DEATH WISH: Domestic tourists who come to Goa in the monsoons seem to be eager to commit suicide as they rush in to the rough sea despite warnings not to venture into the turbulent waters.
BY RAJAN NARAYAN
And a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when there was no news about the status of the health of Power Minister Pandurang Madkaikar. For a Saturday following the week when the monsoons have set in Goa with Raj Vaidya of Hindu Pharmacy, with a fractured nose and foot, dramatizing the condition of residents of Panjim. For a Saturday following the week when tourists continue to come to Goa not to live but to die. For a Saturday following the week when IT Minister Rohan Khaunte has not been able to implement his ambitious plan because of lack of adequate bandwidth despite Jio. For a Saturday following the week when the efforts of Goan Observer in fighting the Sanatan Sanstha were recognised by Alka Dhupkar of the Sakal group, a close family friend of one of our modern martyrs, Narendra Dabholkar.
Madkaikar — status unknown
And a few stray thoughts on the Health of the Power Minister Pandurang Madkaikar.
Madkaikar was reported to have had a stroke in Mumbai in his hotel room in Andheri on Monday night, the day after he plunged Goa into darkness for the benefit of Casa Amora. He was taken to the Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital in Andheri West, where initial reports claimed that he had a stroke and had been operated on successfully. At least this was the announcement that his companion in money-making mischief, Health Minister Vishwajit Rane, made after visiting him at the Kokilaben hospital.
One can excuse Vishwajit for having not understood the terms that the doctors used. But Vishwajit was accompanied by the veteran orthopaedist Dr Shivanand Bandekar who is now the superintendent of the GMC. Both of them claim that Madkaikar was recovering very rapidly. But even a week after Madkaikar has a stroke and his operation there is no sign of his recovery. The hospital has not been making any statements.
However, ironically a statement has been issued by former Chief Minister Digambar Kamat, who visited Madkaikar as part of Congress delegation, that though he was still in a coma, he could move his legs and feet a bit.
Despite all his sins of omission and commission we hope he does not end up like poor Vishnu Wagh who has been reduced to an invalid. In fact, in the case of Vishnu Wagh, as part of the notorious BJP policy of use and throw, he has been abandoned and his medical expenses are no longer met by the government. He has been evicted from the bungalow allotted to him and there is even an attempt to transfer his wife, a Central government servant, to Madhya Pradesh.
Madkaikar, who was a Congress MLA, joined the BJP on the eve of the elections, contested and won on the BJP ticket, and was rewarded with the power portfolio. The lack of a power minister and the crises in the power department has come home literally. The electric supply to the PWD water policy in the Tonca area have been affected because a huge mango tree collapsed on the high tension wires near the Tonca chapel just next to the lane leading to our office. So for a while now we have power but no water. Narendra Modi zindabad and Manohar Parrikar zindabad.
It is not only Madkaikar who is unwell. Deputy Chief Minister Francis D’souza has been very sick for quite some time. He had difficulty attending the budget sessions of the Legislative Assembly. Francis D’Souza reportedly bought a kidney and had a kidney transplant which has not worked too well, perhaps because of some incompatibility. He has now gone on a 45-day trip to Portugal ostensibly on holiday, but actually to attend to his badly damaged kidneys. If he had stayed in Margao perhaps Dr Venkatesh could have saved him.
It is not all bad news, with the chief minister back home amid claims that he will in fact be present for the Revolution Day function on June 18. There are, however, other worries that although Parrikar is back from his latest advanced round of treatment at New York’s Sloan Kettering Hospital, he will have to live mostly in isolation and will not be able to meet ministers or officials for quite sometime.
Carlos Almeida, who was also seriously ill, seems to have recovered and has even issued an advertisement in most newspapers, apart from the Goan Observer, thanking people who helped him to recover. The names include Parrikar and made people wonder if the BJP had paid his bills. The grim reality is that medical costs are so high that no ordinary citizen can pay for treatment. So despite the DDSSY and various insurance schemes and even a public sector corporation, the older you get, it’s more likely that you will die of medical negligence.
And a few stray thoughts on the dramatic cartoon video presented by Dr Raj Vaidya of the Hindu Pharmacy on Facebook on the condition of Panjim after the monsoons began. The video shows Raj Vaidya with a broken nose and a broken foot on crutches due to accidents because of pot holes.
Raj Vaidya has in his video shown overflowing gutters filled with garbage, roads which have been dug by the telecom companies and the gross neglect of maintenance and repair work by the PWD.
The curious part is the PWD and the CCP are passing the buck to each other for not clearing the garbage. Down the lane where I live, just before the monsoon, a new drain with concrete slabs was built for the benefit of the supervisor in the CCP, Mr Amonkar, who had blocked the natural access of the water to the St Inez nullah. Several lakhs if not crores must have been spent by the CCP on the new gutter, the building of which was by supervised by Bento, who claims to own the area. But there is no outlet to the St Inez nullah and garbage continues to be dumped, choking the gutters.
Fortunately, a huge banyan tree in front of our office, which has been converted into a temple by mundkars, was trimmed just before the heavens descended. Otherwise there would have been a tragedy like the collapse of the mango tree next to the chapel at the Tonca junction.
And a few stray thoughts on domestic tourists coming to die in Goa. With the start of the monsoon, Drishti, which handles the life guards on the beaches, and the tourism department, has strictly warned tourists not to go into the sea. Not even to the edge of the sea, as there is the risk that you can get sucked in if there is a giant wave.
I recall that in the early days of our marriage the better three quarters and I would go and sit on one of the benches at the Dona Paula jetty at night after dinner. The waves were so huge that they lashed from one side of the cross way. In the beginning we used to have fun watching the tourist playing hide and seek with the waves, until we realized how dangerous it was, particularly for children.
Similarly, although there are red flags and boards warning that swimming in the sea is strictly banned during the monsoons, hundreds of domestic tourists continue to commit suicide. The latest instance is the death of three of a party of a dozen young tourists who ventured into the sea at 6 am in the morning when there were no life guards. Any evening if you go to Miramar, you will still see tourists trying to get into the water despite the angry waves. There are rip currents under the surface of the water which can pull you into the sea. The surface of the sea bed is not uniform. You might see a flat surface but your next step might land you in a ditch in the sea bed.
The waves are so strong that even shipping comes to a stop between June and August. This is partly also because the sand bar at Aguada prevents the movement of any big vessels into and outside Goa. There is a story of how the Portuguese forces who had conquered Goa were driven back by Adil Shah and were trapped in the Mandovi river. Their ship could not go back to Cochin and Adil Shah had imposed a blockade. It was the people of Taleigao who saved the Portuguese by secretly supplying their basic needs like food and drink. The church at Taleigao was therefore given the honour of being the first to harvest paddy and present it to the governor, a tradition which is still followed.
The most popular monsoon festival is of course Sao Joao, when young Goan men, specially those newly married, jump into the nearest water body — whether it is a well or lake. The legend goes that when St Elizabeth, the sister of mother Mary went to visit her, the baby in Mary’s womb kicked. This is the origin of the Sao Joao festival which has become a major tourism event. The highlight is wearing kopels or crowns made of flowers.
And a few stray thoughts on why IT Minister Rohan Khaunte is not able to realize his ambition of making Goa an IT hub. Rohan Khaunte is also the chairman of the IT Corporation of Goa. He is also the chairman of the panel set up to encourage start-ups in the state. That Goa is next to none in the IT business was dramatized recently when Dr Samir Kelekar, the son of freedom fighter Gurunath Kelekar, sold his cyber security patents to a Silicon Valley company in the Unites States.
Francisco D’Souza, chief executive of Cognisant, one of the biggest US IT companies, is also of Goan origin. Goans who do their IT engineer courses from Goa are forced to go to Bangalore or Pune to work as there are no opportunities for them in Goa.
There is also a reverse flow of Goans, particularly of young women, who are the result of the burn out which comes from working long hours particularly at night. In outsourcing centres, even in specialized ones dealing with medical and legal transcription, managers, and sometimes teams, work when the rest of the country is asleep because day in India is night in New York and vice versa. Since you have to work during their day, our young people have to work all night and depending on incentives for overtime are willing to work even 16 hours a day. Over a period of time they cannot take it and they come back to Goa like wounded soldiers.
I remember a colleague of mine, since married, who used to work in medical transcription and had reached a supervisory level. But she found it so tiring that though she was making a very large amount of money compared to her journalist salary in Goa, she returned from Pune. Of course one reason why many Goans come back is that they cannot live without xitt-kodi. A Goan airforce officer who was in charge of the Jodhpur Air Station used to send pilots to Jamnagar to get fish for his family.
But to get back to why IT doesn’t work in Goa, the simple answer is network coverage. Even media organisations have problems sending their files to the printing press. We have two BSNL high speed connections and there are several smart phones around including Jio which claims to create hotspots to enable you to connect to the net.
But for any kind of IT operation you need continuous uninterrupted extremely high speed internet connectivity. There is the option of getting a connection from Tata Communications Ltd, formerly Videsh Sanchar Nigam Ltd, which offers to lay a special cable from Mumbai to whichever city you want a connection. Jio might boast about its high speed internet but the ground reality is that even its routers do not perform well enough for professional organisations.
The other problem of course is the man power. Not the quantity — though even the quantity of engineers Goa produces is very little compared to the huge number of engineers that Bangalore does. Bengaluru of course had an advantage in that it had major public sector units like HAL, ITI, etc which already provided jobs for engineers. The quality of engineering education is terrible in Goa, particularly in IT.
In any case, IT companies which used to recruit thousands of fresh recruits from engineering colleges every year, have stopped doing so. There was the time when Infosys and WIPRO used to recruit 10,000 engineers a year.
Unfortunately, technology development, particularly artificial intelligence, has made it possible for robots to do the work that fresh employees were doing. The days of body shopping are over and in fact till India catches up on technology there will be no more jobs in IT.
Even in giant companies like Facebook, with billions of dollars of revenue, there are hardly 5,000 employees unlike the three lakh employees in Infosys. Increasingly, machines are taking away jobs from human beings. The only jobs which remain are for humans to design and programme the machines which will take away the jobs.
And a last stray thought on receiving a call on Tuesday from Alka Dhupkar, a journalist who is close to the family of Narendra Dabholkar, one of the many rationalists killed by the extreme right wing Hindutva organisations. In fact the Bangalore police have just announced the arrest of the person who pulled the trigger on the gun with which Gauri Lankesh was shot. Alka Dhupkar, who is a journalist working for the Sakal group, came to know that we had won two cases against the Sanatan Sanstha, one of the organisations implicated in the cold blooded murder of rationalists including Dabholkar, Pansare, Kalburgi and Gauri Lankesh. The police prevented the murder of a rationalist in Mysore. Alka has been kind enough to put a long post and the judgement in the civil case on Facebook, which has been widely appreciated. It is good to get some recognition because in Goa you are lost in a media island which nobody takes seriously, as they think of Goa more as a holiday destination than a place where there can be serious journalism.