MURDERED: Local journalists and social activists gathered at Azad Maidan as part of nation-wide protests against the brutal murder of Gauri Lankesh, editor of the Lankesh Patrike, and activist against communism, just outside her residence in Bengaluru. Speakers condemned the crime and discussing steps to be taken. Journalist and singer/ song writer Sigmund De Souza sang a song by Bob Dylan — Blowin’ in the Wind — as a tribute
By Rajan Narayan
AND a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when Hindutva fanatics claimed another victim, Gauri Lankesh. For a Saturday following the week when Manohar Parrikar admitted that it was the state government which asked for the transfer of cases from the National Green Tribunal (NGT) bench in Pune to Delhi. For a Saturday following the week when Rohan Khaunte made the mistake of saying on Facebook what many of Goa’s generation next has been saying in public. For a Saturday following the week when Anish Albuquerque explained in painful detail why it is difficult to survive in Goa any longer. For a Saturday following the week when it was admitted that the government’s ambitious skill development programme was a failure. For a Saturday following the week when Manohar Parrikar asked students to email him if teachers objected to their asking questions.
AND a few stray thoughts on the cold blooded murder of Gauri Lankesh, editor of Lankesh Patrike and an activist against the Sangh Parivar. Gauri was the daughter of the courageous P Lankesh, who started the Patrike which was the inspiration for the Goan Observer. The tabloid started by P Lankesh did not spare any politicians or officials — however high their position. Lankesh was a rationalist who was uncompromising when it came to fighting communal forces. I had the privilege of being taught English literature by Prof P Lankesh when I was a student in the Central College in Bengaluru.
The gutsy daughter inherited the courage of her gutsy father. She took on the editorship of Lankesh Patrike on her father’s death. She was also a widely regarded activist who fought the fanatic Hindutva forces. She was shot in cold blood on Tuesday night by three men on a motorcycle around 8 pm at night just outside her residence when she returned home. The modus operandi was very similar to the assassination of other rationalists and anti-communal leaders like MM Kalburgi in Dharwad, Govind Pansare in Kolhapur and Narendra Dabholkar in Pune.
In the case of the murders of the three rationalists who shared a common passion for secularism and aversion to communal forces, among the main suspects are members of the Sanatan Sanstha. The Maharashtra police have in fact arrested members of the Sanatan Sanstha in connection with the murder of Narendra Dabholkar and his probe into the links of the Sanatan Sanstha with the killing of the other anti-communal crusaders. The Sanstha however has been claiming that the accused were not members when they allegedly committed these crimes. Among the main accused in the murder of Narendra Dabholkar is a former ENT specialist who was a member of the Sanatan Sanstha. In fact his doctor wife has also testified against the Sanstha.
The murder of Gauri Lankesh is a matter of great shock and sorrow to not only her fans and admirers but to the liberal movement in the country. It is further proof that the atmosphere of intolerance in the country is becoming worse. It is clear that the Sangh Parivar and the Modi-Amit Shah combine will not allow anything to come in their way of establishing a Hindutva state.
Significantly Karnataka is one of the few states which is still ruled by the Congress. Gauri Lankesh had appealed against a sentenced of six months imposed on her for alleged defamation of BJP leaders. This however did not stop her from continuing to target the communal acts of the BJP both at the Centre and in the state.
The dakshinayan movement, which is represented by Datta Naik the social activist, should hold a protest rally against the cold blooded murder of Gauri Lankesh. The Director General of Police Muktesh Chandra should stop playing his flute and offer protection to activists like Datta Naik who may become the target of the Hindutva fanatics. Indeed I was extended police protection right from 1989, when I was attacked by hired goons of a leading politician, until the BJP returned to power in the 2012 election. The PSOs were abruptly removed the moment Parrikar came back to power.
Ironically my former PSO was made the personal security officer of Laxmikant Parsekar, who succeeded Manohar Parrikar as chief minister. My other PSO is now defending Michael Lobo the Calangute MLA. But I am not concerned and the Hindutva fanatics are welcome to martyr me too if they wish. Though it is more likely Nilesh Cabral will try to attack me for our cover showing him as an associate of Hitler-like forces.
PARRIKAR’S NGT PLOT
AND a few stray thoughts on the admission by Manohar Parrikar that it was the BJP government which requested the Supreme Court to shift the jurisdiction of environment cases from the Pune bench of the green tribunal to the main bench in Delhi. Both NGOs and eco-warriors were shocked by a notification just before the polling day of the bye-elections which revealed that the cases pending before the NGT in Pune were to be transferred to New Delhi. The circular also implied that in future all cases dealing with the violation of the ecology would have to be filed before the main bench of the NGT in New Delhi.
The Supreme Court had decentralised the functioning of the NGT. Separate benches were established for the North, South, East and West. The states of Maharashtra Karnataka and Goa were brought under the NGT Bench in Pune. This was very convenient for NGOs and social activists from Goa struggling to save the state and their villages from the land sharks. Goan Observer has been carrying the success stories of eco-warriors who were guided by leading ecology activist Padmashri Norma Alvares.
The proximity of the NGT at Pune did not suit either the Parrikar government or the Modi government. This is because the NGT helped to expose the conspiracy of Nitin Gadkari in collusion with the Adanis to make Goa a coal hub. The MPT had permitted the Adanis to vastly expand the coal handling facility at the MPT after they secured rights to mine and import coal from Australia. Historically there have been protests against the import of coal which is considered dirty cargo through MPT because of the pollution caused to residents of Vasco. Due to the delay in the completion of the bypass from the MPT, coal continues to be transported by road through Vasco city.
NGOs and social activists had managed to stall many other eco-hostile projects of the BJP government. There are cases pending in the NGT at Pune against the environmental clearance given to the Mopa Airport. There are also cases pending against the third bridge over the Mandovi River and the alignment of the Zuari bridge. The move by the Minister for River Transport Gadkari to nationalise the rivers of Goa has also been objected to. At an individual level, social activists’ challenges of several mega housing and hotel projects within the Coastal Regulation Zone (CRZ) are also pending before the NGT. The latest success of the social activists was the order blocking the construction of a mega housing complex in Carmona by the Rahejas.
The Goa government as well as the Central government has been increasingly disturbed by the success of NGOs and social activists in blocking prestigious projects and money-making rackets of the State and Central government. Parrikar presumably believes that the government has been losing the majority of cases filed against it before the NGT in Pune because government lawyers are not able to defend the illegal actions. The chief minister’s principle legal advisor, who is also a close friend of his, has refused to return to Goa unlike Parrikar. We are talking of Atmaram Nadkarni, the former advocate general who is now an additional solicitor general to the Central government.
This is the reason why Manohar Parrikar wants the cases currently before the NGT in Pune, and any future cases also, to be before the Central Bench in New Delhi. This will have two benefits. It will make it difficult for NGOs and social activists to file cases and follow-up on them as, unlike Pune, Delhi is far, far away and it will cost them a lot of money and time to follow up on cases at Delhi. The other reason is that great Atmaram Nadkarni can guide senior lawyers to defend the Goa government. Parrikar’s claim that the location of the NGT should be convenient to the defendant is absurd because in these cases it is usually the government which is the defendant. The government has enough money to go anywhere it wants to — particularly when the legal team will be funded by the polluters.
KHAUNTE ATTACK ON FB
AND a few stray thoughts on IT Minister Rohan Khaunte being savagely attacked on Facebook. The provocation is a comment made by Rohan that Goans living abroad have no right to criticize the government in Goa which is trying its best to solve the problems of the state. Rohan may not have been diplomatic but it is a fact that many industrialists and businessmen belonging to generation next are disgusted with doing business in Goa. The levels of corruption are so high that it is impossible for any industry to function in Goa. An additional factor is the tendency of Goans to attack each and every project.
I recall a close industrial friend who asked his son whether he wanted to take over the business when he decided to retire, or whether he wanted to close down the business and migrate abroad. Many large industrial houses have stopped setting up new projects in Goa. Any expansion they are undertaking is outside Goa and many cases outside India. It may be recall that the Dempo group sold all its interest in mining to the London-based Vedanta Group which took over Goa’s biggest ore exporter Sesa Goa. The present chairman of the Dempo Group, Shrinivas Dempo, has invested in a shipyard in Gujarat and was full of praise for the support from the Gujarat government.
Similarly the Fomento group have now moved a lot of their mining operations to Sindhudurg in Maharashtra. It is an open secret that the Fomento group has bought a lot of land in Vengurla on the other side of the border to set up five and seven-star hotels in collaboration with Sharad Pawar of the NCP. The NRB group has started a huge pharma company in Zambia. Even casino owners in Goa are finding it easier to invest and start new casinos in Zambia than in Goa.
Which is why probably young people like Rohan who besides holding the agency for Ashok Leyland vehicles also have other business interests are reluctant to expand in Goa because there is no ease of doing business. On the contrary as many young entrepreneurs have pointed out, you need two dozen permission even to start a restaurant in Goa. There is so much corruption that the profit margin is very law. Rohan claims to be trying his best to improve the investment climate for the IT industry in Goa.
Goa is ideal for BPOs as it has a large educated English-speaking population of young people. But the connectivity is so bad that nobody can risk starting a call centre in Goa. Historically the attitude of the government also has been hostile. I recall that over two decades ago Azim Premji of WIPRO, the second largest IT company in the country, wanted to set up a very large campus in Goa. Since he was kept waiting by the then Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar for three days for an appointment, he left and decided to never set up a business in Goa. It is true that people living abroad do not realise the problems of living in Goa.
AND a few stray thoughts on the response of Anish Albuquerque, the son of Victor Albuquerque to the comments of Rohan Khaunte. In a very moving post on Facebook, Anish has pointed out the nightmare that Goa has become. Anish tells us he has two cars but he cannot use them in Panjim where his company has the head office because he can’t find space for parking. He has not added that it is impossible to find a driver as they all want to run taxis and not private cars because of the huge kickbacks they get.
Anish has pointed out that he is forced to take his car and drive himself to visit his clients because of the taxi mafia. He admits that he has a roof over his head only because his father had bought him a flat. He points out at the existing prices it is impossible for anybody to buy a flat in Goa, particularly in Panjim. A two bed room flat in Dona Paula in Ocean park can cost you at least `1 crore. There is no way anyone can make so much money by honest business to buy a flat.
Anish also talk about his concerns about the health of his family. Anish understandably does not rely on the GMC because of the insanitary conditions. In any case it is well known that unless you have a godfather you cannot get any treatment or even attention in GMC. The ward attendents do not work because they were all hired by babas. The GMC has outsourced its pathology lab as we discovered when even on being admitted in the super-efficient cardiac unit, we were sent to Manipal to get blood tests done. With Baba’s return as Health Minister the GMC will be back to loot and plunder rather than the health of the Goans. The ground reality is that with the garbage problem, the stinking St Inez nallah and the pot-holed, unlit Dona Paula bypass road, it is becoming a nightmare to live in Panjim, the capital of Goa. The condition of other parts of Goa is much worse.
AND a last stray thought on the chief minister’s advice to students on teacher’s day. While honouring teachers, Parrikar announced that in the future it will be students who will decide which teacher should be honoured. The logic being that students are the best judge of who is the best teacher. Unfortunately students on their part are likely to vote for the teachers who allow them to do maximum masti.
Parrikar also made it clear that teachers at all levels who do not have a diploma or a degree in education will not be able to keep their jobs two years from now. The overwhelming majority of primary school teachers do not have a diploma in education. Teachers have been given a last chance to get self-qualified through open universities by registering before the end of September. Parrikar obviously believe that answering the questions of students is the main part of the teacher’s job. He has told students to email him if teachers refuse to answer their questions!