

Mr. Parrikar, are you listening?

September 9-15, 2013

Team GS

At a time when all stakeholders are raring to restart mining, provided the Supreme Court gives the green signal, the report of the Parliamentary standing committee on coal and steel which did a policy review, adds a sober touch.  The report that was tabled on August 29 in Parliament brings to mind all the excesses that were committed leading to the Court stepping in and banning mining a year ago.

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Patnem beach

The fading halo

September 2-8, 2013

Team GS

Successive governments have spent millions on junkets for their tourism ministers and tourism department officials on this fanatical mission to sell Goa abroad.  The craziest we can think of was Francisco Sardinha’s (he was chief minister then as I recollect) holidaying in Australia a decade or so ago when he shot of this “we need rich tourists to come to Goa” and Victoria Fernandes’ trip to Nepal some years ago to sell Goa to international tourists.

And yes we did say Nepal, it is a country on our northern border which supplies us an endless number of dance girls and so-called Chinese cuisine cooks.  But several decades of frenetic travelling by our ministers (one minister even took his live-in partner) and officials documented in Lion Roars Goa (see the archived section) has gone down the drain as they say.  Because they steadfastly refuse to look the problem in the eye, which is garbage all over, crowding of the beaches etcetera including drunken behavior on the beach itself (remember the tourists whose car was stranded on Morjim beach last week?).

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Vendors say fair not fair

August 19-25, 2013

Pushpa Iyengar

Did chief minister Manohar Parrikar wave a magic wand when he visited Vasco town on Tuesday that led to the Vasco Bhajani Saptah magically getting off the ground, after almost two days were lost amidst much drama?  Did he become a ‘trader-whisperer’ and calmed the cacophony of traders, even some councilors who did a volte face after initially backing a resolution by the Mormugao Municipal Council to bring some order in the stalls which were so haphazard that they shut down the port town for ten days?

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August 26-September 1, 2013

Team GS

For long, Goa has lagged in the higher education sector, with parents sending their children to Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai to get a professional degree.  Things have changed in recent years with BITS-Pilani, Goa Management Institute and the National Institute of Technology (NIT) setting up shop here.

But NIT, which is functioning temporarily at the Goa Engineering Campus at Farmagudi since the academic year 2010 -11, and now has 400 students, is again in the eye of the storm over land issues. And politicians are to blame for the current outrage among the people by leading them to believe that son-of-the-soil qualification will count to get jobs.

And Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, when he was the opposition leader, set the ball rolling. Admittedly, institutions have been used by politicians to corner land and it appears that the then ruling Congress did talking about acquiring 11 lakh square metres for the premier institute of technology which is centrally funded. As an aside, one has to see BITS Pilani and its sprawling campus to see how politicians give away land that does not belong to them generously in return for favours/moolah.

Paresh Desai, the former Cuncolim Youth Congress President, is right when he says, “It is a proven fact that the BJP dispensation led by Manohar Parrikar has done a U-turn. The same NIT project, when it was proposed by the Congress government, was objected to by the BJP tooth and nail.” The BJP had shrilly accused the Congress of perpetrating a land scam.

Now the boot is on the other foot. Cuncolim BJP legislator Rajan Naik pretends to be aggrieved.  “I fail to understand why the Congress is opposing the project when the leader of the opposition Pratapsingh Rane had asked the government to allot land for setting up the NIT in the first session of the Assembly.” he says.

Tactless approach

To some extent, Parrikar as Chief Minister pacified the locals when he got the central government to acquiesce to give 50 per cent of the seats exclusively for Goan students.  The government has already started the process of land acquisition in Cuncolim village, according to him.

But, recently, the Cuncolim Municipal Council passed a resolution opposing the land acquisition after the government published section 4 of the land acquisition act to acquire over 6.9 lakh square metres of land (which is about half what the Congress talked about acquiring). Last week a copy of this resolution was given to the deputy collector.

Naik responded to the cries of the people, fuelled by the Congress, to say that while the setting up of NIT in Cuncolim village was non-negotiable, the government proposed to drop acquisition of another 50,000 square metres of land. He claimed that the government would provide adequate compensation. And added, “it is just a handful who are opposing the project”.  There is talk that jobs of peons and watchmen will be given to locals. But Rajan Naik’s categorical statement that exclusive reservation for the youth of Cuncolim was not possible as NITs are driven by a national policy and such reservation will lower its standard will not go down well.

Nor will NIT-Goa director, Dr G R C Reddy’s rhetoric. “Do you think the government has laid down different rules for post offices and central railways?”, when asked whether there was reservation for locals at NIT. Was it a threat when he said that a “negative approach towards NIT would result in Goa’s loss”. Go figure.

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Panjim -18th June Road

Quick gun Murugan

August 5 -11, 2013

Team GS

“I will move heaven and earth to get these funds for the CCP from the centre. I will camp in Delhi and get the funds,” Mayor of Panaji, Surendra Furtado, was quoted as having said in the context of the whopping Rs 800 crore needed to fulfill the vision under the Panaji corporation’s Detailed Project Report.

The state level steering committee meeting of the CCP on July 26 cleared these projects under the Jawaharlal Nehru national urban renewal mission (JNNURM)  and the ball is soon (before August 31) going to be dispatched to Delhi’s court. Which is where Furtado says he will “camp”, because 80 per cent of the funds have to be given by the centre, 10 per cent by the state government and 10 per cent by CCP.   The projects include e-governance (Rs 19.79 crore {1,00,00,000 = 1 crore}), St Inez creek (Rs 25.16 crore), comprehensive mobility plan (Rs 742.91 crore), solid waste management (Rs 96 crore), urban renewal (Rs 2.8 crore), basic services to urban poor - Kamrabhat (Rs 47.66 crore) and heritage conservation (Rs 3.91 crore).

Furtado , when  he recently lifted the ban on film shootings also apparently used the occasion to hire himself a dialogue writer because most of what he spouts is flamboyant, expansive, even excessive. Like some sheriff from the Wild West. Will it be insincere? Since it’s four months since he, an independent, was voted in against all odds (read chief minister Manohar Parrikar), time will tell. Meanwhile, in his shadow boxing with Parrikar, municipal commissioner, Sanjit Rodrigues is getting caught in the cross-fire.

Where is Panaji heading?

Also we are confused. If there is a masterplan in the making for the capital – that was unveiled recently and it has been thrown open for suggestions – what is the comprehensive project all about? The latter envisages the above projects in addition to traffic management, cycle route and even an open shopping mall in the middle of the city. The masterplan drafted by consultant L K S India Private Limited who were appointed by the Goa State Infrastructure Development Corporation, envisages the same. In fact they call it the “holistic” development of Panaji.  You get our drift when we say we are confused because both are grandiose plans and are going to need big bucks.  And big bucks is what CCP does not have. It’s already weighed under by a financial deficit burden of Rs 13 crores.

Furtado says one thing and does the opposite as the July 31 meeting of the CCP bears out.  It gave the NOC to 13 commercial constructions that were kept pending by earlier mayors because of the absence of parking space. Even as he said that parking by-laws should be changed and in fact presided over the CCP’s resolution to shift out all government offices to EDC Patto Plaza or Porvorim on the ground that it would decrease 70 per cent of the traffic in the city, Furtado allowed 13 commercial constructions without parking space! His reasoning, in his letter to the Planning and Development Authority (PDA) recommending that the projects be approved, was “because the parties had approached the High Court”!
At a time when there are “green” judges who are pulling up politicians and standing for public interest in their judgments, Furtado’s logic escapes reason.

“God save Panjim” he exclaimed on July 18 when a water pipe and sewerage pipe got entangled. He is the city father, to use an archaic label, but this father was pointing fingers at BSNL and PWD saying “it’s a serious matter but it is beyond our control.”  Taxpayers in Panaji are probably mouthing the same phrase but they are pointing fingers at him.

It’s all about him

Since he has taken over as the mayor, it’s a “Furtado Development project” that seems to be underway.  First he wanted an OSD (officer on special duty) saying he wanted an “experienced hand”. So, he chose K Satardekar and got the standing committee, which he heads, to approve the proposal and monthly salary of Rs 20,000 at a meeting at the end of June.
Opposition councilors, filed a complaint with the director of municipal administration, saying the standing committee did not have the powers to approve a remuneration more than Rs 10,000.  In fact, according to Menino da Cruz, a co-opted councilor, as per Directorate of Municipalities Administration rules, only a salary of Rs 7,000 to Rs 8,000 could be approved. He also alleged that Furtado had appointed an electrical consultant and that he had got the CCP building painted through a sponsor. “Nobody has given me a sponsor for painting,” was Furtado’s response.

On the personal front, Furtado ordered a Toyota Innova (cost: Rs 14, 20,643) abandoning the Volkswagen Vento, that was bought on June 2, 2011, which his predecessor used to drive around in.  He claimed he was “medically advised” not to travel in a car with a “lower deck”.  And so he over-rode the finance department’s circular that puts a ceiling of Rs 10,00,000 on a car purchased by the chairperson of a corporation.  But the Innova’s low ground clearance of 176 mm might pose a problem over Goa’s pot-holed roads, something he did not factor in.

Thankfully, there has been no justification for the fancy rest room and ante-chamber he got repaired, and that too by a private contractor.  In fact, that’s a charge against him that keeps coming up – that he is indulging private builders.  Even at the CCP meeting on July 31, opposition corporators claimed that the CCP received “sponsored” trucks from builders.

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