DEFIANCE: Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar silenced his critics by taking a ride on the new Mandovi bridge and even checking a segment of it, while standing holding the railing
BY RAJAN NARAYAN
And a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when not only the opposition Congress party but even sections of the BJP and alliance partners wanted to be liberated from Manohar Parrikar. For a Saturday following the week when Nilesh Cabral the Power Minister and Curchorem MLAs launched an attack against Goa Foundation chairman Claude Alvares. For a Saturday following the week when Satish Dhond who is even more chalu and ruthless than Amit Shah has returned to Goa as General Secretary of the BJP. For a Saturday following the week when there was a strong protest against the PWD Minister Sudin Dhavalikar agreeing to a diversion in traffic of 18 km during the construction of the new Zuari bridge. For a Saturday following the week when the spirit of Christmas has already started jingling in Goa.
And a few stray thoughts on the day on which Goa was liberated from Portuguese colonial rule — December 19th.
Contrary to fears there was no resistance from the Portuguese forces excepting for a few bridges which were blown up and one casualty at the Aguada jail. The then Governor General of Portugal in Goa Vasco Silva refused to obey the orders of the dictator Salazar to destroy Goa and leave it as a waste land. Silva’s love for Goa proved to be greater than his fear of the consequences.
On being sent back to Portugal the Generals was humiliated and spent several years in jail till the Salazar regime was toppled. But even the post Salazar democratic regimes in Portugal refused to accept that Goa was no longer part of Portugal.
Though a formal agreement recognizing that Goa Daman and Diu were part of Indian was arrived at during the visit of Mario Soares, the Portuguese President of Goan origin in the 80s, Portugal continues to consider Goans born before 1961 and their children and grandchildren as Portuguese citizens.
In fact all those who has registered their birth in Portugal were eligible to participate in the recently held elections. Among those who have been charged with holding dual nationalities are not only politicians but also the activist lawyer Aires Rodrigues against whom a case has been registered.
A NEW LIBERATION
Ironically not only the opposition Congress party but even some sections of the BJP and its alliance are demanding that we need a second liberation movement to restore governance in the state.
Admittedly Manohar Parrikar has pre-empted the demand for a medical examination and submission of report on the state of his physical and mental health. Manohar Parrikar took everyone by surprise when he took a drive on his favourite project, the new Mandovi bridge, on Sunday. Parrikar not only drove down the new Mandovi Bridge, but even stepped out to inspect part of the bridge. This despite the fact that the photographs clearly show that he was not well looking frail and having a tube through his nose.
Parrikar cannot take solid food because of the acute pancreatic cancer that he is battling and has to be fed through a tube passing through his nose. It requires courage and commitment to continue to work in such a delicate health condition. Parrikar seems to be determined to prove that he is neither comatose nor physically or mentally incapable of carrying out his duties.
Just before his drive on the Mandovi bridge he laid the foundation stone of the new NIT campus. There after he has been holding a series of meetings with officials and has directed them to fill up the vacancies. He held a Cabinet meeting at his private residence on Thursday. But the very fact that it is Promod Sawant and not Parrikar who hoisted the flag on Liberation day suggests that Parrikar is in no condition to return to work full time and must shed the chief ministership or the bulk of his portfolios.
The former Jammu & Kashmir Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah has commented on how cruel it is to make Parrikar work when he is so sick. The sympathy may be misplaced because it seems to be Parrikar who is insisting on working despite his health condition although this needs to be admired and not condemned.
But the fact that the new Mandovi Bridge could not be opened on Liberation day but will now open next year, shows how badly governance is suffering in the absence of Parrikar.
And a few stray thoughts on Power Minister and Curchorem MLA, Nilesh Cabral targeting Claude Alvares, chairman of Goa Foundation. The Goa government in general and the mining MLAs in particular are very upset with the Centre for refusing to take immediate steps to resume mining which was halted almost a decade ago.
More recently when Parrikar tried to renew the 87 leases the Goa Foundation again went to the Supreme Court which deemed that fresh environmental clearances are required and public hearings have to be held. The State Government first demanded that the Centre should pass an ordinance to exempt Goa from the Supreme Court directive that all natural resources should be auctioned.
When the Law Ministry at the Centre advised the government against this, the Goa government sought a parliamentary solution and suggested that the Mining Regulation Act be amended to enable the resumption of mining. This also did not find favour with the government strengthening the suspicion that the Central government was in favour of auctioning the mines to close friends of Modis like the Adanis and the Jindals. Both Goan mine owners and workers would prefer mines to be retained by the original groups and companies who were granted the land as concessions by the Portuguese.
A thousand-strong group of mining dependent workers even went to Delhi to protest against a delay in resuming mining during the winter session of Parliament. Despite the support of Rahul Gandhi and leaders of other political parties like Kejriwal, Chief Minister of Delhi, the government headed by Modi has ruled out moving any bill or amendment to resume mining. Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar has had many talks with Prime Minister Narendra Modi to help Goa’s mining industry and mining dependants. Unfortunately there has been no positive response.
Nilesh Cabral, who represents Curchorem, which is in the heart of the mining belt and has a twin city, Sanvordem, which has a railway yard for transporting ore, has started targeting Claude Alvares. Specifically, the fear is even if Modi, out of deference to Parrikar, permits the movement of an amendment to the Mining Act, Goa Foundation may go back to the Supreme Court to overrule it.
Not surprisingly Nilesh Cabral has also got support from Agarwal who owns the Vedanta Group which bought Sesa Goa. Subsequently the Dempo Group sold all its mines in Goa to Vedanta, making it the biggest mining group in the state. Agarwal in an interview has also insisted that the Central government should not allow vested interests (obviously the reference is to the Goa Foundation) to interfere with the resumption of mining.
The Vedanta group has won a major victory with the NGT overruling the Tamil Nadu decision to close down its unit its Sterlite in Tuticorin. The locals had strongly protested against the pollution caused by the plant. Now Vedanta wants the mining problem to be resolved in Goa as more than 60% of the revenue of Sesa Goa comes from its mining operations in Goa.
The suspension of mining has not affected the mining dependants alone. It has also led to the closure of steel units of Goa which were also generating some power. A public notice published by the Navhind Times announcing the closure of the steel plants of the Dempo group has not attracted enough attention. All the employees of the Dempo Iron & Steel unit Aparant are likely to be dismissed.
There can be arguments on the exact numbers of workers affected because of the suspension of mining and the closure of the steel plants. But directly or indirectly at least 2 to 3 lakh people have been rendered unemployed due to the suspension of mining.
Even though a significant proportion of this may be bhaile migrants the fact remains that the mining trucks, machinery and barges are owned by Goans who are finding it difficult to return loans they have taken from the banks. At the same time it is unfair to target Claude Alvares, who has been a one man army fighting the malpractices of the mining industry.
DHOND IS BACK
And a few stray thoughts on the return of master manipulator Satish Dhond to Goa, as General Secretary of the BJP.
During the early days of Parrikar and the BJP coming to power in Goa for the first time in 2000, Dhond was very powerful. It was Dhond who allotted tickets to candidates and ensured their victory. Dhond has been a grass root level pracharak of the RSS who is close to Amit Shah.
Dhond, who doesn’t talk much, is a master of booth management. We are not referring to ghosts but to election booths where citizens cast their votes. It was Dhond who set up dedicated groups to ensure that the voters attached to a booth came out to vote and voted for the BJP.
Not just in Goa but the entire country, the success of Modi and the BJP in the Parliamentary elections was very efficient booth management. This allegedly includes rigging or hijacking of EVMs. Veterans and the party workers are very happy with the return of Satish Dhond as he will fill the gap created by the inability of Parrikar to actively participate in the forthcoming Parliamentary elections. Elections to Parliament are less than six months away and Dhond has been brought in to fix the fights between various groups in the party.
It will be recalled that senior leaders like Laxmikant Parsekar and Rajendra Arlekar are very upset over the BJP inducing Shirodkar and Dayanand Sopte to defect from the Congress party. This has also spoiled the image of the BJP party which in the past has not depended on toppling games.
The fear is that if Parrikar has a relapse or is forced to step down from the chief minister’s post both the main alliance partners, the MGP and the Goa Forward, may withdraw support to the government. It is expected that Dhond has been brought to Goa as the Centre plans to dissolve the Assembly and hold a midterm poll.
Dhond, rather than Parrikar, is likely to have the main say in choosing candidates. The fact that the BJP high command has brought Dhond back to Goa would suggest that they are not very happy with Parrikar as the two are bitter enemies.
And a few stray thoughts on mounting criticism of PWD Minister Sudin Dhavalikar.
When bridges are built, precautions should be taken to ensure minimum inconvenience to commuters. For the last three years the people of Panjim have found it a nightmare to go to Porvorim due to the construction of the third bridge over the Mandovi.
Ever since work on the Zuari bridge started it has become equally difficult to travel to Margao as the service lanes to which traffic is diverted are very narrow. This also affects traffic to the airport resulting in many missed flights to the anguish of the tourism industry.
Apparently it is going to get worse with both the Union Transport Ministry and the builder of the Zuari bridge insisting on a 18 km diversion until the completion of the Zuari bridge. This would mean that those who wish to go to Margao and vice versa will have to travel via Ponda or Vasco. This implies that even passenger vehicles will have to undergo the torture that heavy vehicles have been going through since doubts were expressed over the stability of the existing Zuari bridge.
Nobody is willing to take chance after the pre-mature collapse of the first Mandovi bridge which connected Panjim to Porvorim.
On Facebook there has been outrage over the proposed diversion. It is been pointed out that at the present price of diesel and petrol this will add another `5,000 at least to the transport expenses of those who travel between Panjim to Margao for work.
It was Dhavalikar’s duty as PWD minister and close friend of Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari to ensure that some alternate arrangements are made like a bypass so that citizens are not forced to take an 18 km diversion each way, which mean 36 km extra for daily commuters.
And a last stray thought for yet another Saturday.
The bells are already jingling for Christmas. The markets are full of Christmas decorations — a lot of which are from China. Although China is a communist country and does not believe in religion, it is always willing to make anything for money. Even Hindu gods and goddess made in China are available in markets in India. The quality, of course, may be doubtful.
Christmas by any yard stick is the most enjoyable festival which attracts not only large number of tourists but also non-resident Goans who return for a family get-together during Christmas.
Now Magsons even supplies both cooked and roasted turkeys which are the main delicacy for Christmas in Western countries. But considering how expensive they are, most Catholic homes settle for beef and chicken.
I have had the pleasure of attending family lunches in old homes in Goa which were always a delight. But the tradition of making sweets at home has almost disappeared. So have the carol singers who go from house to house wishing Merry Christmas, making a little money.
The most attractive part of Christmas in Goa is the cribs, re-enacting the birth of Jesus Christ. One of the pioneers in making mechanical cribs with moving parts was Francisco Martins, who went on to win several Republic Day awards for Goa.
Christmas brings all community together and is a favourite of locals and tourists alike. It is the most profitable season for the tourism industry — its referred to as the peak of peaks season. The expression peak probably refers to the prices which reach astronomical heights.
Christmas festivities continue until the New Year. This year there is a threat from the Hindu Janajagruti Manch that they will not permit people to burn an ‘old man’ on the eve of New Year.