RAITURKAR STING: Sanjeev Raiturkar, a well known activist, investigated the FDA ‘testing’ for formalin at the border. He found it was a sham. In the first place the samples were selected by the drivers, in the second place the sample size was far, far, too small, with sometimes just one fish or prawn being selected, and lastly the methodology was improper – for instance, one strip was apparently used on multiple samples!
BY RAJAN NARAYAN
Unlike those who only make speeches or put up angry Facebook posts, we should emulate Sanjeev Raiturkar who has taken on the powerful fish formalin lobby. He not only carried out a sting to expose the FDA, but has filed a criminal case against the FDA for endangering the health of Goans
Whe time is over for making speeches. The time is over for holding rallies against the government. The time is over for writing angry letters to the editors’ pages of newspapers. The time is over for making vehement Facebook posts. None of this is going to make the government act. We have seen this in the fish formalin case. Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar who is obsessively fond of fish was reluctant to enforce the ban on the import of fish because he did not want to offend Vijai Sardesai the Goa Forward leader who apparently is a close friend of the president of the Fish Importers Association, Ibrahim Shaikh.
We saw government apathy again in the case of the four hour traffic blockage between Agasaim and Cortalim. For three days citizens who were caught in the traffic complained bitterly. The newspapers carried photographs of not only the unending line of vehicles but also of the giant portholes on the roads. The traffic police just stood by watching the fun. There were only 14 policemen posted to control the hundreds if not thousands of cars stranded on the four km stretch.
All this because the new Zuari bridge contractor had destroyed the road and allowed for only a very narrow passage for the traffic. The Goa Congress and Girish Chodankar were arrested for attempted to hold a morcha and trying to cross the foot.
The acting chief minister, the principle secretary to Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, did not take any action. The Chief Secretary Dharmendra did not go to the scene of the traffic chaos or direct the traffic police to act. The DG of police Dr Muktesh Chandra, like a latter day Nero, played a basuri even while there was a major blockage in the main artery between north and south Goa.
It required a call from Manohar Parrikar in New York to get the top officials to move their backsides and try to find a solution to the problem. In the case of the traffic chaos the chief minister was luckily willing to act. But unfortunately he is not willing to act in the formalin case.
We should salute real heroes like Sanjeev Raiturkar who exposed the farce of the FDA checking fish imported into Goa for formalin. In a sting operation Sanjeev dramatized what a farce the checking was. Half a dozen or less inspectors of the FDA with kits supplied by the Cochin Fisheries Research Centre stood at the entry points. They did not climb up the trucks themselves and pick up fish at random from any of the crates carrying fish so that they could carry out a serious test. Instead they accepted whatever sample of imported fish that each of the over 200 drivers gave them when they arrived at the border between 1 am and 4 am.
Perhaps the FDA inspectors need some lessons from the customs authorities on rummaging. If the custom authorities suspect an individual or group is smuggling something they check every package and do a body check of the suspect. The FDA itself admits that they do not have the manpower to carry out an effective check on whether fish has been treated with formalin or some other chemical.
Parrikar has been talking about the fish meal plants which would be affected if there was ban on import of fish. When did the FDA last check what was happening within the fish meal plants? And since the FDA only checks and send truck at night or early morning, does it mean that trucks which come during the day can waltz into Goa without any checks? Surely as a measure of ample precaution they should be checking even at jetties.
Formalin fish is not just a matter of inconvenience like the four hour traffic jam from Cortalim to Verna. It is a matter of life and death. Worse still, people who have been eating formalin fish for years are faced with the prospect of a very painful death as it is one of the contributory causes of pancreatic cancer. We have to take it seriously!
Take the case of the Sanatan Sanstha. The CBI in Maharashtra has arrested the main suspect who actually fired the bullets into Dr Narendra Dabholkar when he had gone for a walk. The CBI has been working on the basis of input supplied to them by the SIT in Bengaluru which caught the mastermind in the Gauri Lankesh killing.
The SIT in Mumbai found huge amounts of explosives — enough to make over 20 bombs and several country-made pistols — when they raided some suspects whose names came up during the investigation. According to the CBI the Sanatan linked groups were planning to disrupt the Maratha protest for reservation and the forth coming Ganesh celebrations which they would conveniently blame on Muslims to create disharmony. Goa is the headquarters of the Sanatan Sanstha at whom the SIT and the CBI have pointed not only the finger of suspicion, but entire hands or both hands!
The only people who have not taken action are the Goa Police, even though it should be logical to presume the master mind of all these criminal activities is Jayant Athavale, the founder of the Sanatan Sanstha, who is based in Goa. Not even the threat to Damodar Mauzo has woken up the Goa Police. Unfortunately in this case bhai (Manohar Parrikar) has not issued any orders.
KERALA IN GOA
From on-going disasters let us focus on upcoming disasters which could wipe out Goa. Disasters like dams over flowing — as happened in Kerala due to very heavy rains. The flood situation is so bad that hundreds dies and thousands had to be evacuated and are living in camps. The main airports in the state have had to be shut down. The commercial hub Kochi (previously known as Cochin) is paralysed.
All this happened because Kerala ignored the Gadgil report which warned it not to tamper with the fragile ecology of the Western Ghats. In its detailed report submitted in 2011, the Gadgil panel had suggested measures for the preservation of the natural environment of the ecologically fragile Western Ghats region. The report had recommended that the entire Western Ghats, spread over six states, including Kerala, be declared ecologically sensitive — and had assigned three levels of ecological sensitivity to regions within the Ghats.
The committee had strongly recommended a ban on certain new industrial and mining activities in the area, and called for strict regulation of many other “developmental” works in consultation with local communities and gram panchayats.
Unfortunately, the governments of all six stakeholder states objected and a new panel was appointed which watered down the recommendations and allowed governments to get away with destroying green cover.
Kerala ignored the Coastal Regulation Zone rules which prevent the construction within 200 mtrs of the high tide lines. Keralites are literally in water because of illegal stone cutting and destruction of sand dunes which offer protection from the waves. It is a matter of records that has been massive erosion on the beaches of Kerala.
The situation is not very different in Goa. In Goa also the former chief minister Laxmikant Parsekar has admitted that there has been massive violation of the CRZ rules. Asked why he has not taken any action he claimed it was to provide employment. Parsekar should now realize that if there is a repeat of Kerala in Goa, the people in his constituency Morjim will be dead, leave alone having deaths.
Goa, like Kerala, is situated along the Western Ghats. The Gadgil report had pointed out that many reservoirs in the Western Ghats states, especially those in the steep valleys, were silting up prematurely due to massive encroachment, over construction and deforestation of catchment areas. Most of the towns and cities in Goa are located at the foot of dongors or mini mountains and even mountains itself. Even as we speak, the Kadamba plateau is being auctioned to the highest bidder. Similarly, gated colonies have come up all along the coast, towering to heights of over eight to ten storeys. This is true not only of Caranzalem and Taleigao, but even Chicalim in Vasco, and virtually every hillock in the state. Even at Altinho there are fears of landslides if there are heavy rains.
If you harm nature it is bound to hit back. We have witnessed this at the Betalbatim beach which was famous at one time as a sunset point. We have witnessed this at the Verem beach. The Candolim beach has virtually disappeared with the River Princess making a major contribution. Most of the sand dunes that used to be there even two decades ago have disappeared along the Miramar – Dona Paula bypass. Every day there is the warning from the Met Department, warning both tourists and fishermen of very rough seas. Waves and rough seas are coming deeper landward. All the land that was reclaimed to build fancy bungalows and the Kala Academy may well be claimed back by the sea. Panjim and Goa are at the highest risk because they do not even have a proper drainage system. If there is heavy rain the whole of Panjim will turn into a river.
The last stone on Goa’s back is the recent verdict of the Mhadei tribunal which, with the collusion of Manohar Parrikar, has permitted the diversion of the Mhadei waters near Belgavi to supply drinking water to Hubli, Dharward, and other villages in the area. This would seem to be fair enough — but the greater threat is the more than 23 cubic sq mtr that is going to be diverted for irrigation purposes. Against the directive of the Supreme Court, the Karnataka Government is planning to divert the waters of the Mhadei to the Malaprabha basin. If the dams they build overflow due to excess water many of the people who will drown will be Goans.
Indeed already a threat looms large over Goa if there is any more heavy rain. Both the Selaulim and Chapoli dams are 100% full. Then the Amthane and Panchwadi dams are 98% and 99% respectively. The Anjunem dam is 90% full. If it rains as heavily as it did in Kerala for three or four days, the dams will overflow, flooding cities and villages. In Panjim heavy rains coupled with high tides are enough to wash away all the illegal construction in Camra Bhat may be in hotels like Taj Vivanta built at St Inez nallah.
We cannot stop formalin fish unless we follow the inspiring example of Sanjeev Raiturkar. Similarly we cannot stop the concretization of Goa and its sale to building sharks unless we have a GBA-like mass movement. We cannot stop Goa from drowning like Kerela unless all of us come together to oppose the relaxation of the CRZ to 50 meters from the existing 200 meters. We cannot stop the Mopa airport by holding small morchas. We cannot stop construction at the Kesarval spring with token exercises. We cannot get the government to enforce a ban on the Sanatan Sanstha which is the ultimate evil.
The government will listen only if not just 5,000 or 10,000, but all 8 or 10 lakhs of niz goenkars come together and take direct action. Which does not mean destroying public property or engaging in violence.
We should follow the example of Marathas in Maharashtra. Lakhs and lakhs of farmers walked hundreds of km from their villages to Mumbai, and then from the borders of Mumbai to the Azad Maidan peacefully and silently without even disrupting traffic. But they did it in such huge numbers that they didn’t have to say a single word.
In a democracy the only thing that can work is the fear of that the party of the MLA will not get elected. Let us make it very clear to Manohar Parrikar that if he does not close down the Sanatan, prevent construction in the Kadamba Plateau, reject the reduction of CRZ and find a fool proof way of keeping formalin fish out of Goa, we will reject all of the ruling coalition MLAs in the next election.