TIME WILL TELL: Parrikar seems to be winning the battle for Bainguinim, but time will tell if he is able to fulfil all the assurances he’s given the CCP or if they turn out to be like other U turns taken in the past
By Rajan Narayan
AND a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when the ruling coalition government in Goa seemed to be heading for a split. For a Saturday following the week when a country that can send satellites to Mars seemed unable to deal with its garbage. For a Saturday following the week when the beaches were becoming the grave yards of young tourists. For a Saturday following the week when the Minister for Water Resources and Siolim MLA claimed he was being threatened by the drug mafia. For a Saturday following the week when the Goa Chamber of Commerce (GCCI) protested against problems with the implementation of the GST.
AND a few stray thoughts for a Saturday following the week when cracks started appearing in the façade of unity of the ruling coalition. The Goa government and Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar are very keen that the land owned by the Corporation of the City of Panjim (CCP) at Bainguinim in Ribandar should be handed over to the waste management corporation. The big boss of the CCP Babush Monserrate does not want to hand over the land to the Parrikar government. Things have become more complicated for the BJP as all the fourteen corporates of the Babush panel have joined the Goa Forward (GF). Mayor Surendra Furtado and his wife Ruth Furtado have no choice but to go by the orders of Babush. Surendra is mayor only because of the support of Babush even though he belongs to the Congress party.
The fight is not limited to the CCP and the BJP. Since Babush is now a leading member of GF, it has become a fight between the BJP and its main alliance partner. Vijai Sardesai the GF boss was present when the councillors, including the Mayor, took the initial decision not to hand over the land to the government for setting up a garbage dump and a waste management plant. Though Manohar Parrikar takes pride over the fact that the BJP government set up a waste treatment plant in Saligao within three years it has not been able to do so in Panjim for the last 20 years.
When the land in Bainguinim was identified, the Kadamba bypass between the Panjim bus stand and Old Goa was still under construction. When the bypass was completed, the Kadamba plateau became very valuable real-estate for builders. It has now become a second Porvorim with literally dozens of new building projects are coming up. A huge land shark is planning a mega complex on the Kadamba plateau. Historically in Goa and elsewhere, access roads are the most important element in creating new housing complexes. The Old Goa MLA Pandurang Madkaikar has a very big stake in the real estate industry coming up on the Kadamba plateau which is convenient as it is close to Panjim. You don’t even have to cross a bridge like you have to do if you want to go to Porvorim. The Kadamba plateau is also developing into a commercial complex with Akash Khaunte opening his new Mercedes showroom there.
Babush has been a patron and a close friend of Pandurang Madkaikar. As the biggest money lender to builders, Babush himself may have a personal stake. Babush and Madkaikar are not keen on a garbage dump and a waste management plant coming up at the Kadamba plateau. They have even managed to instigate the Church to oppose the garbage dump at Bainguinim. The Church has been claiming that the garbage dump could affect heritage monuments in Old Goa like the Basilica which holds the relics of St Francis Xavier. The chief minister is hoping to bypass the CCP through the officials. The commissioner of the CCP, Deepak Desai, has been replaced by a young new IAS officer. The real power in the CCP is with the commissioner and not the mayor. But if Parrikar gets the commissioner to transfer the land to the waste management corporation he may get into further trouble with the GF.
AND a few stray thoughts on why a country which has the capacity to launch satellites and build aircraft is unable to deal with the garbage produced. This is true not just of Goa, but all the metro cities in the country. There have been two major accidents or incidents in the last one month. A mighty garbage dump in Delhi came crashing down because of overloading resulting in the death of five workers. Similarly the garbage dump in Mumbai also has started showing signs of collapse due to overloading.
The problem is not limited to Goa and India. It is worldwide problem affecting even cities like New York and London. The real nightmare is the huge growth in non-biodegradable garbage. For the benefit of those who may not know the difference, food waste, plants and paper products are not a problem as they can be converted into manure. Indeed they can be even be used to generate electricity and the CNG which we use for cooking in our homes. The problem is the growing menace of plastics, which is not limited to plastic bags.
The growth of plastic increases with so called development. The more Café Coffee Days, KFCs and MacDonald’s that come up in India and the third world countries, the more the amount of plastic garbage will grow. You can see this in your everyday life. Along with your fried chicken you get sauces and salt and pepper in small plastic pouches. Even if you order coffee you may get the sugar and the milk in pouches. Moreover manufacturers of most consumer goods including liquids are shifting from glass bottles and tins to plastic. In the good old days you bought cooking oil whether it was Post Man or Saffola in tins. Now you buy refills in plastics packets. In Goa even daru is sold in plastic pouches and plastic bottles. Plastics can be recycled only up to a point. Besides contributing to the garbage problem, plastics also choke drains and cause mega floods like the one that happened in Mumbai recently.
IN ADDITION to plastic there is now a growing concern over electronic waste. Unlike in the past when at least the common man used the same TV, the same mobile and the same washing machine for years together, nowadays these are changed every few years. With high-end phones like Samsung and IPhone it is a fashion to discard the old model when a new model is introduced. This is true of a lot of consumer products from mobiles to cars. Even the poorest of the poor now buy smart phones because they are readily available at low prices. The problem with e-waste is that some of the components in mobiles and computers are radioactive. The disposal of e-waster has become a huge challenge.
It is not enough to ban plastic bags. The government must also discourage manufacturers from selling products in plastic pouches and bottles. Even soft drinks are now switching to plastic bottles instead of glass. There must be also an official policy for e-waste. The companies must be forced to take back their old models when new models are purchased. Forget about tackling e-waste Goa does not even have a facility for hazardous waste. This is chemical and medical waste like used syringes and needles which can cause infection
AND a few stray thoughts on claims by the Siolim MLA that he has been receiving threats from the drug mafia. The Siolim MLA who defeated the alleged patron saint of drugs, the veteran BJP MLA Dayanand Mandrekar, has openly joined the fight against drugs. The two beaches where rave parties and drugs are very common namely Anjuna and Vagator come under Siolim constituency. The Siolim MLA who belongs to Goa Forward would like to stop rave parties all together. Due to pressure from him some of the most notorious shacks like Curlies were closed down for a short time. Curlies was linked with the rape and murder of Scarlet Keeling. However the owners of Curlies and the other rave party venues have very strong political connections. The owner of Curlies was out within a few hours.
The ground reality is the police backed by the politician are also involved in the drug trade which is huge business in Goa. Big enough for the Russian mafia and the Israeli mafia to fight for their own territory. Historically North Goa, particularly the beach belt from Morjim to Arambol, has been the strong hold of the Russian mafia. Russians have bought huge amounts of property in Morjim and are silent partners not only in shacks and hotels but even the travel agency and tourism business. There have been occasions when Goan taxi drivers have objected to Russian women working as guides to Russian tourists. The Russians are also involved in the trafficking of girls from the former Asian republics which were parts of the larger Soviet Union.
IN THE South, particularly in Palolem in Canacona, it is the Israeli mafia which controls the drug trade. As in Morjim the roadside signs and menus in shacks are in Hebrew. At the lower level the Nigerians are very active in the drug trade. The most unfortunate part is that a number of young Goan youth have also got involved in the drug trade in the coastal areas. For all the kids who drop out of schools due to the change in medium of instruction from Marathi or Konkani to English at the 5th standard, or because they cannot cope with maths later, the drug business is easy money. Unfortunately many young Goans start using drugs themselves. The problem of drug addiction has assumed serious proportions.
THE Siolim MLA has demanded that the chief minister should announce a deadline for a drugs-mukt Goa. This is easier said than done. This is because not only the coastal MLAs but the police at all levels are involved in the drug trade. The involvement of police and politicians was exposed by the video made by the girlfriend of Atala, the Israeli drug lord. The video allegedly showed Roy Naik, son of Ravi Naik, who contested against Vishwajit Rane in Valpoi in the recent bye-election, with Atala. Even worse it showed the police selling the drugs that they had seized back to the drug mafia. When the stocks of drugs that were confiscated were checked it was found that over 60 per cent was missing. Drugs are supposed to be burnt in the presence of prominent citizens, which is never done. Instead, the drugs come back into the market.
The drug and rave party has split the cabinet. Not only the Siolim MLA, but even the Curchorem MLA Nilesh Cabral, wants drugs to be totally banned. Nilesh Cabral is directly involved in tourism as Chairmen of the Goa Tourism Development Corporation (GTDC). But unlike the coastal MLAs, Nilesh represents Curchorem which is part of the mining belt and is therefore does not benefit from wither rave parties or drugs personally. In sharp contrast to Nilesh Cabral, the Tourism Minister Babu Azgaokar is very keen on reviving the electronic music festival like sunburn held in December. But Azgaokar is claiming that he will insure EDMs without drugs, which is like creating a batatawada without batata. EDMs are really rave parties of which drugs are an essential part. Only time will tell who will win the battle of the drug mafias.
AND a last stray thoughts on the Goa Chamber of Commerce (GCCI) complaining to the government over the problems connected with the implementation of GST. The problem is not with the concept of a common tax in place of multiple taxes, but the manner of implementation. There is no clarity on how to file the returns and how to claim offset for the money paid as GST. In theory all expenses incurred by a company can be claimed as an offset. Similar to the TDS where the amount paid as TDS is deducted from the taxable income of the company or individual. We received a message from BSNL asking for out GST number to enable us to credit. A friend in the sales tax office tells me that even official lunches and dinners can be claimed as entertainment expenditure for the business.
In practise the system set up for digital filing does not work smoothly. It is difficult for the ordinary business man, however computer literate he may be, to even apply for a GST number. After getting the GST number you have the problem of filing the monthly returns. A lot of the time the server is overloaded and does not accept the returns. There have been cases reported of how credits of one company have been given to another company by mistake. The entity which owns the digital platform is a government owned company. It is jointly owned by the Central and State governments. Unfortunately unlike the UID (Aadhaar) the system is very inefficient. Things may improve with CEO of UID being asked to take over the GSTN server.
The worst impact of GST has been on eating out. If you go to an air condition restaurant or a five star hotel the GST accounts for more than 30 per cent of the bills. Liquor is out of the purview of GST and still attracts value added tax of 22 per cent. Similarly the coke or the soft drinks you buy with your drink also attracts 24 per cent GST. The GST on the food is 18 per cent divided into two parts of 9 per cent each as State GST and Central GST.
So if you go out for dinner with a drink the total taxes you pay will be 22 per cent on drinks plus 18 per cent on food. Which is why it may be more sensible to buy a bottle of daru and order food home which will save you the taxes.