THREAT: Panjim Mayor Uday Madkaikar threatened to stop the 200 sewage trucks from the North Goa tourism belt if the Saligao waste management plant refused to accept garbage from Panjim for treatment
BY RAJAN NARAYAN
And a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week marking the anniversary of the Emergency declared by Indira Gandhi. For a Saturday following the week when the garbage crisis in Margao became worse. For a Saturday following the week when a similar garbage crisis in Panjim was avoided by the threat of the Panjim mayor to stop processing of sewage from the northern beach belt. For a Saturday following the week when the first round of admissions to professional colleges has almost been completed.
And a few stray thoughts on the week when ironically Narendra Modi recalled the days of the Emergency when bail was completely barred. Thousands of political activists and senior Opposition political leaders were sent to jail with some of them like Chandrashekar and George Fernandes being kept in isolation.
For those who were not born when Emergency was declared by then PM Indira Gandhi on June 25, 1975, perhaps some background would be relevant. The Allahabad Bench of the UP High Court disqualified the late Indira Gandhi on grounds of corruption in the Lok Sabha election based on a petition filed by socialist leader Raj Narain. Indira Gandhi was effectively under the control of her younger son Sanjay Gandhi who recommended that she declare an Emergency. Being a puppet in son Sanjay’s hands and not wanting to give up power, Indira Gandhi got a spineless President Fakruddin Ali Ahmed to sign the Emergency proclamation.
The emergency was preceeded by a massive agitation by veteran socialist leader Jayaprakash Narayan. George Fernandes, who was a leading trade union leader, stopped the running of the railways for over a month. Power connections to all newspapers all over the country were cut so that news of the Emergency would become known only after it was declared. Many leading editors were also sent to jail for protesting against the suspension of all Constitutional liberties including the right to speech. I was then working for a magazine called Onlooker. Outside Churchgate station in Mumbai we had a big hoarding saying “Is it the end of Indira Gandhi?” It turned out to be the end of the media for the next 11 months, as I discovered when I reached the office that rigid censorship had been enforced and we could not publish anything against the Emergency or the atrocities conducted by Sanjay Gandhi who believed, among other things, that the best way of controlling population was naasbandhi. Camps were held all over the country where even men in their 20s were sterilized.
Sanjay also removed all the slums not only in Delhi but in other parts of the country like Mumbai. Anyone speaking against Indira or Sanjay were declared anti-national as has started happening again now. Narendra Modi, Amit Shah etc are arresting intellectuals and even media persons for mere Facebook posts as it happened recently in UP and Delhi following innocent posts against Swami Yodi Adityanath.
But coming back to the Emergency, the Indian Express, where I had worked for ten years, was taken over from the owner, Ramnath Goenka, and was run by a Board of Directors appointed by the government. We had a ring side view as the leader of the Indira hatao agitation used to stay in the penthouse of the Indian Express building at Nariman Point in Mumbai.
In fairness it must be admitted that many of the senior leaders of the BJP, which was then called the Jana Sangh, were also arrested. Among those who were guests of the government in jail were RSS leaders, including Narendra Modi. After a period of 11 months Indira Gandhi, under pressure from both inside the country and outside, decided to lift the Emergency and free all the political leaders who had been arrested. All the political parties came together to form the Janata Dal and opposed Indira Gandhi and her Congress party in the elections that followed. In the post-Emergency elections, Indira Gandhi not only lost her own seat, but the Congress suffered a humiliating defeat. The Janata Dal came to power but the new government did not last long because of differences between the leaders of the various parties.
At a personal level, Sanjay Gandhi, who was responsible for forcing his mother to declare the Emergency, died in an air crash when he was learning how to fly. Incidentally, the Maruti car was originally brought to India by Sanjay Gandhi — at a time when the only cars available were Fiat and Ambassador. The Maruti car which was meant for the middle class was the predecessor of the Nano introduced by the Tatas.
At least India Gandhi lifted the Emergency when she realised how much opposition there was to it. But Narendra Modi and Amit Shah have imposed an undeclared emergency which may last forever. With almost a 3/4th majority in Parliament and heading for a majority even in the Rajya Sabha the BJP can do what it pleases as there is no Opposition.
The BJP has undermined the independence of the Election Commission by refusing to permit the EC to reveal why the dissenting comments made by Election Commissioner Mr Ashok Lavasa are not being made public. The Modi government is trying to undermine the independence of the judiciary and has refused to transfer the UP judge who had passed an order against Amit Shah. It has destroyed the autonomy of the Reserve Bank of India and investigative agencies like the CBI, the NIA and the Enforcement Directorate. It has even given a ticket to terror- accused Pragaya Thakur and gotten her elected to Parliament. Indeed over 100 of the newly elected BJP MPs have a criminal record. We have to ensure that the BJP does not misuse its majority to divide the country on communal lines.
GARBAGE CRISIS IN MARGAO
And a few stray thoughts on the garbage crisis in Margao.
In a case of corporate anti-social irresponsibility the Fomento group has drowned the commercial capital in garbage. The Municipal Corporation of Margao entered into an agreement with Fomento Green owned by Avdhoot Timblo, who was born in Margao, to handle the waste generated in the city. Initially Fomento agreed to accept unsegregated waste which included wet and solid wastes. Subsequently Fomento insisted that it would accept only segregated waste. The waste management system set up by the Fomentos, which was paid for by the MMC, worked reasonably well until the death of the late Shridhar Kamat. Thereafter Fomento seems to have abandoned the waste management project all together.
The MMC is also to blame as unlike in Panjim it still has not succeeded in getting its citizens to segregate waste at source. As a result Fomento Green just dumped the mixed waste within its compound. Over a period of time the waste accumulated and became a Himalayan mountain. Because the waste has not been separated and has been overloaded it has been generating methyl gas. Every year as a consequence the dump catches fire, filling the whole area with smoke. This time it took more than ten days to put out the fire which led to severe respiratory problems for people in surrounding areas. The most prestigious school in Margao, Manovikas, had to postpone re-opening because of the smoke and foul smell.
No sooner the fire was put out with the use of a special chemical, Fomento demanded that all the mixed waste which had accumulated within the plant should be removed before it would start accepting fresh segregated garbage. When the MMC started removing the piled up garbage they discovered that Fomento had stopped functioning more than three month ago. The quantity of waste removed so far has exceeded 2,500 as against the Fomento estimates of 1,000 tonnes. For over a week Fomento closed its gates and did not accept any garbage collected by MMC. In fact, the company has given notice of its intention to terminate the contract. But it is demanding that it is paid dues of over `12 crore before it will leave the premises. The MMC and the director of Municipal administration should file a criminal case against Fomento for putting the lives of Margao citizens in danger. Never has there been such a stink in Margao, particularly during the rainy season, which can lead to major epidemics.
BARDEZ VS TISWADI
And a few stray thoughts on garbage in North Goa.
Following the example of Fomento, the waste management facility at Saligao refused to accept waste from Panjim. The Saligao state-of-the-art plant insisted it was already over-loaded and could handle only waste generated in Bardez. It was set up after a group of ministers and officials went on a world tour to choose the best technology for waste treatment. The Saligao plant even generates power for its own use and sells the surplus. But no waste treatment plant can deal with double the waste it was set up to handle. The plant was set up primarily because of pressure from Calangute-MLA Michael Lobo who wanted a waste management facility to deal with the huge quantity of waste generated by the coastal area which includes Candolim, Calangute and Baga. There were strong objections from the people of Saligao who were afraid that it would pollute the Salmona spring.
Unfortunately for the Saligao authorities, the mayor of Panjim, Uday Madkaikar, retaliated in kind. It is not widely known that the sewage of the whole of north Goa, including the hundreds of big and small hotels and restaurants, is treated at the Sewage Treatment Plant at Tonca. During the season it is estimated that over 200 trucks from the North Goa tourism belt come to Tonca each day. Even in the off season the sewage plant caters to an average of 60 truck-loads of sewage. Madkaikar, with the support of Babush, warned that Tonca will stop accepting sewage from Calangute if they stopped accepting the garbage.
Fortunately for all concerned, Michael Lobo, who is the vice-chairman of the Goa Waste Management Corporation (GWMC) intervened and called an emergency meeting with Babush and the mayor of Panjim. It was decided that the CCP will set up a waste management plant at their existing waste sorting plant behind Heera petrol pump near the Kadamba Bus Stand with the government diverting some machinery from Saligao to Panjim temporarily. It was also decided to speed up the solid waste management plant (SWMP) at Baingunim. Saligao has agreed that it would continue to accept Panjim waste till the new waste management plant at the Heera petrol pump starts up. The situation has been compounded by the failure of equipment in Taleigao set up to deal with green waste. It is being urgently repaired.
The main challenge facing Goa is that it paid no attention to the infrastructure for waste management. Though Panjim started door-to-door segregation and collection of garbage more than a decade ago it does not have a dump. The previous dump at Curca which now houses a school complex was closed down because of overloading when the late Parrikar asked that the North Goa garbage should be sent to Curca. This was before the setting up of the Saligao Waste Treatment Plant.
The State has yet to set up a separate treatment plant for biomedical waste or for hazardous waste. Chief minister Pramod Sawant has said the state government will formulate a solid waste management policy to manage all kinds of waste.
STRUGGLE FOR ADMISSIONS
And a last stray thought on admissions to professional colleges.
Medical students are facing a major crisis as the government is insisting on bonds of
10 lakh in the case of MBBS and50 lakh in the case of MD. While this condition has been there in the past it has not been enforced. Moreover this year the government is asking for a bank guarantee instead of a plain bond, which many poor students cannot afford. The logic behind the bonds is to ensure that after graduating students will spend three years working in rural areas.
The government spends huge amounts on students in medical and engineering colleges. Private medical colleges charge much larger capitation fees. Most students prefer government colleges as they are cheaper and, at least in the case of Goa, they have very good staff and excellent facilities — including superspecialities in cardiology, neurology, surgery nephrology and pediatrics. A superspeciality block is coming up which will offer more MD seats for Goan students. Goa earlier missed out an opportunity to increase the MD seats as the GMC did not respond on time and the seats lapsed.
As far as engineering is concern the majority of toppers want to study either computers or electronics. The second choice is mechanical engineering. Even though so much construction is going on there is no demand for civil engineering. There are five colleges in Goa, including the popular Government Engineering College. There is no demand for seats in Subhash Shirodkar’s engineering college although, as a reward for defecting to the BJP, he has been granted an additional hundred seats for various engineering courses.
In addition to the three popular private colleges including the two Don Bosco colleges and the Pilar Engineering College, Goa also has four national educational institutions. These include NIIT which has been functioning from the Government Engineering College. Goa has also been allotted an Indian Institute of Technology which is also homeless. The only institute with state-of-the-art facilities — BITS Pilani — does not have any reservations for Goan students. In addition to the engineering colleges Goa also has a Central government-managed Institute of Hotel Management.
While the higher educational and professional training facilities have increased enormously there are no jobs for those who pass out. Goans have to migrate to Pune or Bangalore as there are few industries in Goa and they pay very badly.
Even among students from outside the state, Goa is the last preference for those who apply for IIT, BITS and NIIT. Parents from outside Goa are afraid that their children may become drug addicts or bevda if they come to Goa. Which is why the restrictions are so strict at the VM Salgaocar International Hotel Management College in Raia. It almost reminded me of an army camp and I protested that the students should have freedom. To which the principle told me that the parents are afraid that their children will become drug or alcohol addicts and wanted the institute to keep close watch.