IGNORED: Despite Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar’s key role in the surgical strike in two years ago, he was totally ignored during the celebration of the second anniversary
BY RAJAN NARAYAN
And a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when Manohar Parrikar seem to be determined to stick to his kodel as chief minister even though his stay in AIIMS has been extended. For a Saturday following the week when a small storm exposed how fragile the infrastructure in Bardez in particular and in Goa in general. For a Saturday following the week when Sudin Dhavalikar sought the help of the Portuguese to strengthen water supply infrastricture in Goa. For a Saturday following the week when the missing body of the young man from Aldona was an accident waiting to happen. For a Saturday following the week when on September 29, the Modi Government had a grand celebration of the surgical strike against Pakistan two years ago.
And a few stray thoughts on Manohar Parrikar being determined to stick to the chief minister’s post like the boy who stood on the burning deck.
Parrikar really may not have a choice as if he steps down the BJP government in Goa may collapse. The main coalition partners, the MGP and the Goa Forward (which has increased its strength to six with the help of the three independents) have made it clear that they had extended support not to the BJP but to Parrikar in his individual capacity. The implication is that no other BJP MLA would be acceptable to them as chief minister.
I doubt whether Parrikar wants any other BJP MLAs to take his place. Parrikar has failed (perhaps deliberately) to build up a second line of leadership. When Parrikar was shifted to Delhi it was the RSS which demanded that Laxmikant Parsekar should take his place. But Parrikar continued to do back-seat driving and it is claimed that many of the officials had orders to send files directly to him, bypassing Parsekar. In any case Parrikar, even when he was defence minister, used to rush back to Goa every weekend and very often during the week also. Contrary to what he claims he used to visit Goa not only for his favourite xitt kodi but because he wanted to keep a watch on Parsekar and ensure that his position was not eroded.
Parrikar was not even willing to stay in Mumbai or New York till he was finally cured. He kept running back to Goa, reportedly against medical advice. It may be recalled that the second time he went to New York he returned within a week to be in time for the Ganesh festival and the immersion of Vajpayee’s ashes.
Never mind that Parrikar was never a great admirer of Vajpayee and protected Modi from his anger over the post-Godra riots in Gujarat during the 2002 national convention of the BJP when Vajpayee wanted Modi to resign as chief minister of Gujarat for not upholding raj dharma. Modi was only saved from Vajpayee’s wrath by the hawks in the party like Advani and of course Parrikar.
Though his health is obviously not improving, Parrikar insists on remote controlling the Goa government from Delhi. It is apparent that BJP party president Amit Shah is not happy with the sick Parrikar holding on to power. However, it seems that Amit Shah dare not oppose Parrikar as Narendra Modi has a soft corner for him. Parrikar is also very close to RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat.
Parrikar has been however forced to make some sacrifices. Pandurang Madkaikar who is still recovering from a coma due to the stroke that he suffered was dropped, with Nilesh Cabral replacing him. Surprisingly Francis D’Souza, who is perhaps not half as sick as Parrikar, has been dropped to make way for Milind Naik who belongs to the OBC.
If you go by what Vijai Sardesai is saying Parrikar is finally willing to give up most of his 30 portfolios. According to Vijai who claims to have met Parrikar for more than an hour at AIIMS the additional portfolios will be allotted to the coalition partners after October 10. Apparently the fortnight ending October 10 is considered in-auspicious, as it is the mourning period for Hindus.
Vijai himself admits that Parrikar will not give up key departments like Finance, Home, and Personnel which is in charge of appointments and transfers of senior officials. Unfortunately, it is these very departments that are causing paralysis in governance. Ministers may put up hundreds of schemes but they cannot go ahead until the finance minister releases money.
Similarly the law and order situation is worsening because there is no active home minister in residence in Goa — which is why the police is playing safe, only booking traffic offenders. While those who do not wear helmets or drive while drunk are being punished, murderers and drug peddlers are getting away. It is high time the BJP high command either persuades Parrikar to step down or dissolves the Assembly. In fact they can ask him to give up the chief ministership and appoint him as governor of the state. Goa’s Raj Bhavan is large enough to be converted into a mini version of the All India Institute of Medical Sciences.
MINI STORM, MAJOR DAMAGE
And a few stray thoughts on the damage caused by what by international standards was a storm in the tea cup.
Compared to the cyclones which have repeatedly displaced thousands if not lakhs of people along with the Kerala and the Orissa coast, what we witnessed on Monday was just a squall. In Panjim one could only see sound and light effects, namely thunder and lightning. But the mini storm inflicted heavy damage in Bardez Taluka, particularly in villages like Aldona. Trees were uprooted and electric poles went for a toss in many parts of Bardez.
Perhaps the government would have downplayed the damage but for social media. You had a celebrity like Wendell Rodricks complaining bitterly about how his garden of teak and mangoes trees was totally destroyed.
It is not the mini storm and the ravages it caused that is the primary matter for concern, but the fact that Goa does not have any disaster relief system in place.
There have been much bigger storms all over the world including California, where Silicon Valley, which houses Apple HQ and Facebook, was flooded. But the damage was contained and power and more importantly network connectivity were restored within a few hours. Many villages in Bardez had to go without power for almost three days. Even new Power Minister Nilesh Cabral could not do anything to help the affected citizens of Bardez.
One of the major challenges when the power goes off in our technology-dominated world is that you cannot charge your mobile phones and other devices. Since nobody keeps landlines any longer this means they are isolated from the rest of the world. The BJP government at the Centre and the state keep asking all residents of the country, including the poorest of the poor, to give up using cash and go digital by using apps like Paytm. The TV is full of ads of forgetful sons and angry landlords getting people to make the necessary payments by digital bank transfers. But what is one do in a state where even in normal times power keeps failing, and every day there are announcements from the Electricity Department of power shut downs in various areas?
The most amusing but very dramatic development was the announcement by Assonora Water Works that they would not be able to supply water because of a power breakdown.
And a few stray thoughts on PWD Minister Sudin Dhavalikar, who looks as sick as Manohar Parrikar, seeking the help of the Portuguese to improve water supply in Goa. When the Portuguese president came to Goa, Sudin Dhavalikar wanted him to apologize for the atrocities committed by the Portuguese when they were ruling Goa. It must be admitted in all fairness that the Portuguese did destroy many temples and completely neglected education for the majority of the population of Goa. The Portuguese of course not only refused to apologise but continued to give Portuguese citizenship to the children and grandchildren of those who born in Goa before Liberation. Many Goans, including almost the entire Churchill Alemao family, have reportedly registered their birth in Portugal.
Not only Goans but residents of Portuguese colonies in Gujarat, like Daman and Diu, keep rushing to the Portuguese consulate in Goa not because they are keen on going to Portugal, but because they can go to other European countries. The Portuguese economy is in a bad state and has no jobs to offer, but if Goans got a Portuguese passport they could work anywhere in Europe, including the United Kingdom as long as it was a member of the European Economic Community.
Most Goan passport holders chose to work in the UK because English was the only language they were familiar with. Unlike in India and Goa, in European countries like France and Germany, you cannot survive unless you know the local language.
Things will become even more difficult with the British PM announcing a new policy for EEC residents of UK, including Goan passport holders, which says only people with high skills will be permitted to come to the UK. The majority of those who have migrated to a UK are working as manual labour or nurses in the National Health Centres.
Senior Rane’s toilet remark was provoked by the fact that most of the manual labour, including the housekeeping staff in-charge of cleaning toilets, in the Heathrow airport are Goans.
To come back to Dhavalikar, who has suddenly realized the virtues of Portuguese engineering, the visiting PWD Minister did not lose the opportunity to rub it in. The Portuguese Minister visited Opa Water Works which is still functioning much better than water works like Assonora, built after Liberation. The Opa Water Works was built by the Portuguese way back in 1957. The Portuguese may have done a lot of damage to Goa but whatever they built, whether bridges or roads or buildings, they built perfectly — like the old Mandovi bridge and the Menezes Braganza building, which were both built during Portuguese rule. Indeed the causeway from old Goa to Ribandar is acknowledged as a masterpiece of engineering, although it is now showing signs of strain.
It is Dhavalikar and PWD ministers like Churchill Alemao who preceded him who are responsible for the terrible conditions of the roads in Goa. It may be recalled that it took almost five years to make the Dona Paula-Miramar bypass road serviceable (after unnecessarily digging it up) thanks to corruption.
No contractor in the world can build a good road or a good building with the amount of bribes they have to pay the minister and officials.
And a few stray thoughts on the terrible tragedy at the GMC morgue, where the body of 24-year-old Januz Gonsalves from Aldona was released for cremation instead of that of an unknown person.
The body was kept in the morgue as the family was waiting for his elder brothers to return before the funeral. When the family went to collect the body from the morgue they were shocked to be told that the body had already been cremated by mistake.
I am not surprised at what happened because I have personally witnessed how the dead, who deserve even greater respect than the living, are treated at the GMC morgue. A few years ago a common friend of mine and the then dean of GMC, Dr V M Jindal, died following a heart attack in the ICU of GMC. Since I had known the friend for almost 50 years, I wanted to accompany the body to the morgue. For some reason when a person dies, the GMC takes away all the clothes of the person and covers the naked body with only a bed sheet. Dr Jindal, who was also a close friend, and a student of my friend who was teaching in the Goa Institute of Management, accompanied me to the morgue. I was shocked by the manner in which the drunk attendants dealt with the body. They flung it into the morgue compartment as if it was a piece of thrash. I was even more hurt by the insensitivity of the dean. His reaction was that since our common friend was dead he would not feel any pain. However, when VN Jindal’s mother and father who were staying with him died, they were not taken to the morgue at all but kept at home on slabs of ice.
The morgue like the Assonora water supply works suffers from frequent power failure. The new morgue built by the GSIDC does not have any trained person to maintain it. Many of the attendants are from Vishwajit Rane’s constituency.
Besides treating bodies without any respect, the attendants are also known to steal any valuables like rings and watches that may be left on the body. It may sound insensitive and cold-blooded, but it would be wise to remove all the jewellery a dead lady may be wearing before moving her to the morgue. It is better to do so rather than to have it stolen at the morgue.
The morgue functioned relatively efficiently when Dr Silvano Sapeco was the head of the Forensic Department. Unfortunately, under the present HOD, Dr Edmundo Rodrigues, nobody cares what happens in the morgue.
So unless you are a VVIP or a politician the best option is to hire one of the refrigerated coffins which can now be hired to keep the body at home so that it cannot disappear as in the case of the young man from Aldona.
And a last stray thought on the second anniversary of the surgical strike against Pakistan in retaliation for the mutilation of the bodies of our soldiers.
While Prime Minister Modi and the BJP have been having mega celebrations to mark the second anniversary of the surgical strike, the question is why there was no function on the first anniversary. Obviously, the surgical strike is now being highlighted because elections are due latest by March next year with the Assembly term ending in June. The scale of the celebration is so great that even schools and colleges were asked to hold functions to mark the event.
In all the advertisements and TV coverage of the second anniversary of the surgical strike there was one major omission. The man who actually worked out the details of the strike, and by his own confession spent almost 48 hours in the situation room till the mission was accomplished and all the Indian soldiers returned, is not even mentioned.
Yes, we are talking about Manohar Parrikar who was the defence minister who supervised the surgical strike. Even going to the extent of sending Defence Ministry officials to various parts of the world to buy the equipment needed to carry out the surgical strike. Parrikar remained at the AIIMS while Modi and company were paying homage to the soldiers who took part in the surgical strike.