Goa is so insignificant although many tourists descend here for the sun, sand and fun that no national news even mentions how it is being affected by Covid -19. And CM Sawant is floundering whereas he was sure of himself about Parrikar's memorial on Miramar beach and allocated Rs 10 crores. Parrikar himself went by the committee that studied construction on Miramar beach and backed off. Sawant is deaf to protests from environmentalists and people who demanded a cancer hospital instead.

March 29, 2020
Pushpa Iyengar

Politicians are profligate when it comes to pouring tax payer’s monies into self-aggrandizement and nothing brings that home more starkly than Goa, which is looking at a Covid-19 pandemic, does not have a testing lab for the corona virus even three months since the China catastrophe; and has already sent around the begging bowl. This although medical experts have repeatedly underlined the need for testing the community to fight what seems to be a losing battle in the absence of a vaccine.

Goa is so insignificant despite the fact that tourists descend here for the sun, sand and fun that no national news even mentions how it is being affected. Chief Minister Pramod Sawant is floundering – witness the people crowding in groceries and markets despite a lockdown – on how to tackle the disease but is upping his political game.

Barely a month after former CM Manohar Parrikar succumbed to pancreatic cancer on March 17, 2019, Sawant allocated Rs 10 crore in Goa’s budget for a memorial on Miramar where the former CM was cremated to be ready in six months of laying the foundation stone on December 13. He turned deaf ears to protests that Miramar was being defaced and rejected demands for a cancer hospital instead.

Incidentally Goa’s tax payers paid for Parrikar’s medical costs - Rs 5.72 cr . Treatment at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Research Centre in New York, for Rs 1.58 cr and Rs 2.86 cr, at Lilavati Hospital in Mumbai for Rs 7,83,136, and AIIMS, Delhi, where the bill was Rs 1,43,926. By the way, Goa’s borrowings have zoomed to Rs 22,500 crore, three times its annual revenue growth. That’s how broke this state is.

Politicians appropriate public spaces

A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by senior journalist Devika Sequeira Shetty, a day before Parrikar’s first death anniversary was mentioned before the court but is yet to be admitted because the Bombay high court is hearing only urgent matters during the corona virus lockdown. The PIL’s prayer is to stop a senseless memorial that is wasteful and breaks every environment rule. Instead how about better medical facilities for those Goans who are struggling to stay alive?

The PIL said that Goa State Infrastructure Development Corporation (GSIDC) is implementing the memorial (“ShriManoharParrikarSmritiSthal) and had invited proposals from Architectural Consultancy Firms and had appointed a Jury Committee to select the design. The committee selected Mumbai-based M/s U. C. Jain Architecture and Environment.

Sawant said at the foundation-laying ceremony: “Goa was Parrikar’s top priority. To turn it into “golden Goa”, I need the support of you to fulfil his dream.” But he omitted to mention that Parrikar had refrained from construction going by the findings of the One Man Committee on Miramar beach privatization authored by Dr Nandkumar Kamat appointed by the former CM himself.

The PIL refers to these findings and argues that the memorial would endanger the beach and also the ecology of the area. It also argues that it would set a precedent – Chennai’s Marina beach already has the memorials of CN Annadurai, MG Ramachandran, Jayalalitha and Karunanidhi, all former Tamil Nadu CMs – for politicians to appropriate beaches for deifying their leaders. Incidentally, Miramar beach already has the memorial of Goa’s first CM Dayanand Bandodkar, but it was constructed 45 years ago when Coastal Regulation Zone rules had not come into play.

The PIL while stating that if the memorial was allowed to come up over 1,255 sq. mts flouting a plethora of environment regulations, added, “The said location falls in sandy terrain with natural sand dune. Along the river front is a no development zone from 100 mts distance of the high tide line and whether the area falls under CRZ-II or CRZ-III does not make any difference.” The petitioner adds, “Even if the area is considered to be CRZ-III nothing can come up at all strictly in the No Development Zone .”

BJP’s best memorial would have been to retain Panaji

Frankly, the best memorial would have been if the BJP had fought to retain Panjim, in which Miramar falls, and that was represented by Parrikar from 1994. But barely two months after he died, BJP besmirched Parrikar’s memory by letting Panaji slip out of its grasp! The opinion was that while Sawant paid lip service, he was so intent on erasing Parrikar’s memory that he refused the former CM’s son Utpal a ticket!

Incidentally, three months after Parrikar’s death at Miramar, many of the metal sheets that enclosed the area had fallen, allowing stray animals to enter.

The politics of monuments

But just for perspective, Sawant is not the only politician who has used tax payers money to massage to win brownie points. Former UP CM Mayawati did it and when the Supreme Court said last February that she should deposit Rs 2,600 crores used for erecting statues of herself and elephants in Lucknow, Noida, etc, with the state exchequer, she took to twitter to say these gave a ‘grand identity’ to Dalits and ‘regular income to government’.

In her response to the PIL she brazened it out saying it was the “will of the people”. She went on to defy the court saying spending the money on education or hospitals “is a debatable question and can’t be decided by a court”.

While she tried to milk sympathy by saying a Dalit woman was being honoured, the PM Narendar Modi, who as Gujarat CM laid the foundation for the gargantuan ‘Statue of Unity’ did not even bother to defend the colossal waste. The Sardar Vallabhai Patel statue has a total height of 240 mt, with a base of 58 mt and statue of 182 m. The political angle was the height was specifically chosen because Gujarat has 182 MLAs!

The project announced in 2010 was inaugurated in 2018 by Modi after spending Rs 2,989 crores later. Built on a Public Private Partnership model, Gujarat paid Rs 500 crore), the centre Rs 200 crores and the rest by PSUs under the Corporate Social Responsibility scheme. Any doubts that the tax payer has paid for it?

Next year look out for Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaji (Shiv Smarak) memorial, 1.5 km inside the sea on a man-made island made of rocks. The total height will be 212 mt, the statue will be 126 mt tall, placed on top of a 84 mt pedestal. The Shiv Sena’s monument will be taller than the Statue of Unity.

Hey Ram!

Even taller at 221 mt will be the Lord Ram statue at Ayodhya because how can a party which fosters an aggressive brand of Hindutva ignore Ram? Last November UP CM Yogi Adityanath’s government approved Rs 447 crore for the Ram statue to be 151 mt tall with an overhead umbrella 20 mt high while the figure itself will be 50 mts high.