DASHED: Hopes of an early start to mining in Goa have been dashed by the refusal of the Modi government to either issue an ordinance or amend the Goa, Daman and Diu Mining Concessions (Abolition and Declaration as Mining Leases) Act
BY RAJAN NARAYAN
And a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when Opposition leaders, NGOs and senior activists like Dr Francisco Colaço, marched to the residence of Manohar Parrikar. For a Saturday following the week when IFFI 2018 was like Hamlet without the Prince of Denmark. For a Saturday following the week when hopes of early revival of mining in Goa faded. For a Saturday following the week when MARG, the traffic education NGO started by the veteran freedom fighter Gurunath Kelekar, completed 20 years. For a Saturday following the week when the only industry left in Goa — Tourism — was literally stinking.
UNITED FOR A CAUSE
And a few stray thoughts on Opposition politicians, NGOs and senior activists marching to the hospital-cum-residence of ailing Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar. The hundred odd protestors included former chief minister Digambar Kamat and GPCC President Girish Chodankar, besides representatives of the Shiv Sena and the NCP.
Among the prominent socialist activists was Dr Francisco Colaço who had even sent a doctor all the way from Margao to check on the medical status of Mr Ghate who has been fasting from November 16, demanding that either Parrikar should resign or hand over charge to a Cabinet colleague.
Ghate is a veteran RTI activist who in 2010, was awarded a national honour as the best RTI activist, at the hands of Anna Hazare. During his indefinite fast in the Azad Maidan he has been visited by all the prominent leaders in the state.
The march of Citizens for Democracy was planned to cause maximum embarrassment to the chief minister since the venue for IFFI was one km away. Presumably the idea was that the big shots who came for IFFI would realise that Goa is the 8th wonder of the world which has been functioning without a chief minister for 10 months.
The activists were stopped 200 mtr away from the turning near Models’ Status colony near which Parrikar is being treated by GMC doctors in complete isolation. Deputy collector, North Goa, Shashank Tripathi, finally turned up and confirmed that Parrikar was not in a state to meet anybody.
This endorses the statements of his Cabinet colleagues and even party leaders that they have no access to Parrikar. Ministers, including Rohan Khaunte, have confirmed when they seek an appointment with Parrikar they are asked to meet either Krishnamurthi the principle secretary to the chief minister, or his personal secretary Rupesh Kamat. All the talk of the chief minister having had meetings with various people and even presiding over Cabinet meetings may just be fiction.
We do not know whether the chief minister is not allowed to meet people because he is physically incapable of talking to them or to protect him from infection. The fact remains that the chief minister will have to soon act one way or the other, because of the threat of the MGP to withdraw support. The MGP has already moved the High Court for the disqualification of Dayanand Sopte and Subhash Shirodkar.
And a few stray thoughts on IFFI 2018 being like ‘Hamlet’ without the Prince of Denmark. For those unfamiliar with the works of the most famous dramatist, William Shakespeare, ‘Hamlet’ is a play in which the king is killed by his own son, Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark.
Without the presence of Manohar Parrikar, IFFI was not its usual glittering show. It was Manohar Parrikar, when he was chief minister in 2004, who persuaded then BJP PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee to hold IFFI in Goa.
Having received the green signal Parrikar created the infrastructure for IFFI within less than four months. The old Panjim market was demolished to make way for the first multiplex built by any government for screening IFFI films. The management of the construction of the multiplex, Inox, was given to a Gujarat based company. In between IFFIs the multiplex is leased to Inox.
Parrikar set about renovating not only the Kala Academy at an enormous cost of `25 crore, he also started to build a jetty there at a cost of `5 crore so that most of the starred guest who had been invited to the festival could travel from Taj Aguada to the venue of the opening ceremony by boat. The jetty could not be completed on time and the VIPs have to come by road.
The only problem was that while there were 5,000 delegates and literally hundreds on invitees, the Kala Academy could accommodate only 900. There was a big scramble among ministers and MLAs for passes for the inaugural ceremony because this was the first time mega stars were coming to Goa. There was also a red carpet laid outside Inox imitating other film festivals. Parrikar also decorated the entire city of Panjim for IFFI. The pavements were not only swept, but white-washed. For the junta there were public screenings at the National Institute of Sports at Caranzalem. Parrikar personally supervised all the arrangements to ensure that there would be no last minutes hurdles which would give the Centre an excuse to cancel Goa as a venue for IFFI.
Most filmmakers and actors were not very happy with Goa being a venue as it had no film culture though a number of films have been shot in Goa starting with ‘Bobby’ featuring Rishi Kapoor and Dimple Kapadia. Coincidently, the only star present at the inauguration of the 14th IFFI in Goa was Akshay Kumar, who is married to Twinkle, daughter of Dimple Kapadia and Rajesh Khanna. Even Akshay Kumar came late, after the lighting of the lamp which marked the start of the film festival.
The speculation is that because of the #MeToo controversy and the recent resignation of Anupam Kher as chairperson of the Film Institute, many film stars skipped the inaugural ceremony. Unlike previous IFFIs, this year there was no Amitabh Bachchan, Salman Khan, Rajnikanth and other top stars to grace the occasion. The only other prominent film people were Karan Johar and Ramesh Sippy.
The invitation card for the inaugural function carried the names for only the Union Minister for Information Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore (who has won 25 international medals at various championships including a Silver medal at the 2004 Summer Olympics), and Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, even though he was not present.
Surprisingly, in spite of the abusive stand taken by the MGP with Sudin Dhavalikar demanding the chief ministership, he was all praise for Manohar Parrikar at the inaugural ceremony.
With the virtual boycott by the film industry the stress was on digital rather than elaborate dancers of previous years. Finally it has dawned on the organizers that those who come to the inauguration come to see the stars and not films. Since there were not many stars, except in the sky, the Shyama Prasad Mukherjee auditorium was only three-quarter full although the ESG kept insisting that all tickets were exhausted.
Our photographer received a shock when she saw somebody calling himself Sayed with a Goan Observer ID card. This is a major security lapse and we have informed the DG that he is an imposter and we have not issued any media accreditation to any Sayed. In any case there was hardly any security with invitation cards being distributed without the names of the invitee written in the card. Ironically, the card said that they were not transferable for security reasons.
IFFI 2018 started on a wet note with worries that the public screening at the Panjim Gymkhana and Joggers Park at Altinho would get washed out because of the sudden rain.
MIGRANT DEPENDANTS IN FOR A LONG WAIT
And a few stray thoughts on the hopes of early resumption of mining being extremely unlikely. There has been tremendous pressure from the mining dependants, including truck owners, but even from more pressure from mine owners.
Mining was first suspended over a decade ago when the Supreme Court based on the Shah Commission report claimed that mine owners in Goa had cheated the central and state government to the extent of `35,000 crore. Mining was partly restored when Parrikar renewed the licenses of 89 mines without environmental clearances from the Centre. The Supreme Court had mandated a fresh ecology assessment before every renewal. Moreover, in the light of the coal scam in which even former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had been implicated, the Supreme Court had directed that all natural resources, including ore, should be auctioned.
The mining industry and the dependants first demanded that the Modi government should issue an ordinance for resuming mining as they had done in the triple talaq case. The Central government despite a personal appeal from Manohar Parrikar decided that it would not be legal. The mine owners and the mining dependants are even more shocked as the Modi government has turned down the demands for an amendment in the 1987 mining acts whereby the concession granted by the Portuguese would have remained and mining could have resumed immediately.
Unlike in other states in country, politicians in Goa are keen that mines should remain with the original concession holders who have been supporting every government in power. There are as many as six to eight constituencies in which it is the mining lobby which selects and funds candidates in every election.
Speaker of the Assembly Promod Sawant (who is Parrikar’s favourite to succeed him), Power Minister Nilesh Cabral and MLA Pravin Zantye are all representatives of the mining belt. The Centre is not concerned about protecting the interests of Goan mine owners because they have the support of much larger industrial rogues who will probably take over Goan mines if they are auctioned. The Jindals and the Adanis, who have steel and power projects in Karnataka, are very keen on taking over the Goan mines. Almost half the mining resources of Goa have already been taken over by Vedanta which is the London based company. Vedanta, which took over Sesa Goa, also bought all the mining assets of the Dempos’ who were among the top three mine owners before they sold out.
In Parrikar’s absence there is nobody to push the interests of Goan mine owners who are even more desperate than the mining dependants. Goa has not only lost large amount of revenue by way of royalty and other taxes but also has had to extend doles to the mining dependants as they are powerful vote banks. The mining dependants, no doubt financed by mine owners, are planning a demonstration in New Delhi when the winter session starts in Parliament.
And a few stray thoughts MARG, the traffic education NGO started by the veteran freedom fighter Gurunath Kelekar, completing 20 years.
During the last 20 years Gurunath Kelekar has tried to educate students and other stake holders on the importance of road safety and contributed significantly to education on traffic. Though MARG has been doing work at the grassroots, most of the media chose to focus on the international conference on road safety held the day before. No government in Goa has addressed itself to the primary cause of the huge number of accidents that take place. Goa in fact heads the country in the number of death due to accidents, particularly those involved in two-wheelers.
Most countries in the world have been focusing on strengthening public transport so that there will be less load on the roads. In London, for instance, you cannot enter the city proper unless you pay a huge fee.
In other parts of the country, particularly the big cities, the government has started metros to minimize accidents and find a solution to parking. The suburban railway is the life line of Mumbai city, catering to over 20 lakh commuters every day. Moreover buses in Mumbai run all day and night whereas buses in Goa, both private and government, stop at 8 pm. The buses on routes in the beach belt stop even earlier.
As Gurunath Kelekar pointed out, the government could have easily persuaded the Konkan railway to extend its coverage to the main cities like Panjim, Mapusa and to the beaches. There was talk of a sky bus by the Konkan railway which was sabotaged by the taxi mafia.
Goa is the worst in the country, both for locals and tourists, when it comes to public transport. The latest figures released by RTO revealed that there are more vehicles in Goa than people. As against a population of around 14 lakhs there are almost 16 lakhs vehicles, which are expected to go to 20 lakhs by 2020. The government has been wasting money building bridges instead of a metro network which would have benefitted the common man.
And a last stray thought the only industry left in Goa, tourism, which is literally stinking.
The government is aware that the contract with Drishti, which has a very good record of life saving and was additionally entrusted with beach cleaning, is ending in October. Despite reminders the government did not renew the contract. Nor did the government issue a tender for a fresh contract. Drishti stopped collecting garbage at the beach last week.
The result is that every beach in the state from Miramar to Calangute to Candolim in the north and Benaulim and Colva in the south, is buried under garbage. The government claimed that they issued a tender but they cancelled it as there was only one bidder. Government rules are that there must be at least two bidders for a contract to be considered.
We fail to understand why the government has not accepted the offer of the Seaman’s Association to take on the job at half of the price. Perhaps their offer has been not accepted because they cannot and will not pay bribes, unlike private contractors. A fight has broken out on the garbage issue with Michael Lobo demanding the sacking of Babu Ajgaonkar. Babu in turn has asked Michael to mind his own business.