MARGAO HERITAGE IN DANGER!

IN DANGER: The proposed development at the heart of Margao city will see long term residents forced out and hundreds of years of history come to an end as the area gets commercialised and loses its unique character

And a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when the heart of the heritage of Margao city was attacked by Vijai Sardesai. For a Saturday following the week when we discovered that candidates contesting Assembly seats in Goa are, going by their declarations, much richer than the MP candidates. For a Saturday following the week when the Congress manifesto promises a Ministry of Employment which will generate one crore jobs in the villages. For a Saturday following the week when the Congress has complained to the Election Commission that the BJP was misusing the death of Manohar Parrikar for political purposes. For a Saturday following the week Facebook attempted a clean sweep against “coordinated inauthentic behavior”. For a Saturday following the week when it seems like tourism may be affected until May.

SAVE MARGAO HERITAGE

And a few stray thoughts on the attack on the heart of the heritage of the commercial capital Margao.

The square in front of the Holy Spirit church has always been considered the heritage zone of Margao. Many of the bungalows surrounding the small garden in front of the Holy Spirit church and the church itself date back several hundreds of years. Among the distinguished families staying in the heritage precinct have been the Colaço family and that of former High Court Judge Dr Euric Silva.

Dr Francisco Colaço, who occupies one of the old heritage mansions, is best known as a social activist. He is also the most reputed and highest qualified echo-cardiologist in Goa, specialising in paediatrics. He is the only echo-cardiologist who has not only trained in John Hopkins in the United States but is on the visiting facility of the venerable institution. Dr Colaço has been vehemently opposed to the BJP government and more specially Manohar Parrikar.

During the 2012 election campaign raids were conducted on the hospital and clinic of Dr Francisco Colaço at the instance of Manohar Parrikar on the grounds that cats were found in hospital. Everyone who opposed Parrikar was harassed including Datta Naik of Monginis whose bakery was raided.

When the Congress got 17 seats in the 2017 elections, Dr Colaço was confident that it would form the government along with Goa Forward leader Vijai Sardesai. Indeed many residents of Fatorda campaigned for GF in the hope that Congress and GF together would end Parrikargiri in Goa. It was not to happen with the BJP under chaukidar Nitin Gadkari hijacking the government by forming an alliance with the Goa Forward and the MGP.

Dr Francisco Colaço has been vehemently opposed to the notification of the new Margao ODP which will turn Margao into a concrete jungle. In an act of sheer vindictiveness, Vijai Sardesai has targeted the historic heritage zone in front of the police-built hospital where Dr Colaço stays. To the horror of Dr Colaço and others committed to preserving the heritage of Margao, a neighbour of Dr Colaço who has a heritage house, has been induced to sell the same to a Delhi party. We understand that to spite Dr Colaço the heritage square has been declared a special commercial zone where buildings can go up to 15floors!

This is much worse than Pandurang Madkaikar building a huge bungalow within the banned area of the old Goa heritage zone. While appropriate legal action is being taken we should all come to the support of Dr Colaço in protecting the heritage of the Latin Quarter of Margao. Fontainhas in Panjim, called the Latin Quarter heritage zone, has been sealed and protected legally through the Town & Country Planning Act and the Panjim ODP. Both the TCP Act and the Margoa ODP  should be modified to ensure that the heritage zone should not be touch by the greedy politicians like Vijai Sardesai.

RICHIE RICH POLITICIANS

And a few stray thoughts on candidates contesting the Assembly seats in Goa being much richer than those contesting Parliamentary seats.

Deepak Dhavalikar, the richest candidate, is contesting the Shiroda seat, one of the four constituencies in which by-elections are being held. The brother of former PWD Minister Sudin Dhavalikar is contesting the seat against BJP candidate Subhash Shirodakar who defected from the Congress.

Deepak Dhavalikar, declaring his assets as required by the EC, revealed assets worth `17 crore. Normally assets of candidates decline when they are out of power. In the case of Deepak his assets have grown by 18% during the two year period since he lost the 2017 election.

The next richest candidate among the Assembly contestants is Dayanand Sopte who revealed assets worth `3.7 crore. Sopte who won on the Congress ticket last time defeating Laxmikant Parsekar has seen an increase in his assets from `3.5 crore in May 2017 to `3.7 crore presently. Sopte defeated former BJP Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar but defected to the BJP this time and is contesting on the lotus symbol.

Former BJP MLA Madhav Naik who has switched to the Congress has disclosed assets worth `2.9 crore. Madhav Naik is a former BJP MLA. Joshua D’Souza who got his father’s ticket after his death, has assets of `1.67 crore.

While winners see an increase in their assets whether they are in the ruling party or not, losers not surprisingly show a decline in their assets. Of the candidates contesting the Lok Sabha seats, both Girish Chodankar and Elvis Gomes have shown a decline in their assets.

Girish Chodankar, contesting the North Goa Parliamentary seat, has shown a decline in his assets from `1.2 crore to `85 lakh. He along with Elvis Gomes who is contesting on the AAP ticket South Goa are no longer crorepatis. Elvis Gomes’ assets have declined sharply by 47% from `1.8 crore to `97 lakh.

Francisco Sardinha, along with his spouse Columba, declared total assets of `9 crore. For a retired politician whose wife was a senior school teacher in Don Bosco this is notable, since he has no liabilities. His wife probably considered him a liability because he is considered the biggest playboy in Goa and reportedly flirts openly with other women in front of his wife.

There has been a huge increase in the assets of the BJP South Goa MP Narendra Sawaikar who is contesting again. His income has increased by 133% and now stands at `1.4 crore as against `83 lakh in 2014.

Comparably, Shripad Naik, the BJP MLA from North Goa, registered the second highest asset growth of 78% during his latest five year term, from `3.69 crore in 2014 to `6 crore in 2019.

All BJP MLAs who are re-contesting all over the country have shown huge increase in their income. Amit Shah has also  shown a big increase in his income since he became the BJP party president. Unfortunately, figures provided by candidates are much lower than the actual ‘real’ wealth. This is because most have assets in the form of agriculture land which is not subject to tax. Even built-up urban property is shown at book value and not at market value as required by the EC.

For instance Sardinha has valued his Dona Paula bungalow, with a built up area of 350 sq mtrs in a plot of 600 sq mtrs at only `22 lakhs! I would be happy to buy the bungalow from Sardinha for `22 lakhs. Alternatively perhaps the Income Tax Department will conduct a raid on him for misleading the Election Commission.

CONGRESS MANIFESTO

And a few stray thoughts on the Congress manifesto for the 2019 election. While Narendra Modi has his head in the clouds and has declared himself chaukidar of the moon, Rahul has his feet on the ground. The NYAY Scheme, conceptualized by Priyanka, not Rahul, will offer a minimum income guarantee of `72,000 per year for the poorest 20% of the population. This will amount to a monthly income of `6,000 for 20% of the poorest households per month.

The Congress, in keeping with popular sentiments, has decided to woo women voters with a promise of 33% reservations for women in Central government jobs and more importantly in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.

Rahul baba, perhaps in honour of grandmother Indira Gandhi who swept to power on the promise of garibi hatao, has set up a separate budget for farmers. Farmers will no longer be put in prison for defaulting on their loans as it will only be considered a civil offense. Apparently the Congress is convinced that the judiciary is tilted towards the BJP. To further promote gender justice it has been decided to pass the Women’s Reservation Bill and create working women’s hospitals for employed women and night shelters and public toilets for casual women labour.

The Congress also has pledged to introduce the Right to Health Care Act, doubling the government spending on health to move towards universal health care. This is unlike the Modi model, under which only insurance companies benefited.

What is significant in the Congress manifesto is the stress on freedom, which has been the biggest casualty during the Modi regime. Even on Wednesday, a regional Election Commission officer close to the BJP, conducted a raid on a book shop which was selling a book exposing the Rafale case. Subsequently, the EC clarified that it had not ordered any such raid.

In view of the arrests and murders of artists and writers, the Congress will introduce a bill to guarantee artistic freedom and autonomy to cultural institutions, particularly against groups like gau rakshaks.

The Congress also proposes an anti-discrimination law against religion, caste, gender and language. This is because of the UP government’s war on Muslims and the Assam government’s National Citizens Register, where Muslim names have been selectively deleted.

Similarly, in many states in the country, there is a bias against Biharis and people from the Northeast. In this context it should be interesting to note that Rohan Khaunte has filed a complaint with the EC that 800 people from the Northeast have been registered by Pride Casino as voters in his constituency.

Many outsiders, afraid that they may be targeted by locals, have allegedly changed their surnames to common Goan names like Naik. So many Banjaras and Lamanis have become Naiks and Bhandaris. This also may be because politicians like Babush want to get them voter ID cards to enable them to vote.

The Congress is also decided, much to the relief of the media, that defamation should be a civil offence and not a criminal offense. They propose to amend the Constitution to make the Supreme Court only a Constitutional court and set up a new court for appeals between the High Court and the Supreme Court.

USING PARRIKAR

And a few stray thoughts on complaints by the Congress party to the EC on the misuse of the death ceremonies of former CM Manohar Parrikar.

However great a leader you have been, the government should not misuse public institutions like the Kala Academy. First Parrikar’s body was displayed for public darshan and he was cremated with much fanfare on a public beach. Subsequently his ashes were also kept at the Kala Academy and a huge statewide condolence meeting was held, preceded over by Home Minister Rajnath Singh.

Questions have also been raised about building a samadhi for him on the Miramar beach next to that of Dayanand Bandodkar. The beach is public property and construction there would be against CRZ rules. The Dayanand Bandodkar memorial was built long before the CRZ came into place.

As recently as five days ago when the Rotary Club asked for permission for renovating the Children’s Park at Miramar beach it was refused claiming it was against the CRZ rules. The CRZ rules ban any construction within 200 mtrs of the high tide line. During high tide, particularly in the monsoons, the waves come up right to the Miramar circle.

Under the circumstances it is clearly illegal to build a huge monument to Manohar Parrikar on the Miramar beach. This will become a precedent and the relatives of every CM will demand a monument on the beach, as in Chennai when Jayalalithaa died. While we can understand parrikar’s sons immersing his ashes in the Mandovi, as in the case of Vajpayee, Parrikar’s ashes were taken to every constituency and Taluka and immersed in every water body. The only exception probably is the St Inez nullah.

FACEBOOK CLEANUP

And a last stray thought on Facebook admitting that it had taken off more than 800 pages linked both to the Congress and the BJP.

Facebook announced that it removed 1,126 pages, groups and accounts ahead of India’s general election. Most of the accounts, which were based in India and Pakistan, were flagged for “coordinated inauthentic behaviour.” In total, Facebook removed 702 pages, groups and accounts linked with two networks in India. Another 103 pages, groups and accounts (across Facebook and Instagram) were deleted in connection with a network in Pakistan, and 321 Facebook pages and accounts in India were removed for violating the company’s rules against spam. The company said that the pages and accounts were taken down based on their deceptive behaviour, not the content they posted.

Among those removed were 15 groups, pages, and accounts linked to the IT firm Silver Touch Technologies including a page called The India Eye, which is popular with the BJP voter base. The India Eye had nearly 2.6 million followers, which is much larger compared to the pages linked to the others taken down. The group had 15,000 members, while the Instagram account had 30,000 followers. Silver Touch Technologies developed the NAMO app. The group also spent around $70,000 (almost `50 lakh) in ads.

Facebook for the first time publicly revealed that ‘likes’ and ‘comments’ are paid for and charged like advertisements. The BJP advertisement budget in the 2014 elections was more than `10,000 crore! We can quite believe this because we keep getting messages asking us if we want to boost our website. We would love to but we are not prepared to pay `1,000 for every 5,000 hits.

Facebook, Google, Twitter etc  do not have human beings to check whether tweets or posts  are fake or genuine. The job is left to an algorithm — a formula which decides which post should get boosted and which should not. The formula works with ‘bots’ identifying and recognising key words like Hindutva, secularism, Babri Masjid, Rafale, etc, depending on who has paid them to boost posts.

Money is used to influence opinion in various spheres. Even former defense personnel have objected to Parrikar trying to saffronise the army. Yogi Adityanath in fact has converted the Defense Forces into a ‘Modi sena’ as though he is the Hanuman of the Ramayana with a Vanara sena.

Facebook and Google have been accused of helping defeat Hilary Clinton and getting Donald Trump elected in the US with finance from Russia. Similarly there are charges that they interfered with the 2014 elections in India.

They are so arrogant that Mark Zuckerberg, chief of Facebook, refused to appear before the Parliamentary committee which was examining complaints on interference in elections. After much back and forth, Facebook sent Joel Kaplan, Vice President, Global Public Policy for the March 6 hearing, to also represent its subsidiaries WhatsApp and Instagram and talk about what they are doing to safeguard citizen rights across its platforms.

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