UNCONCERNED: The Health Minister is unconcerned over dust pollution choking the lives of the villagers of Sonchi, which is part of the Sattari taluka
AND a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when the Raja of Sattari, and the crown prince, refused to help the people of Sonchi. For a Saturday following the week when the 56 research scholars who received PhDs at the convocation of the Goa University were for some strange reason wearing numbers as though they were kaidis in the Colvale jail. For a Saturday following the week when the Parrikar government advanced the panchayat elections from June 25 to July 17 because it would clash with San Juao celebrations. For a Saturday following the week when the Modi government told the Supreme Court that they were going to issue adhaar cards to cows.
AND a few stray thoughts on the Raja of Sattari, Pratap Singh Rane, and the Yuvraj, Vishwajit Rane, ignoring the choking of the villagers of Sonchi by Vedanta. Ever since mining operations have resumed, over 10,000 trucks have been transporting ore through the tiny village of 350 households completely burying it in dust. Even pictures in the daily newspapers show the horror of the brown wash of Sonchi due to mining dust pollution. Vedanta which took over the highly respected Sesa Goa has reportedly violated all the rules on the transportation of ore in Goa.
Mining companies are not permitted to transport ore during the day time through residential areas of villages or towns. The number of trucks per minute cannot exceed two. The mining companies are expected to sprinkle water on the ore so that dust does not fly. They are also expected to cover the trucks with tarpaulin. The Director of Mines had made it mandatory for all mining vehicles to have a GPS system. The director had warned that mining companies which violated the rules would not be fined and their extraction capacity would be reduced by one lakhs tonnes for each offence.
THIS is all fine in theory but does not work in practice. It so happens that the posts of enforcers of the pollution control laws are yet to be filled. The Pollution Control Board (PCB) which is expected to monitor pollution during transportation of ore has been without a chairman for over the last six months. The member secretary of the PCB is on leave. With no police around, the mining company chors are happily breaking every rule and getting away with it. The irony is that the police did not arrest the truck drivers or the owners of the mining companies, but the people of Sonchi who were protesting peacefully. Indeed the people of Sonchi had to spend five days in jail because they were too poor to pay the bail amount of `10.000 each.
Historically the Sattari taluka has been the kingdom of the Rane family. It is the senior Rane, Pratap Singh Rane, and the junior Rane, Vishwajit who control Sattari. Senior Rane, the Raja of Sattari, has been elected from the taluka over ten times. The Yuvraj has been elected from Valpoi for the third time. The father and son control not only the three assembly seats in Sattari, but also the two assembly seats in Bicholim, which is why the chief minister, Manohar Parrikar, has been so desperate to get Vishwajit to resign from the Congress and come back to the assembly on the BJP ticket. The act of Vishwajit switching to the BJP assures five seats to the Sangh Parivar in the next elections which will make up for their poor performance in the 2017 election. It is because of the importance of the Ranes that Vishwajeet has been given a cabinet post even before he getting re-elected on the BJP ticket.
It is not surprising that neither the Raja of Sattari, nor the Yuvraj, came to the help of Sonchi even though it is part of their kingdom. This is because the Ranes have always been the agents of the mining lobby just as they were agents of the Portuguese before liberation. It was the chief minister, Manohar Parrikar, who went to Sonchi and paid the bail for the protesting villagers to have them released from jail. Parrikar also warned Vedanta that their mining operation would be closed down. A diversion has been created so that the village will be spared.
IT WAS the Ranes who opposed the notification of Madhai and Netravali as wild life sanctuaries. This is because they knew that a large part of Sattari taluka which has hundreds of mines would be part of the Netravali sanctuary. It was during President’s Rule when General Jacob was the Governor of Goa, that the then chief conservator of forests, Richard D’Souza, got Madhai and Netravali notified. Indeed there is a demand that it should be made a tiger reserve since the spotting of five tigers in the area. The Ranes have been trying their best to get the Madhai and Netravali sanctuaries de-notified for the benefit of the mining industry, as it is illegal to conduct any mining operation, not just within sanctuaries, but even within 200 metres of wild life sanctuaries.
IT IS obvious that the Ranes, father and son, have been thinking of joining the BJP for a long time. In any case they were always closed to the Sangh Parivar. As the Yuvraj admitted, he was made chairman of the Goa Tourism Development Corporation (GTDC) when Parrikar was chief minister. Similarly the Raja of Sattari, Pratap Singh Rane, was appointed speaker during the first tenure of Parrikar as chief minister. Vijayadevi Rane, wife of Pratap Singh Rane, was allowed to continue as chairperson of Bal Bhavan and the Sanjay school for the handicapped. The Raja has made it clear that he will not campaign against the Yuvraj in the bye-elections to the Valpoi seat which Vishwajit resigned to join the BJP. The people of Sattari taluka and Valpoi constituency should teach the Yuvraj a lesson. Not for betraying the Congress, but for betraying the people of Sonchi. Significantly, though both senior Rane and Digambar Kamat stand accused of the same crime of retrospective granting of leases to mines, while Digambar has been summoned for questioning by the special investigation team no action has been taken against senior Rane.
AND a few stray thought on the 56 research scholars who got their PhDs at the 29th annual convocation of Goa University. For some strange reason all the PhDs waiting to get their doctorates were sporting numbers as though they were prisoners. I wonder why they were required to pin numbers onto their convocation outfits, although their dress code of white kurta pajama or salwar kameez, was of course an improvement on the suit and the black robe that they had to wear in the past. It is also not surprising that the girls did better than the boys as girls in Goa have been more serious about studies than boys for over two decades now. At the HSSC and SSC level, the percentage of girls getting distinctions is much higher than boys. This is because most boys are more interested in drugs, booze, and girls, than studying. They want to make money fast without working for it.
THE students attending the convocation at which the President of India, Pranab Mukerjee, was the chief guest, were adults, as they were all post graduate students and research students. Their average age must have been more than 25 years. It was therefore absurd that the chancellor of the University, Goa Governor Mridula Sinha was treating them like children. First she made the students take an oath to look after their parents and not send them to old-age homes. This perhaps would have been fair enough as advice but should not have been the subject of students taking an oath. The bigger joke was that the Governor told all the graduating students that they should get married. That not only they should get married they should remain married for better or worse till death do them part. Which is absurd in this modern day when young people the world over prefer to live-in rather than get married. And why should for instance, a young lady who is harassed by her husband, not ask for triple talaq? It is surprising that advice to get married and remain married comes from a lady who complained publicly that her husband had never said ‘I Love You’ even once in 60 years of marriage.
The worst part of the event was that it came against the backdrop of a serious crisis in the university. The percentage of passing in the pure science department was an average of 10 per cent. Even in the social sciences the percentage was less than 25 per cent. The university was downgraded by the Union Ministry for Human Resources and the University Grants Commission. It faces a very serious shortage of staff. Moreover there is a lot of politics in the appointment of staff. The Goan – Non-Goan war is very acute in the university. I often wondered whether the repeated thefts at the house of Dr Nandkumar Kamat in the university complex were due to the politics in the varsity. The varsity may take pride in conferring 56 doctorates. The sad part is that the quality of research is so poor, particularly in social sciences. I am personally aware of the quality of research as I referred to the PhD theses in politics economics and history at the university library. The reason is not lack of talent but that of resources. There is insufficient budget for research. I personally spent more than `10 lakhs on research on my two books on the history of Goan politics.
SAVING SAN JUAO
AND a few stray thought on the decision of the Minister of Panchayats Mauvin Godinho to advance the panchayat election from July 25th to July 17th. This is in response to strong protests against holding the elections on the day after Sao Joao. If the elections are held on the 25th, Goans who celebrateSan Joao will not be able to drink their fill as the day before polling day is normally a dry day. As it is, Goans are angry that their fundamental rights to drink anywhere 24×7 has been curtailed by the Supreme Court order banning the sale or serving of daaru within 500 meters of the national and state highways. How can Goans celebrate the wells getting full and baby Jesus greeting his aunt by kicking his mother in the womb, without their full quota of kop?
The panchayat elections should actually have been held much earlier, before May 15th, when the term of the present panchayats expire. But this would have meant the imposition of the code of conduct again within days of its being lifted. By virtue of the fact that Goa voted in the first phase of a six phase polling process, all development was closed for almost two months because of the code of conduct. The rule is that from the date of the announcement of the election no development can be carried out as it might influence the voters. For example, if the BJP built even toilets in a panchayat, it may be objected to, if it is done before results are announced.
Above the rules
SINCE the panchayats elections have been announced, the code of conduct should have already come into a place. But Manohar Parrikar does not believe in following rules, even those of the state election commission which holds civic and panchayats elections. Parrikar has declared that the code of conduct will be limited to a period of 12 days for the panchayat elections. The problem with panchayats in Goa is the small size. There are many panchayats which have only five or six members. There is more political intrigue in the panchayats than even at the assembly level. This is because panchayats in Goa have huge opportunities for making money, particularly in coastal areas where there are a number of hotels. It is the panchayats who have to give construction licences and occupancy certificates. The majority of the sarpanches in Goa are crorepathis like Joseph Sequira of the Candolim Panchayat. There is no political stability in panchayats as every sarpanch is voted out for not supporting illegal activities of other panchayat members.
This time around the BJP is determined to fight panchayats elections on party lines. After the defeat in the 2017 election where the part got only 13 seats, Parrikar wants to prove that this was vote against individual leaders and not the party. Parrikar wants the BJP to capture a majority of panchayats, particularly the Taleigao panchayat now controlled by Babush, and other panchayats controlled by Congress leaders. It won’t be easy as there is strong opposition to the manner in which Parrikar captured power though his party did not have a majority. The fact that EVMs are not used in panchayat election will not permit the BJP to rig them or do what Goans like to call a setting. But with Mauvin Godinho as the panchayat minister, Parrikar should have no problems.
AND a last stray thought for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when the Centre told the Supreme Court that the adhaar card would be compulsory not only for human being but for Gauvansh . Which means not just the cow, but the entire family of the cow. In the case of the holy cow, the details recorded will be much more extensive than for human beings. In the case of human beings only the finger print and the retina are recorded. In the case of the Universal Identification Document (UID) which is the adhaar for the cow, the details will include the age, breed, sex, and even the horn type of the cow. Despite protests against Fair and Lovely, the colour of cow be also be recorded, whether white or black or brown. The objective is to ensure that cows can be identified, not only to save them from illegal slaughter, but also from being smuggled into Bangladesh from India across the border. In fact the Supreme Court was reacting to a petition on the large scale smuggling of cattle across the border to Bangladesh.
CARDS FOR COWS
THE proposal to extend adhaar cards to cows comes at a time when the Supreme Court has raised objections to making adhaar compulsory for getting benefits like subsidies on ration or gas cylinders from the government. The Modi government has moved one step ahead and is demanding that the adhaar card should be linked to the pan card. There is confusion on the demand that adhaar cards should also be linked to bank accounts. The main objection to making adhaar compulsory, is the fear of the loss of privacy. Through the adhaar card the government can spy on citizens. The freedom of movement and the right to do business may also be affected if adhaar is made compulsory for not just opening but maintain bank accounts. It will have the reverse effect and people will start withdrawing money from banks.