SHAMELESS: The consortium which got into trouble by lending more than `9,000 crore to defaulters like Vijay Mallya is trying to recover its money by penalising small customers like you and me
AND a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following a week when the perception was that Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar was unlucky for Goa. For a Saturday following the week when Parrikar was all set to induct Vishwajit Rane and Mauvin Godinho into his cabinet. For a Saturday following the week when all Goans should join the boycott of the SBI started by one of their customers. For a Saturday following the week when it came as a shock that the Defence Forces have been supplying nakli medals to its heroes.
AND a few stray thoughts on why Parrikar is unlucky for Goa. Within a month of his becoming the chief minister in 2012, the Supreme Court acting on the Shah Commission Report suspended all mining activity in Goa. Then, as now, instead of challenging the Shah Commission Report in the Supreme Court, Parrikar rushed to implement the orders of the Supreme Court. He even went to the extent of asking the Vigilance Department to file cases against former chief ministers Pratap Singh Rane and Digambar Kamat for giving out of turn mining concessions long beyond the expiry period. However, the only mine owner against whom any action was taken was Joaquim Alemao who was running some mines on contract for the late Anil Salgoankar.
Not only did Parrikar not come to the defence of the mining industry which was the main contributor to the revenue and a major source of employment, he took on the burden of compensating the mining dependents, which included a large number of truck owners and barge owners who had benefited from the boom in demand for ore from China. This imposed an even bigger burden on the finances of the state. It has taken more than five years to resume mining activity which used to be the backbone of Goa.
JUST when mining seems to be reviving, Goa has lost another major source of revenue and employment due to the directive of the Supreme Court banning sale of liquor even in bars and restaurants within 500 metres of national and state highways Do not get misled by newspaper headlines claiming that the government will renew the licences of 1,000 liquor shops immediately. This will not happen soon as the Excise Department has to establish that the liquor shops whose licences are to be renewed fall within the 220 metres concessions made by the Supreme Court. Moreover not all liquor shops within 220 metres of the National Highway will benefit. The concession only applies to towns with a population of less than 20,000. This rules out all the major towns of Goa such as Mapusa, Panjim, Margao, Vasco, Ponda and Bicholim, all of which have a population of more than 20,000.
Marmugoa taluka, in which the BJP won all four constituencies, is the worst affected as there are three national highways passing through Vasco city and Chicalim. So much so, all the liquor shops and outlets in the taluka, including those in four and five-star hotels have already been shut down as they are within 500 metres from the national highways. They cannot get an exception on the basis of population as the Marmugoa Municipal Council has the largest population among Goan cities with almost one lakh residents. Another victim is the commercial capital Margao, where even historic restaurants like Longuinhos and the few three-star hotels have been forced to stop selling daaru. The capital city Panjim is the least affected, as most bars and restaurants and liquor outlets are on the Dayanand Bandodkar road which is not a national or state highway.
Initially it was believe that only daaru shops would be affected by the December 15th 2016 order of the Supreme Court which stipulated that no liquor vends would be permitted from April 1, 2017, and directed all state governments to cancel the licenses of daaru shops and stop issuing fresh licences. The Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, created confusion by his oral opinion that the judgement only referred to daaru shops and did not include bars and restaurants. On this basis the Travel and Tourism Association of Goa (TTAG) decided that it would not be affected by the Supreme Court orders.
HOWEVER while responding to review petitions from Tamil Nadu and several associations of liquor vendors on the last day of the financial year, March 31, the Supreme Court clarified that the order would also apply to bars and restaurants, including those in five-star hotels.
The concern in Goa is not just about the loss of revenue due to the shutting down of an estimated 3,000 plus daaru shops. In addition to daaru shops, bars and restaurants, including bars at starred hotels, will also lose their bar licenses. Indeed along with the bar licences, five-star hotels are also likely to lose their stars. This is because one of the conditions for being given stars by the Union Tourism Ministry is that all star hotels should have bars.
Everyone is most concerned about the impact of the Supreme Court order on the tourism industry. It is extremely unlikely that even foreign tourists who come to enjoy the sun, the sea and the sand, and not for the daaru, will stay in hotels which do not have a bar. Upmarket tourists in particular go to five-star hotels as only they stock premium brands. Over the last decade it is not the charter tourist but the domestic tourist who has been contributing to the bulk of the profits not only of liquor shops but to the hotel and tourism industry as a whole. During the summer season it is domestic tourists who come to Goa in very large numbers to spend their summer vacations. Goa has now become a 365 day tourism destination, partly because of the casinos, as every weekend not only gamblers, but IT professionals too come for a weekend break. If there is a long weekend because Friday or Monday is a public holiday, the crowd is even bigger with airfares zooming.
Loss of jobs
GOANS are angry because the daaru ban will result in much greater unemployment than the suspension of mining. In the case of suspension of mining the worst affected were the drivers of the mining trucks who were mostly from outside the state. In the case of the daaru and tourism industry, the majority of employees are Goans at the lower levels, though the managers may all be from outside the state. Apart from Goans, the people from the North-east working in the tourism industry in Goa will be badly affected. The TTAG is very angry with both, former chief minister, Laxmikant Parsekar and present chief minister, Parrikar, for not coming to the help of the tourism industry in Goa.
When the original petition came up for hearing in the Supreme Court, Goa did not intervene. The petition was filed by a victim of drunken driving from Chandigarh in Punjab, who pointed out that the largest number of accident on highways was due to drunken driving. Minister of Road Transport and Highways of India Nitin Gadkari, who is a close friend of Parrikar, is mainly responsible because his ministry did not oppose the ban on daaru within 500 metres of highways. In fact the Ministry of Transport agreed with the Supreme Court. When the full implications were realised and there was panic a review petition was filed towards the end of March. The Chief Justice agreed to hear it even though the court was on holiday for Holi. Even at that stage Goa was not represented. So Goa’s case for special exemption or at least concessions was lost by default.
THE states of Meghalaya and Sikkim manage to get a complete exception from the Supreme Court orders on the grounds that 80 per cent of the land area comprised forest and hills and there were no alternate location for daaru shops. The state of Himachal Pradesh manage to get a concession that towns with the populations of less than 20,000 will permitted daaru shops within a distance of 220 metres instead of 500 metres. The former Attorney General of Goa who is now the Additional Solicitor General at the Centre and a very close friend of Parrikar, Atmaram Nadkarni did not advise the government of the impact of the Supreme Court orders. While Goa managed to persuade the Centre to permit Nadkarni, who is a brilliant lawyer, to appear in the Madhai water dispute, they did not ask for his help to save the tourism industry in Goa. This is strange because among the worst affected will be Nadkarni himself who walks around with a bottle of Black Label whiskey. Perhaps after returning to Goa Parrikar has lost the capacity to launch surgical strikes and has become susegad.
Parrikar is insisting that Goa will approach the Supreme Court at the right time. What he means is that he wants to engage in the practice of bench hunting. The Chief Justice of the present bench of the Supreme Court which confirmed the order on the ban of daaru even to bars and restaurant within 500 metres of highways is a sardar who does not smoke or drink. Parrikar has perhaps being advised by his friend, the former AG, that the current bench will not accept Goa’s claim that tourism will be affected if Goa is not exempted from the order, particularly when the police in Goa are themselves complaining about drunken domestic tourists.
Forget about the beaches, you can’t escape from drunken tourists even in Panjim. It may be recalled that earlier in the week a tourist from Tamil Nadu was stabbed by a migrant from Bihar who was drunk and tried to molest his sister-in-law. Parrikar is hoping that three months from now there will be a bench which will be more receptive to Goa’s request for special status. In the meanwhile he cannot even convert the national highways and state highways into district roads because the court may object and haul up Parrikar for contempt. The bitter truth is that tourism and daaru sellers would not have to suffer if Parrikar had appealed in time against the order.
AND a few stray thoughts on why Parrikar seems to prefer defectors and mercenaries. When the ministry was sworn in, Parrikar wanted to give only two seats in the cabinet to the alliance partners, Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) and Goa Forward (GF). However GF leader Vijai Sardesai demanded and got cabinet berths for all three of his MLAs. Parrikar had to give berths to Independents Rohan Khaunte and Ganesh Gaude who defeated Deepak Dhavalikar. In the first round the only BJP MLA who got a seat was the former deputy chief minister Francis D’Souza, who was not happy anyway because he thinks he deserves the chief minister’s post. He was offered the post of governor to resign, so that Parrikar could contest from Mapusa, his home town. But Francis was not satisfied with the position of governor. He wants to be Vice President of India.
IN THE second round, many BJP MLAs, particularly the Catholics, were hoping to get the two remaining seats. The Catholic MLAs are in the majority having got seven of the thirteen seats won by the BJP. Both Michael Lobo, who persuaded Vijai to ditch the Congress, and Nilesh Cabral who was chairman of the Goa Tourism Development Corporation (GTDC), were expecting to be made the tourism minister. They were very upset when Babu Asgaonkar, who had defected from the Congress and contested on a MGP ticket to defeat senior BJP leader Rajendra Arlekar, was appointed as the minister instead. The logic seems to be that since South Goa did not vote for BJP, the Pernem area close to MOPA should be developed and the Pernem MLA is the ideal choice.
There is anger in the BJP as Parrikar prefers defectors and mercenaries to loyal karykartas. This was demonstrated when he gave cabinet posts to all the alliance partners. The BJP loyalists are even more upset as the remaining two seats in the cabinet are being given to Vishwajit Rane and Mauvin Godinho who are both defectors from the Congress. Vishwajit and Mauvin have resigned from the Congress party.
At least in the case of Mauvin he resigned before the election and won on the BJP ticket. Vishwajit has resigned his seat as a Congress MLA and is re-contesting on the BJP ticket. Parrikar wants to take some insurance in case GF decides to withdraw support to the BJP. As far as the Catholic MLAs are concern he knows that they will remain loyal out of necessity and not out of choice. They can’t leave the party and will not get elected on Congress tickets.
Boycott Anti-Poor Banks
AND a few stray thought on the boycott launched by customers against SBI and other banks for increasing banking charges. The revolt has called for the boycott of SBI on April 6. This is in protest against the decision of the SBI to enforce a minimum balance of `5,000. Even worse, if you are a SBI account holder, you will have to pay if you have to make more than three deposits of cash in a month. I can understand banks charging customers for withdrawals. In fact even withdrawals from ATMs beyond a limit attract charges. But this is the first case of a bank charging customers for depositing money. They also have taken the petty step of charging `5 per month for sms alerts. The sms alert charge and the certain other charges are waived for people who maintain large deposits. This penalises the poor. This is the same bank which lent your money and mine to rascals like Vijay Mallya. The SBI, which wants to impose a burden on the common man and bleed him, has also sanctioned a loan of over `10,000 crore to Gautum Adani to pollute Goa with more coal.
AND a last stray thought for yet another Saturday. In a shocking admission, the Defence Ministry revealed that it has not been able to physically deliver the various medals that it has awarded our brave jawans, including those who lost their lives defending the country. Though the medals have been announced they have not been given as no order was placed for them. Not even for the copper medals given for serving in the cold Himalayan heights. None of the veer chakras which are given for extraordinary courage and making the supreme sacrifice, have been given to the families of the soldiers. The medals that soldiers wear on occasions are nakli ones bought from shops. It is an insult to our defence forces that even the medals given to them are nakli. They are not the exceptions. Goa University awards gold medals to those who top in English literature at MA level. The medal has been awarded but not given as the university has no money to buy them.