CONSPIRACY: The Minister for Waterways Nitin Gadkari is trying to nationalise the rivers so that they can be used to transport coal imported by Gautam Adani from Australia. He is taking the Goan rivers to Delhi as he joked at a function at the International Centre, Goa
By Rajan Narayan
AND a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when according to a report in a section of the daily media, the navy wanted control of Mopa airport as well. For a Saturday following the week when Nitin Gadkari, the Union Minister for Transport, including waterways, made fun of the people of Goa. For a Saturday following the week when disturbingly, Manohar Parrikar has refused to commit himself to keeping out the likes of ‘Sadhvi’ Saraswati. For a Saturday following the week when the state witnessed an increasing number of accidents since the beginning of the rains. For a Saturday following the week when there were demands for control of the content posted on Facebook.
AND a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday when the Navy wanted control of the Mopa Airport also. Successive governments, particularly those controlled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) have been claiming that with the commissioning of the Mopa Airport the difficulties faced by private airlines at Dabolim would be overcome. The Dabolim airport, unlike the new Mopa airport, has always been a defence airport ever since Goa was liberated from Portuguese colonial rule on December 19, 1961.
The problem with the Dabolim Airport is that it is controlled by the navy. In fact, it is not widely known, but Goa is the largest naval airbase in the country. Consequent to the fact that the navy owns the Dabolim airport, naval aircraft have priority over civilian aircraft. The Goa airport is reserved exclusively for the use of the navy pilots to practise between 8 am and 12 noon. This is why civilian flights land in Goa only before 8 am, or after 12 noon. This leads to the bunching of flights. Most of the private civilian flights are between 12 noon and 5 pm. This puts pressure on the limited runaway space and the flight traffic controllers. Flight traffic control in any case is in the hands of the navy and not the airport authority of India unlike in the case of civilian airports like Mumbai and Bangalore.
Parrikar promised that the Mopa airport would be an additional airport to meet the expected increase in traffic. Though Goa has a population of only 15 lakhs it attracts 30 to 40 lakh tourists every year. Goa is a only state in the country where charter flights from foreign countries are permitted to land directly. There are also international flights to the Gulf countries taking off from Goa. The passenger traffic is expected to double by 2020. As the navy will not part with any land for the expansion of the Dabolim airport it was accepted that there was no alternative to building a second airport in Mopa.
The very rationale for setting up the Mopa airport was to free air passengers from the dadagiri of the navy. With the navy demanding space for itself at the Mopa airport, the logic of building a new separate civilian airport has been destroyed. The navy has not only asked for a large part of the land on which the Mopa airport is being built but has made it clear that as in the case of Dabolim, the defence forces will have priority even at the Mopa airport. For all we know the navy might restrict the timing during which private flights can land even at Mopa. This is because the control over flights landing at Mopa will continue to be with naval air traffic controllers at the INS Hansa which is the naval airport next to Dabolim. Now Goa will have two airports both controlled by the navy.
AND a few stray thoughts on the Union Minister for Transport Nitin Gadkari accusing the people of Goa for objecting to his proposal for nationalising the rivers of Goa. Gadkari likes to build big projects. Because big projects mean big budgets. And big budgets mean big money. And big money means big kickbacks to the minister or the BJP party. Gadkari during his tenure as PWD Minister in Maharashtra built more than hundred flyovers. He was also responsible for building the eight lane super express highway between Pune and Mumbai which not only increased the speed but reduce the travel time to less than three hours. While all these mega projects no doubt helped quicker movement of goods and passengers, it also involved huge budgets providing opportunity to extort huge kickbacks.
Now Gadkari can do at the national level what he has been doing in Maharashtra. Gadkari as the Minister for Transport is responsible for building and completing all the national highways. The national highways are broad roads which connect major commercial centres with each other. For instance there is a fast-track national highway between Lucknow and Delhi. Similarly for the benefi t of tourists there is a super-fast super-way between Delhi and Agra. The latest project of Gadkari, who like the Chief Minister of Maharashtra is from Nagpur, the head quarters of the RSS, is the super-express highway between Nagpur and Mumbai.
A highway is not just a road. It promotes rapid development of areas surrounding the highway. A major obstacle, whether it is to new housing projects, or to industries, is the lack of access. The money making logic of Gadkari is similar to that of Babush Monserrate. Until 20 years ago there were no high rise buildings or gated colonies in the Caranzalem, Taleigao and Dona Paula area. This was because there was no access. Even though Town and Country Planning Minister Babush during his tenure permitted the conversion of agricultural land to settlement and commercial land, builders could not put up structures as there was no access. It was by illegally encroaching on agricultural land that Babush managed to build all the broad roads for which he is praised. But he did not build them for the aam adami. He built them for the benefit of the big builders so that they could put up 8 to 10 storey buildings for very rich people. The flats in the gated colonies cost a minimum of a crore and nobody will buy a fl at unless there is wide enough road for them to drive their Mercedes. Broad roads and super fact highways also promote industry as it makes it easier for the movement of machinery and raw material. Now the local farmers in Taleigao are protesting that sewage from these large colonies is being released into their fi elds where vegetables are being grown — yes, the same vegetables you and I eat.
What Babush has done to the roads in Taleigao is what Gadkari wants to do to the rivers. At present the Mandovi and Zuari rivers are under the control of the state government. So much so, that the state government can limit the number of casinos that can be berthed in the Mandovi or the Zuari. Similarly the state can put a limit on the number of barges that can move through the waters. With Gautam THOUGHTS Adani having secured the contract for a big coal mining project in Australia, and having big buyers in Karnataka, what he now needs is to import all his coal through the Marmugoa port. Never mind that this will cause even more pollution to the Zuari river. Which is why Goa Forward (GF) had strongly objected to the nationalisation of control over the rivers. In fact the Adanis had already got the MPT to dredge navigational channels to enable bigger ships to berth, without sanctions from the Goa State Pollution Control Board (GSPCB). No public hearings were conducted before giving approval for expanding the coal handling capacity at the MPT. Now after the massive public outcry, Gadkari ko gussa aa raha hai as he cannot extort more money from Adani by permitting him to use Goa’s rivers and Goa’s port to import huge quantities of highly polluting coal. Gadkari wants to blacken the face of Goa with Adani. The people of Goa will have the last laugh as they will not permit Gadkari to take our rivers to Delhi.
SILENT ON ‘SADHVI’
AND a few stray thoughts on the demand made by ‘Sadhvi’ Saraswati at the meeting organised by the Hindu Janajagrati at the Ramnathi temple complex in Ponda. The meeting which was organised by the Sanatan Sanstha brought all the extreme right wing groups of lunatics and fanatics together. At the inaugural session Saraswati who is a third standard-fail RSS activist from Yogi Aditiyanath’s Uttar Pradesh demanded that all those who eat beef should be hung. This included the minority community MLAs and ministers in Manohar Parrikar’s cabinet.
It is bad enough that Manohar Parrikar has remained silent on the extremely provocative remarks of Saraswati whom we refuse to call a Sadhvi. The expression Sadhvi is meant for people with wisdom. The title cannot be conferred on semi-literate Hindutva fanatics. Indeed even calling her Saraswati is an insult to the Hindu goddess of learning. In the case of Pramod Muthalik, the Ram Sena chief whose gang had attacked young women relaxing in a night club in Mangalore, Parrikar had banned him from entering Goa. Though Pramod Muthalik was admitted to the BJP in Karnataka it was revoked on the insistence of Parrikar. The people of Goa want to know, to use a phrase made notorious by Arnab Goswami, why Parrikar has not expelled Saraswati who has been far more insensitive then even Pramod Muthalik.
Even more surprisingly, Parrikar has remained silent on the attacks on the Muslim community in various parts of the country. Recently a 16-yearold who was returning by train to his village in UP was killed by a group of fanatic Hindutva gau rakshaks. The excuse was that the young man and his brothers were carrying beef in their shopping bags. The boys were returning to their village after going to the nearest big town for shopping for Eid. Only after strong protest were the people involved arrested. They admitted that they attacked young Hafiz Junaid because of the clothes he was wearing, which identifi ed him as a Muslim. Wearing a skull cap and having a beard, which many Muslims do, apparently can be dangerous to their lives. In another incident a 50-yearold Muslim government servant in Sheranpur in UP was killed on the mere suspicion that he had stored and eaten beef. With Goa’s Muslim minority population now growing at a very rapid rate it is disturbing that Parrikar has not condemned the attack on Muslims in various parts of the country. We can understand Modi remaining silent but not Parrikar, because he is chief minister only because of the support of the Catholic MLAs who won seven of the 13 seats that the BJP won in the 2017 election.
AND a few stray thoughts on the increasing numbers of accidents since the beginning of the rains. Almost every day there have been more than one accident. In the latest case a car trying to overtake another vehicle pushed the pillion rider on a two-wheeler into the Mandovi river at the Ribandar causeway, where he drowned. In another accident at least two persons were injured when their car crashed into six two-wheelers parked at the Kadamba bus stop. Similarly there have been accidents due to trucks and tankers running over and crashing into two-wheelers.
According to the traffic police the most dangerous time to drive in Goa is between 3 pm and 6 pm. The largest number of accidents last year, 800 plus, occurred at this time. This has been the trend from 2012 onwards, when accidents between 3 and 6 pm have been double the number during the period between midnight and 6 am. But even the numbers for the early morning hours where one would expect all good boys and girls to be in bed (alone, unless they are married) was as high as 375 in 2016.
According to statistics for the last five years there have been 4,069 accidents between 3 pm and 6 pm resulting in the death of 274 people. On an average one person dies in a road accident every 30 hours in the state. The majority of the fatalities in road accidents are drivers and pillion riders of two-wheelers. Drivers of two-wheelers in Goa think that they have got concrete and steel heads which can withstand a collision with a truck. Though the Supreme Court has made it compulsory for both the rider and the pillion of a two-wheeler to wear helmets, the Goa Police are not permitted to enforce it. The big joke is that even if the two-wheeler rider is caught without the helmet, she or he have to pay the fi ne and then can continue to ride without the helmet. The police had made a suggestion that besides the fi ne the vehicle must be detained till the driver brings the helmet. But this excellent suggestion was turned down by the government. Repeated decisions by the government to enforce the rule on helmets have been cancelled at the last moment due to protest from the anti-helmet lobby. With Goa having more than 15 lakh two-wheelers and at least 5 lakh two-wheeler users who are voters, nobody wants to risk offending the two-wheeler vote bank.
AND a last stray thought on the hate post on Facebook. There is no control over language used on Facebook with very often Hindu fanatics referring to Catholics as dukors (pigs). Many four-letter words which are not used in polite speech or writing are routine on Facebook.
But the biggest danger of Facebook is that it is the biggest forum for fake news. It is the largest source of misinformation and disinformation in the world and in India. Globally Facebook has been used by the Islamic State to brainwash young Muslims to carry out terrorist attacks. In the most recent terrorist attack on the British parliament it was proved that the terrorists involved had been visiting sites which encouraged terrorist attacks. The terror attacks increased sharply during the month of Ramzan because the fanatic mullahs of ISIS were preaching that anyone who kills a kafi r during Ramzan will get Jannat immediately. In terrorist literature Jannat or heaven is portrayed as a place where 64,000 virgins are waiting to embrace you.
Back in India also, false rumours have been circulating on Facebook of Muslims trying to convert Hindu girls by pretending to fall in love with them and then converting them into Islam — something believers are calling love Jihad. On the other hand there are also rumours that Hindutva fanatics have been kidnapping Muslim girls and getting them married to Hindus. As in the rest of the world both Muslim fanatics and Hindu fanatics have been spreading these rumours on Facebook to provoke enmity between the majority Hindu community and the minority Muslim and Christian communities.
Nobody checks the truth of what is posted. Just this morning I saw a post claiming that the new nominee for the post of Congress president, Shantaram Naik, has promised `100 crore to GF boss Vijai Sardesai from the member of parliament local area development funds. Every MP gets two crore a year for development. In the first place since MPs only get two crore a year, Shantaram cannot give Vijai `100 crore. Besides, the term of Shantaram, who is a Rajya Sabha member, will expire in July.
In the case of news appearing in a registered newspaper or magazine, any offended person can file a defamation case. Any information that comes to a registered media organisation is checked and counter checked before publication to make sure it is not fake. All governments, should demand that Facebook should take steps to identify and stop fake news that is posted.