EPIDEMIC: The migrant mania which shut down the United States government and caused several drowning tragedies has come down to Kerala, where agents are transporting desperate young people to New Zealand in fishing crafts without providing life jackets!
And a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when the launch of the Mandovi bridge did not take place as scheduled on the 20th of January. For a Saturday following the week when millions of cases were pending in the lower courts and lakhs in higher courts like the High Court and the Supreme Court. For a Saturday following the week when I am in Bombay making a last attempt to cure my acute acid reflux which is suspected to cause a lump in my throat. For a Saturday following the week when it came as a surprise that refugees from India were also travelling illegally in fishing vessels to New Zealand in quest of a better life.
And a few stray thoughts on the launch of the third Mandovi Bridge over the river Mandovi being postponed repeatedly.
The bridge was to be launched on the January 20 by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It is not known if the launch was cancelled out of the fear that Narendra Modi would be blown off the third Mandovi bridge where the wind velocity is so high that let alone pedestrians even light vehicles can get blown away. More seriously there is now talk of inaugurating the new Mandovi bridge on Republic Day. Which seems unlikely considering the number of functions that the prime minister has to attend on Republic Day, of which the main event is that Republic Day parade.
But unlike Independence Day, on Republic Day it is the President, Ram Nath Kovind, who makes the main speech to the nation from the ramparts of the Red Fort in Delhi. It was of course possible that, as it is become the practice now, the prime minister might have inaugurated the third Mandovi bridge through video conferencing.
This is become so popular with the BJP government that the Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu and the Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari inaugurated several projects simultaneously by video conference.
However, it now appears that it will be Union Minister Nitin Gadkari and Chief Minister Parrikar who will inaugrate the bridge on January 27.
For Parrikar it is the matter of prestige to get the third Mandovi bridge inaugurated as soon as possible. It may be recalled that despite his illness he drove down the Mandovi bridge and even got out and inspected it. The third Mandovi bridge has been built by L&T which is considered the biggest engineering and infra-structure companies in the world.
While the bridge, including the painting, seems to be ready thanks to the prod from Chief Minister Parrikar Manohar Parrikar, the debris below the bridge has not been removed yet. So even after the bridge is inaugurated the approach roads will continue to be narrow and congested.
While the Mandovi bridge seems to have been completed or almost completed at last, there are still problems with the Zuari bridge. It has now become public that the construction company, Dilip Buildcon Ltd, proposed the closing down of the Agacaim-Verna stretch for two years till the completion of the Zuari Bridge. What is being projected as a brand new idea of laying temporary roads on either side of the railway tracks was always part of the plans but was not disclosed by the PWD as there would be public protests.
Unfortunately what Parrikar and the rest of the Cabinet does not understand is that from the aam aadmis view what Goa needs is a mass transit system — Which means either a metro or suburban railway service like in Bombay which will transport people at reasonable speed over long distances.
Every major and minor city in the country has a metro or a mono rail including Bombay, Bangalore, Chennai, Kolkota and even Nagpur. Given the cost of public-private transport it is not affordable for the aam aadmi to travel to work. The taxis, autorikshas and even pilots of two wheeler types, do not have any metres and charge any price they want to. Recently the bus fare was increased between the various cities in the state. In any case after 8 pm buses stop and the cheapest means of public transport is not available.
When the Konkan Railway was being built it could have been easily extended not only to the major cities like Panjim, Margao, Mapusa and Vasco but even the coastal areas. The Konkan area railway had even come up with the concept of rail bus which were railway carriages on a mono rail which was successfully tested in Margao. Unfortunately it was abandoned and the public lost the opportunity of a mass transport system.
Building bridges particularly heavy weight bridges like the new Mandovi and the Zuari Bridge is for the benefit of heavy vehicles to transport coal, ore and other industrial products from Goa to Karnataka and Maharashtra. They are not meant for the aam aadmi. The best alternative to more bridges and subways and highways may be water transport. There is no reason why there cannot be a fairy service or a boat service right from Canacona and Pernem particularly for tourists. It was because water transport was cheaper than road that the mining industry in Goa was profitable. All the jetties created for the mining industry can be used for the mass transport services for locals or tourists.
And a few stray thoughts on the increasing number of cases in the lower and higher courts.
There are cases pending back even a hundred years with the average case taking at least ten years. Even when special courts are appointed the process of justice does not speed up. The three reasons for pile up of cases in the court is the cases filed by the various government departments, public interest litigations filed by various groups and individuals, and private criminal cases filed by Hindutva organisations.
For 10 years I have been travelling from Panjim to Ponda because a fundamentalist Hindutva organization filed a criminal and civil defamation case against me. The lawyers appearing for the fundamental organizations do the work free as part of divine service. On our part, which includes every section of the media and individuals who have been critical of Hindutva, it is means waste of money and time. More importantly the waste of time and money of the courts, which have to divert their attention from serious cases like murder and robbery and large scale cheating to defamation cases filed by hindutva organizations as a means of harassment.
There are over 200 cases filed by hindutva organizations against the media and rationalists in the Ponda Judicial Magistrates court, which is close to the headquarters of the largest of the Hindutva organizations.
After spending ten years travelling to Ponda and finally winning both the criminal and civil case filed against Goan Observer a fresh case has been filed by the organization on a trivial issue. Our crime was to reproduce an article attributed to the anti-terrorist squad of Karnataka that the Gauri Lankesh killers were paid by the bank accounts of the Hindutva organization. I was not there when this summons were served by the Ponda JMFC court in the fresh civil case. This was because as I explain below, I am very unwell and I have travelled to Mumbai for medical treatment. I have no doubt that the summons will be followed by a warrant.
Problem is that even if the police station refuses to file a first information report on your complaint you can move the JMFC and file a civil or criminal private complaint. I do not know if the lower court judges have the discretion to reject cases which are purely for harassment. In any case, as it happened in the case of the son of Amit Shah which appeared in the Wire, the Magistrate has the right to squash the complaint.
The most logical thing for the judiciary is to do transfer all the pending cases by Hindutva organizations which runs into lakhs to the Supreme Court which can hear them collectively and dispose them. It is impossible for a private individual or a small media organization to be able to bear the expenses and the time taken up such cases.
A case in point is the late famous painter MF Hussain. Hindutva organizations filed not hundreds of cases but thousands of criminal cases against Hussain almost every day. Unlike in a civil case, in a criminal case the accused has to be present on every date of hearing. It became so bad for MF Hussain that all his time was taken by travelling one part of the country to the other and appearing in the court leaving him no time to paint.
A disgusted MF Husaain fled to Dubai and subsequently to Qatar which gave him an unique citizenship. The most famous painter of the country died in exile in London because the courts in the country including the SC did not protect his freedom of speech.
Goa is the headquarters of one of the biggest Hindutuva organizations which has been linked to the murder of the rationalists. Every single publication in Goa is facing dozens of cases. Unfortunately none of them have been willing to come together to fight the monster in their midst. On the contrary the organization has been approaching senior lawyers to appear for them for which they will be paid in blessings.
MUMBAI ONCE AGAIN
And a few stray thoughts on the boast of the director gon perhaps my last trip to Mumbai which was Bombay where I did my post graduate studies and spend the first 15 years of my media career.
I started my career with the Financial Express, served as the assistant editor of the Onlooker, was consecutively the editor of Mirror, Imprint and Business India and even work for the advertising agencies before moving to Goa as the founder editor of the Herald.
It was way back in 1989 that my health was shattered when I was beaten up savagely by the hired goons of the then Speaker of the Legislative Assembly for allegedly molesting an 18-year-old, in the chambers of the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly. The day the speaker resigned and I was going home to my basement flat at Dona Paula, the lights were put off and I was beaten with iron rods by the goons. I ducked my head or I would have been dead.
The situation was compounded by the HOD of medicine of the GMC. In his anxiety perhaps to relieve me my pain, he put me on steroids which he progressively increased to 100 milligrams a day, which could have killed an elephant. What it did in my case was to convert me into an elephant, taking my weight upto 180 kgs!
If any doctor tells you that steroids are a wonder drug run away from him before he kills you. For five years I was a victim of a doctor-induced disease called Addison’s.
I was detoxed by a young endocrinologist in Bengaluru, ironically in the hospital run by Vijay Mallya, over a period of six months. During this period my weight came down from 180 to 30 kgs — a loss of 150 kg. This destroyed my digestive system. While the doctor who detoxed me was very happy that I was not on steroids, he did not bother about the side effects. Which is what has pushed me into the departure launch of life. I have acid reflux because the walls at either end of the throat and the lower intestine do not function. Which means the powerful gastric juices which help you to reduce a chicken into proteins in seconds, climb back into my throat and created a lump in the throat which may be malignant. Or in simpler words I may have cancer.
Though stomach problem are the widest and the biggest among the many problems that we face in the country there are very few experts in gastroenterology. Which in simpler words has all to do with the various scopies where they push tubes from the nose, mouth and the back side. The situation is worsened by the fact that there is war between the gastro physicians and the gastro surgeons. I have met many of them considered the best in Goa, Bangalore and Bombay. I am now in Mumbai to consult Roy Patenkar who is considered the super specialist on acid reflux. I am hoping that he will be able at least help to improve the miserable quality of my life.
I am not interested in extending my life to a thousand years. I am far more concern with quality then quantity. I don’t want to sleep at a 40 degree angle to prevent the acids assaulting my throat. With any other illness including a fracture or even amputation, you can still work. But if your stomach is rumbling and crumbling you cannot even think, let alone work. Since I do not believe in prayer, you are free to pray for me so that I can be in good health at least to ensure that the BJP does not come back to power in India and Goa in the coming elections.
INDIAN REFUGEE CRISIS
And a last stray thought on the refugee tragedy coming to India.
The refugee problem has led to the closure of many departments in the US, including the Secret Service protecting the president. This is because the Democrat-dominated House of Representatives has refused to sanction the $ 60 billion which Donald Trump is demanding to build a 600 km wall between Mexico and the US. A large number of migrants to the US are from Mexico which shares a border with the US. Indeed Trump even wants to limit the number of highly skilled Indians who migrate to US every year to work or study.
Trump has threatened to abolish the exemption granted to babies born to illegal immigrant parents in the US. But the worst of the immigration tragedies is refugees from the war-mongering states like Syria and Iraq who are trying to take shelter in EEC countries like Greece, Germany and France.
Many of them have drowned because they are being smuggled in old rickety boats without even life jackets. Thousands of women and children have died in the process of trying to improve their quality of life by migrating into the US.
It is only recently I discovered that India is not an exception. A fleet of boats have been found in Kerala without life jackets or any safety equipment’s which have been collecting
5 lakhs per head to take people to New Zealand.
There is also a lot of internal immigration because of the huge difference in the minimum wage between various state in the countries. Whereas the unskilled uneducated residents of Bihar are lucky to get even50 per day the minimum wage for unskilled labour is `500 per day in Goa. Which is why Goa is witnessing such a huge invasion by migrants. The result will be that by 2020 Goa will have a bhaile chief minister and 80% Cabinet from outside the State.