BACK TO WORK: On his first day at work after his return from the United States, the chief minister held review meetings with department heads and key state officials. BJP officials say Parrikar will soon begin preparations for the monsoon session of the Assembly, scheduled to start in July
BY RAJAN NARAYAN
And a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when there was celebration and jubilation in the BJP camp over the return of bhai. For a Saturday following the week when Eduardo Faleiro, former external affairs minister and veteran Congress man, demanded that the Church should return to the Konkani medium. For a Saturday following the week when Home Minister Manohar Parrikar refused to take any action or order a probe into the manufacture of the date rape drug katermine in Goa. For a Saturday following the week when Panjim was literally drowning under the deluge of rains.
bhai IS BACK
And a few stray thoughts on the return of bhai to Goa as scheduled last Friday. Bhai came by chartered flight from New York to Mumbai and took a normal commercial Air India flight from Mumbai to Goa. Apparently the Air India flight was kept waiting because the international flight was delayed. Bhai, which means brother, is an expression used by the Hindu community in Goa to call senior political leaders with the tradition starting with Bhausaheb Bandodkar the first chief minister. The exception was Digambar Kamat, who was mockingly called Baba because he was always surrounded by the Muslims of Moti Donger.
Bhai seems to be determined to prove that he had not only recovered but he was back to being the superman that he has always been perceived as. Maybe he was inspired by the Narendra Modi fitness challenge. As if the burden of his school bag or portfolio bag is not heavy enough, he has taken on the Power Ministry and the Urban Development Ministry also. The Power Minister Pandurang Madkaikar is reportedly still in a coma in the Kokilaben hospital. The Urban Development Ministry is gone hunting for kidneys to Portugal.
ONE MAN MARCH
Contrary to earlier reports that Parrikar would stick to his Dona Paula residence and work from home, he has been moving around at a furious pace. Whenever there is a riot or some disturbance in a state or a city, the army stages a flag march through the streets. This is to assure minorities that law and order will be upheld even if the local police do not act.
After his long absence, Parrikar seems to be a holding a one man flag march. He seems to feel that it is important to be seen, in order to re-assure the residents of Goa that he has recovered and is fit to fulfil their expectations.
Parrikar started off in Hindutva tradition by paying a visit to the Devaki Krishna Temple at Marcel, Ponda, which is his family deity. Thereafter he went to seek the blessing of goddess Mahalaxmi. Significantly, unlike during the election time, he did not seek the blessing of the Panjim parish priest and the maulavi even though it was Eid, which was the right time to build bridges with the growing Muslim population in the State. Parrikar then went to the Secretariat and, perhaps to assure people that he went there to work and not to sleep, released a photograph showing himself signing a file.
The real surprise was Parrikar turning up at the Revolution Day function on Monday, June 18, 2018. Even normal citizens would have been reluctant to go to the Azad Maidan in the pouring rain. One would have thought that given the weather and the risk of infection, Parrikar would have avoided the Revolution Day function. But of course the superman believes he can do anything. In his speech he talked about making Panjim a smart city and that all citizens will get smart cards to pay their power and water bills. A contract has also been awarded to L & T for installing 140 CCTV cameras all across Panjim so that the BJP and the police can keep track of what the people of Panjim are doing. Obviously pot holes and overflowing drains are not a priority for the chief minister. Parrikar addressed a Cabinet meeting on Monday where he complained that some minor issue of land acquisition were delaying major infra-structure projects. He also held a meeting with all the mining-area MLAs and the advocate general on Thursday.
We wonder whether he is working too hard instead of spending some time recovering. But from our own experience we understand his obsession with work. The best way of ridding yourself of all your pains and discomfort, at least temporarily, is to keep the mind occupied. Which is what super bhai is doing. Even I would admit that the fact of his return to Goa and his getting back to work full time is very re-assuring for Goans who were faced with a total lack of governance for the last three months.
And a few stray thoughts on former external affairs minister and senior Congress leader Eduardo Faleiro putting the cat among the pigeons.
Much to the shock of the Congress party, which has been promoting expansion of the English medium at the primary level to all schools, Eduardo wants the Church to convert its existing English medium schools back into Konkani. Eduardo’s logic is that at the primary level the medium of instruction should be the mother tongue. Which is why when Shashikala Kakodkar was the education minister in 1994, she withdrew grants to all English medium primary schools. Her motive was not to promote the mother tongue but to save Marathi mausi from the challenge of Konkani. The fact remained that schools in Kannada, Tamil, Telugu and even Urdu, got grants, besides Konkani and Marathi schools. But English medium primary schools were denied the grants.
The worst part of the late Shashikala’s order was that Church schools were forced to switch to not just Konkani, but Konkani in the Devanagari script. While the teachers in Church schools, mostly Christians, were familiar with Konkani in the Romi script, they do not know about Konkani in the Devanagari school.
Interestingly there was a report recently that all the Urdu schools in Goa have closed down because Manohar Parrikar and the BJP have refused to appoint any teacher in this government run Urdu school. Personally I don’t consider this an attack on the Muslim community because most Muslims in Goa are from States like Karnataka and do not know much Urdu. They speak a mixed version or a khichdi of Hindi and a bit of Urdu. Most of the 2nd and 3rd generation Muslims born in Goa do not even know the language of the state of their origin, ie Karnataka.
The problem is that for over two decades enrolment in vernacular schools has been shrinking. The number of Marathi government primary schools which was over a thousand in the ‘80s has now come down to less than 500. Similar is the fate of Konkani medium government primary schools, although Konkani is the official language. Most of the government Marathi and Konkani primary schools are one teacher schools where a single teacher is expected to be handle classes from one to four. Though in the wake of the demand from the Bharatiya Bhasha Suraksha Manch (BBSM), formed by the former RSS chief, Subhash Velingkar, to protect local languages, there have been attempts at opening new Marathi and Konkani schools by private parties.
Strangely, the government has refused permission citing the rule that new schools were within 1 km of existing schools. The government has also refused permission to any new English medium primary schools in English.
We do not know whether this includes the Gera schools in yet to be built River Valley which claims to have started admission even without the permission of the government. Perhaps Mr Bhat the Director of Education will explain how Gera was allowed to start a school without permission. As far as we know they have not got recognition from the government yet.
The Church quietly started shifting from the Devanagari Konkani to English medium after enrolment in Konkani medium schools, even in villages, started dropping year after year. Church schools could not afford to charge the huge fees that private primary schools were charging because their students were from poor village families. The Bishop struck a secret deal with the then Chief Minister Digambar Kamat whereby Church schools would continue to get grants even after they switched to English. This was an informal agreement and there was nothing in writing.
The Church also struck a deal with Manohar Parrikar. They made it clear that they would oppose the BJP if it did not formalise grants to English medium primary schools run by Church organisations. Since in 2012 Parrikar has given lots of tickets to Catholic candidates, and he needed the Church’s support, he also agreed. It was this decision of Parrikar which caused a split in the party. RSS chief Subhash Velingkar who runs the Vidya Prabodhini High School accused Parrikar of betrayal and announced that the RSS did not work for BJP candidates. This was effective as the BJP manage to win only 13 of the 40 seats in the 2017 elections.
The sudden bombshell dropped by Faleiro will make the Goa Suraksha Manch and the former RSS boss very happy. It might even solve the problems of Manohar Parrikar who has been facing a lot of opposition from the majority community for limiting grants only to English medium school run by the Church.
Parents in all communities, whether they are Marathi mogis or Konkani bhakts, want their children to study in English medium. Even the migrants who cannot get admission in Church run English medium primary schools prefer private schools like the Santo Minguel School where they are not asked to produce any documents.
The BJP probably will have no problems withdrawing grants to Church school after the recent statement of Bishop Filipe Neri implied that the Constitution was in danger because of the Modi government. But the party which will suffer is the Congress as all its readers are from the South where English is the preferred medium of instruction.
And a few stray thoughts on the factory in the Pisurle Industrial Estate which was caught red handed manufacturing the deadly drug ketamine.
Ketamine is actually an dissociative anaesthetic, often used by veterinary doctors. It induces a trance-like state while providing pain relief, sedation, and memory loss. A popular hallucinogenic, Ketamine is odourless and tasteless, so it can be added to beverages without being detected. Often used by boys on their unsuspecting girl friends, ketamine, which is expensive on the street, is the latest among what are called date rape drugs.
Unlike in foreign countries it has been freely available at low cost in Goa, like aspirin at a pharmacy counter, because of which it’s exported in huge quantities to England and other countries.
In this case the factory, which manufactured over a thousand kgs of ketamine, was owned by Vasudev Parab, BJP general secretary for North Goa district. The chemist was a foreigner along with some of the other employees. Parab claims that he had rented out the factory to a foreigner for `75,000 a month and does not know anything about the drug manufactured. The plot in question was allotted to Parab by the Goa Industrial Development Corporation. As per rules, such plots cannot be sub-let. According to the India Today, Parab said he’d given the factory on lease with an oral agreement since sub-leasing was not permitted and he was not reporting the `75,000 income on his tax returns.
Parab might have considered himself unfortunate that it is the Department of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) which is conducting the investigation and not the local police, which might have been manipulated. However the narcotic cell of the Goa police is headed by Umesh Gaonkar who is considered an honest and efficient officer who cannot be pressurized to save BJP office bearers.
Parrikar on Monday said that state government investigation agencies will not conduct any inquiry into the manufacturing of ketamine drugs in Goa as the DRI is already investigating the case. This only re-enforced the suspicion that politicians are part of the drug mafia in Goa. It may be recalled the Ravi Naik’s son, Roy Naik, was caught on video with the notorious Israeli drug peddler Atala. Dayanand Mandrekar, the former BJP MLA of Siolim, is also alleged to be linked with the drug mafia. Cases are going on against Mandrekar’s supporters who are alleged to have killed the Nigerian drug peddler.
A Rainy MESS
And a last stray thought for yet another Saturday. Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar is lucky he stays in Dona Paula which is a plateau where rain water does not accumulate. For those who live in low lying areas of Panjim like the Miramar circle or the Don Bosco, or the former National Theatre or the KTC Bus Stand life is pure hell. Roads, trees and electricity all give way.
Recently a couple in Santa Cruz fell into a ditch dug by one of the telecom companies because they thought it was just a puddle. They are not the first and surely won’t be the last.
Trees have been falling all over the place including the huge mango tree at the beginning at my office lane in Tonca. Though the fire brigade is two minutes away it took them a week to clear the bulk of it. In fact a portion is still lying at the entrance of the lane.
Goans are used to suffering with lack of electricity during the rains because despite the upcoming ‘smart’ city no government has found a solution. When there are rains the power fails. Now Goans have to get accustomed to a fresh hell. When the power fails at the pumping stations, as it did at the one on St Inez, there is no water in the pipes although the roads are all underwater. The only way to travel in Panjim during the monsoon is by a boat or a helicopter.