POLLUTION: Fomento is reported to have sought permission to set up a five million tonne coal stacking dump at Xelvona in South Goa over an area of more than two lakh square metres
By Rajan Narayan
AND a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when there appeared to be a revolt within the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). For a Saturday following the week when the educational system did not seem to be geared for online exams. For a Saturday following the week when the RP 2021 was virtually dead. For a Saturday following the week when we discovered that it is not the Adanis and the Jindals alone, but our own Goan industrialists who are blackening Goa’s face.
REVOLTS FOR JOBS
AND a few stray thoughts on the revolt within the BJP. Due to the compulsion of coalition politics Manohar Parrikar has not been able to accommodate many of the BJP MLAs in the cabinet. Without a kodel the voters do not respect the BJP MLAs as they have not able to do anything for them.
Goan voters expect their MLAs to get a government job for at least one member in each family. They don’t mind paying the asking price. Several people come to me every week whenever an advertisement is issued for a government job in any department. They assure me that they don’t want it free but they are willing to pay for it. Like politicians, voters also perhaps see government jobs as an investment and licence to make money. With the implementation of the seventh pay commission, even a driver or a lower division clerk (LDC) can expect a starting salary of almost `40,000. Besides, government servants are entitled to full reimbursement of their medical expenses even at the most expensive hospitals. And they only have to work, or pretend to work, five days a week. No wonder the BJP MLAs and indeed all the MLAs supporting the Parrikar-led coalition government are unhappy over the freeze on new recruitment. Jobs are not only a means of creating a vote bank for an MLA but also a source of income.
The unrest all started with the former chief minister Laxmikant Parsekar. When Parrikar went away to Delhi as defence minister leaving the treasury bankrupt, there was no money even to pay contractors for patching up potholes, let alone other development work. Which is part of the reason why major projects like the South Goa district hospital and fresh infrastructure at the GMC have been delayed. In addition, poor Parsekar was under pressure to implement the seventh pay commission award. Parrikar had already initiated recruitment for a thousand jobs which had fallen vacant. As there was no money even to pay the existing government servants, Parsekar was forced to cancel even the appointments that had been made during his tenure. Parsekar is now insisting that the government should honour the appointments he had sanctioned while he was chief minister.
But Parrikar has a very challenging task as he has to accommodate the demands of all the BJP MLAs. Initially he tried to resist the pressure to add more jobs to an already bloated bureaucracy. But the ministers and his MLAs are insisting that there are as many as 10,000 vacancies and the process for the filling them should be started immediately.
Parrikar has now promised that the recruitment will start in December. It has actually already started, with interviews being held for the post of LDC in the Civil Supply Department located at the Junta House. We do not know how many seats are there for the written exam, but there were more than 300 candidates standing in a queue in the sun outside the Junta House waiting their turn. Parrikar has now decided to have a common entrance exam for all LDCs in all departments.
The two departments which claim to have the largest number of unfilled vacancies are the Health Department and the Police Department. Dhavalikar, the PWD minister, and the power ministers are also asking for additional staff. Vishwajit Rane, the health minister, is a master of the game and seems to be determined that every young man and woman in his constituency should get a government job. During his last tenure as health minister, just before the election he created a special category called Patient Care Attendants and a large number of youth from Sattari were employed. None of them of course were willing to do any work, thus increasing the burden of the original attendants. Vishwajit once again wants to recruit a large number of nurses, doctors and attendants in the Health Department. Similarly many police stations are understaffed and there is pressure from the DGP to fill the vacancies.
The 64 billion dollar question is whether the government can afford to hire 10,000 more employees in addition to the existing 60,000 employees. If you consider the ratio of government employee to total population, Goa should be the best administered state, as there is a government employee for every 10 Goans. We know what the reality is. However, Chief Minister Parrikar has no choice but to take on 10,000 more employees as otherwise he will lose his kodel.
AND a few stray thoughts on the educational system having become so bad that less than 5% of the candidates cleared a recent exam conducted by the Goa Public Service Commission. It was not an exam for clerks or typists — it was for recruiting officers of the Goa Civil Service. The explanation given for the poor performance of Goan students is that they had not prepared properly as compared to candidates from other states. The ground reality is that Goans are just not equipped to answer online exams, which have become the norm for even admission to IITs and IIMs as well as the Central services exam. Online exams require rapid reflexes as they are objective type. Goans who are used to essay type answers are often unable to cope with online testing.
Unfortunately for young Goans, an increasing number of government and private organisations are switching to online testing as there is less scope for golmal. Though this is debatable considering that the experiment of online correction of examination papers by the Bombay University was a huge flop. In that case the answer papers were scanned and the examiners were expected to give marks online. This resulted in not only a delay in the results but the sacking of the Vice Chancellor.
PARRIKAR has himself acknowledge that the quality of education in Goa is very poor. This is partly because of a severe shortage of staff. More than 40% of the teaching jobs in Goa university are lying vacant. Similarly no Goan doctors who have passed out of GMC with MD degrees are interested in taking up teaching jobs, even though after the seventh pay commission the salaries are quite competitive. A lecturer can get up to `70,000 and a professor in the medical college can get over a lakh. The specialist of course can make much more in the private sector. After a gap of 15 years the Goa Engineering College finally got a permanent principle.
Part of the problem is that not only government colleges, but even private colleges, resort to contract labour to save money. The majority of the lecturers, particularly in the self-financing courses in colleges, are on contract. Many of the lecturers in the polytechnic and even in the degree colleges are on an hourly basis. No teacher is going to take his job seriously if he does not have job security.
To add to the problems of teachers, they have to be careful to keep on the right side of the political masters. Recently the Indian Institute of Science in Bengaluru, which is among the best colleges in the world, was forced to hold a seminar on Astrology. And BJP Ministers have been claiming that our sages had invented the Pushpak Vimana during the time of the Ramayana.
AND a few stray thoughts on the death of the RP 2021. The RP 2021 was notified after a long struggle and a protest against the RP 2011 which had sought to sell Goa to the land sharks. The principle of the RP 2021 was that the villages should decide the pattern of development best suited to them. The panel which drew up RP 2021 had also called for the dissolution of the PDAs and the extension of the RP 2021 to all parts of Goa. When Parrikar became the chief minister in 2012 he scrapped the RP 2021. And since then PDAs have been extending their hold over rural Goa. The original intention was to limit PDAs only to urban areas. Originally there was only one planning and development authority for the state.
The PDAs multiplied due to the compulsion of coalition politics. All those left out of the cabinet (because of the rule that the number of ministers cannot exceed 15% of the total number of MLAs) had to be kept happy. They had to be given an opportunity to make money to retain their loyalty.
It was Churchill Alemao — who was the real chief minister in the PDF government headed by Dr Proto Barbosa — who started the South Goa Planning and Development Authority (SGPDA) and the Marmugoa Authority. When Parrikar became chief minister, Babush insisted that the Panchayat of Taleigao should have its own PDA. Parrikar who was dependent on Babush for survival, had no choice but to give him what he wanted to. It is Babush who is again the provocation for the further increase in the number of PDAs.
When Babush decided to join the Goa Forward (GF)he must have been promised that he would be given the chairmanship of the North Goa Planning and Development Authority (NGPDA). Unfortunately for Parrikar, Michael Lobo, the Calangute MLA who had been responsible for persuading GF to support the BJP, is not willing to give up his kodel. Indeed, Lobo believes he has been treated badly by the Parrikar government and should have been given a cabinet post. Even before the 2017 election, Lobo had succeeded in including Calangute and Candolim within the purview of the NGPDA. Now Vijai Sardesai, who is the TCP minister, wants the NGPDA to be split into three to accommodate Babush. The plan is that there will be three PDAs instead of the NGPDA. This will include the Panjim PDA, the Taleigao PDA and the Coastal PDA. The proposed Taleigao PDA will include Bambolim, Curca, Santa Cruz and Merces. Babush also wants Old Goa, where his friend Madkaikar is involved in lots of building activity, to be included in this PDA, of which he would be the chairman.
Lobo, who has been offered the post of chairman of the coastal PDA, wants the villages of Parra, the birth place of Manohar Parrikar, Arpora and Siolim also included in the coastal PDA. There will soon be demands from Rohan Khaunte, the Porvorim MLA, for a separate PDA which would be justified as there has been tremendous growth there. Porvorim includes the villages of Socorro, Penha the Franca, and Alto Betim. Rohan will probably ask for the inclusion of Sangolda also in the Porvorim PDA. Similarly, Churchill, who claims to support the BJP, may ask for the creation of a South Goa Coastal PDA which will include all the coastal villages.
The multiplication of PDAs will spell the end of the RP 2021. This is because the PDAs are not covered by RP 2021. Which means that they can make their own rules and convert paddy fields into concrete jungles — as Babush has done in Taleigao, Caranzalem and Dona Paula. Unlike in the case of the Regional Plan, the PDAs have been giving higher floor area index and permit the mass conversion of paddy fields.
When I came to Goa in 1983, there was not even a single four-storey building on either side of the old Miramar-Caranzalem-Dona Paula road (there was no bypass back then). It was a pleasure to feast one’s eyes on the green paddy fields. Now all the paddy fields have been converted into a concrete jungle. This is evident again in Mapusa, where agricultural land near the Bugdeshwar Temple has been converted to a settlement zone. Parrikar is interested in converting all the paddy fields around Mapusa into settlement and commercial zones. With the huge increase in not only the number of PDAs but the areas covered by them, there will be nothing for the RP 2021.
AND a last stray thought for yet another Saturday on the drowning of South Goa under thick layers of devil’s dust. The Indian Express has dramatically revealed the conspiracy to kill tourism in South Goa by increasing the coal handling capacity of the MPT to over 50 million tonnes in the next three years. It is not only the Adanis and the Jindals and the Vedanta group which took over Sesa Goa which are part of the conspiracy. Shamefully our own Goenkars have joined the conspiracy to choke the lungs of the people of South Goa at least, if not all of Goa. The MPT does not have the capacity to store the projected 50 million tonnes of coal which will be imported for the benefit of steel and power plants in Karnataka to which it will be transported by rail during the day, by road during the night, and through the rivers 24 hours a day. To enable the storage of this coal before it can be loaded onto trucks, trains and barges, storage areas, like the dumps for rejects of iron ore, will be needed. The proportion of iron ore in the rock in Goa is very small and the waste material has been piled up in mountains of rejects all over Goa over the years by the mining industry, making its way into the rivers and springs in the monsoons.
In an action replay, the Fomento group who are the largest polluters in Goa, have now decided to switch to coal, since the mining industry is virtually dead. The Fomento group had acquired over two lakh sq mtrs of land in Xelvona. It proposes to use this land to store over three to five million tonnes of devil’s dust until it can be loaded onto trains, ships and barges. Fortunately the Fomento group has not yet secured environmental clearances. It should be the duty of every niz goenkar to ensure that the Fomento and other mining groups are not allowed to set up storage areas for the coal that will blacken the face of Goa and kill the tourism industry in South Goa. Perhaps Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar is adamant in opposing setting up an NGT tribunal in Goa as he does not want any obstacle to the plans of the Fomento and other Goan groups who have joined hands with the Adanis and the Jindals.