THERMAL: Thermal power companies have been permitted to pass on the increase in the cost of imports to the consumer. Goa will be among the worst affected as most of the power it received is from thermal power stations
BY RAJAN NARAYAN
And a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when there continues to be confusion over the state of health of Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar. For a Saturday following the week when despite the support of political heavyweights like Rahul Gandhi, Arvind Kejriwal and Sharad Pawar it is unlikely that the Centre will come to the help of Goa to revive mining. For a Saturday following the week when power tariffs are likely to go up quite steeply to benefit big industrialists. For a Saturday following a week when Goa seems headed towards becoming a cultural capital. For a Saturday following the week when Goans seem to be more interested in gated colonies than jobs in the IT industry. For a a Saturday following a week when destination weddings seem to be a farce.
And a few stray thoughts on the state of the health of Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar. The typical reaction of most people when you mention the health of the chief minister, is to question if Parrikar is still alive. Though Dr Francisco Colaso had declared that he was in a comatose state, ministers and babus claim to have met the chief minister. Parrikar, it is claimed, has held meetings of the Cabinet as well as the core committee of the BJP.
Vijai Sardesai claims he met Manohar Parrikar after the closing ceremony of IFFI and found him watching English movies. This is contrary to the impression conveyed that he is very busy clearing the files that have been accumulating.
The latest to admit that the administration is not working is Minister for Culture Govind Gaude. All the confusion during IFFI, including the insult to Union Minister for Ayush Shripad Naik, would not have happened if Parrikar was around to supervise.
There is tremendous pressure on Parrikar from both mining dependants and mine owners. We can see Parrikar’s hand behind the decision to extend the doles to the mining dependant till March. Parrikar also claims to have written a letter to Modi and was supposed to speak to him.
When the matter of the status of Parrikar’s health came up before the Goa Bench of the Bombay High Court on Tuesday no reports were submitted with the excuse that the Chief Secretary was not there in town. The court however ordered the government to respond to the petition by Wednesday. This is in response to a PIL filed by former Goa Forward member Trajano D’Mello demanding to know the status of Parrikar’s health, whether he is capable of functioning as chief minister and for regular bulletins on his health.
And a few stray thoughts on the rally planned by the mining dependent at the Jantar Mantar in New Delhi on December 11th for early resumption of mining.
The mine owners claim that national leaders like Rahul Singh, Udhav Thakre, Arvind Kejrewal and Sharad Pawar are likely to join the mining dependents in Delhi. The big industrialists are probably joining the rally not necessarily because of the workers but on the request of the mine owners.
The mine owners, including Vedanta, which is a global company, have made huge contributions to the BJP in the past. All the representatives of political parties in Goa ranging from Congress State President Girish Chodankar to the MGP Chief Deepak Dhavalikar, and Goa Forward Chief Vijai Sardesai to the BBSM’s Subhash Velingkar are expected to join the rally.
It is extremely unlikely that the Modi government will agree to amend the mining act to bypass the Supreme Court imposed ban on mining. In fact the amendment is not even listed in the business of Parliament during the winter season. The Goa government had proposed an ordinance on the lines of the triple talaq ordinance. When the Union Law Department turned it down they suggested that the act should be amended. Even that will not be possible given that the Supreme Court has made it clear that all natural resources which include iron ore, coal and even silica, which is used to make aluminium, have to be auctioned.
Many of those who allotted mining blocks at their discretion selectively have been convicted by the courts. Not surprisingly it is only the officials who carried out their masters’ orders who were convicted. The politicians who directed the babus to make the allotments, including allegedly former PM Manmohan Singh, have gotten away scot free.
Neither the mine owners nor the mining dependants want an auction as there is no guarantee that the existing parties will be able to retain their mines. We suspect that there is pressure on Modi to favour auctions as those who benefit will be the big industrialists like the Adanis, the Jindals and other close friends of the BJP. The Goa government may have no choice but to prepare for auction of the mining leases in the State which have expired.
POWER GOING UP
And a few stray thoughts on the fear that there may be a steep increase in power tariff. This is of particular concern to Goa which does not have any captive power generation capacity. Goa gets its power supply from the national power grid, which is dominated by thermal units operating on coal.
During its tenure the UPA government had ruled that private power distributors could not increase the price of power for a period of 25 years. In response to a writ petition filed by the Adanis, the Supreme Court has permitted Gujarat to revise power purchase agreements with the private Discoms which is the short form for private power distribution companies. There is a desperate shortage of coal which accounts for the largest number of power generation units in the country. The result is that the country has to import large quantities of coal from outside. Which is why Adani, who has secured permission to extract coal from a huge area in Australia, is so keen to pursue the project. The latest reports are that he is implementing the projects even without help from the Australian government. Goa is directly affected by the Australian deal as Adani plans to use the MPT for importing coal running to 20 million tonnes.
This will not benefit Goa but the neighbouring States of Karnataka and Maharashtra which have large thermal power plants. Under the Supreme Court verdict the discoms will be allowed to pass on to the consumer any increase in the import cost of coal.
The biggest beneficiary will be Gautam Advani as 70% of the coal for the thermal power plants in Gujarat is imported by him. The private power companies have been virtually blackmailing the Centre claiming that they would have to shut down unless the burden of coal price hike is passed on to the consumer.
So far the Supreme Court has only allowed Gujarat to increase the power tariff. However, Goa’s new Power Minister Nilesh Cabral, may have no choice but to increase the already high power tariffs irrespective of whether the Centre increases the price at which it supplies thermal power to Goa. This is because the power infrastructure in Goa is so bad that the overhead lines which are over 50 years old need to be replaced. Similarly 50% of the transformers are over 30 years old. With the expansion in construction activity the power requirements have shot up steeply. There is also a large amount of theft of power.
OPPOSITION TO IT PARKS
And a few stray thoughts on the opposition to the IT park planned in Chimbel.
Goans or at least the patrons of land sharks prefer promoting gated colonies rather than IT parks. Chimbel is among the largest slums in the state. If the IT park comes up as proposed by IT Minister Rohan Khaunte many jobs could be generated. Though the demand has decreased there is still scope for setting up call centres in Goa. While Goa has missed the bus when call centres were at their peak they still have an advantage in that many Goans know English and even Portuguese fluently.
Computer literacy is also probably much higher in Goa then general literacy. If the IT parks come up Goans who do their diploma or degree in Information Technology and related fields will not have to move on to Bangalore or Pune for jobs. ‘Activist’ Pravin Chopdekar claims that he was beaten up by Rohan Khaunte’s men for opposing the IT park in Chimbel. There is no doubt in my mind that Chopdekar was acting on behalf of Rudolf Fernandes who does not want the IT park in the Santa Cruz constituency. Rudolf personally stands to gain much more if the land acquired for the IT park is sold to private parties like the Adwalpalkars for putting up gated colonies.
The protest meeting held against the assault on Chopdekar was addressed by Rudolf and Victoria, the early godmother general of goons. The reason why no new industry has come up in Goa over the last two decades is because every project is opposed irrespective of whether it is good for Goa or not.
We hold no brief for polluting industries which could destroy green Goa. At the same time we have to stop the large scale fresh invasion by land sharks. It is for their benefit that Vijai Sardesai has permitted individuals to convert private forest lands and orchards into settlement areas. This will only increase the pressure on the infrastructure of water, power and waste management. It is the large scale invasion of upmarket migrants, who are mega consumers, which is creating fresh problems like shortage of car parks and pressure on available water. We will have to watch and see whether the high court reverses the decision of Vijai Sardesai who is worse than Babush Monserrate when it comes to converting green Goa into a concrete monstrosity.
And a few stray thoughts on the potential for converting Goa into the cultural capital of the country. As it is, starting with the film festival in November, Goa is witnessing a number of events which attract national and international attention.
On Thursday, December 6, the Goa Arts and Literary Festival (GALF) began where leading writers from all over the country and some from abroad will be releasing their books. This includes Geeta Gopalakrishna who will be releasing a book with 109 sayings by the seventh-century saint Avvaiyar, called ‘My Grandmother’s Tweets’. The proceeds of book sales will go to support cancer patients. She will be in discussion with former Newsweek political editor Patricia Sethi.
Simultaneously, in December, Goa has become the home of the mega Serendipity festival promoted by the Munjals of Hero Motors. It brings together creative artists from all parts of the world in a demonstration of creativity. A national conference of designers is also planned in December.
There may be some regret for the shutdown of the noise machines like Sunburn which has moved to Pune. But as in the case of the debate about industry, Goa should encourage not noise and trance parties, but cultural events such as Serendipity and the Goa Art & Literary Festival.
And a few stray thoughts on destination weddings. I had the fortune or misfortune of attending a destination wedding last week. Destination weddings are not actual weddings but just holidays for the families and friends of the bride and groom.
The wedding ceremonies conducted in a flower decorated marriage mandap on the beach or close to the beach are nakli. This is because in Goa no religious marriages are recognized. Under the Portuguese civil code the only marriages which are legal are those conducted before the registrar of marriages. In most cases of destination weddings the couple has already had a registered wedding in some other state or even country. So much so the so-called destination wedding which can cost anything from `10 lakhs to `10 crore or more are just natak or holiday junkets. For instance in the case of the destination wedding I attended, the Catholic groom and the Gujarati/ Punjabi bride had already had their wedding registered in Bangalore.
The cost of a destination wedding includes air fare, hotel accommodation and of course the wedding venue, decoration, etc. This can cost a lot of money depending on what the wedding party wants. In a wedding that the better three-quarters attended in South Goa the total cost was around `5 crore. The mother of the bride grumbled that she could have instead bought four flats in Goa.
Every aspect of the destination wedding is a mockery of real weddings. The sangeet for instance was a DJ affair with the DJ playing the loudest popular film songs and competition between the bride side and the groom side on who can be more junglee. The sangeet should be renamed the junglee dance for destination weddings.
The advantage is that the couple and the family do not have to do anything. Everything is taken care of by the event manager. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the event manager at the destination wedding I attended was a young Goan lass called Fergie Pinto from Mapusa, who has set up her own company without any previous experience and formal qualifications. Maybe Goans who keep complaining about lack of jobs should try the destination wedding business.