PROTEST: Leading BJP leader from Margao Pandurang (Bhai) Naik protested against the sacking of Vijai Sardesai and Rohan Khaunte, claiming that it is an attack on the Saraswat community
BY RAJAN NARAYAN
And a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when Pramod Sawant targeted the immediate family of the late Manohar Parrikar. For a Saturday following the week when the chief minister admitted that the drug lords had not been identified and that youth were taking to drugs. For a Saturday following the week when Vijai Sardesai claimed that his sacking was part of the conspiracy against Saraswats. For a Saturday following the week when even though Babu Kavalekar is deputy chief minister, it is Michael Lobo who enjoys the confidence of the chief minister. For a Saturday following the week when the crises in education, particularly primary education, had become very acute.
And a few stray thoughts on Pramod Sawant sacking the father-in-law of Utpal Parrikar, the late Manohar Parrikar’s eldest son.
Indeed Utpal Parrikar was the first choice of the cadres of the BJP to contest the Panjim Assembly seat which had fallen vacant on the death of Manohar Parrikar. The perception was that Utpal Parrikar who was willing would get a lot of sympathy votes because of the esteem that his father enjoyed. But the BJP High Command which had been criticising the Congress on dynasty rule did not want to be accused of the same crime.
Ever since Pramod Sawant secured an absolute majority of 27 MLAs in the 40 member house he has been targeting close associates of Manohar Parrikar who coincidently happened to be Saraswats. As we have pointed out in the cover story, the Saraswats dropped by Pramod Sawant had all been misusing and abusing their proximity to the late Manohar Parrikar.
It was unexpected that Pramod Sawant would dare to target a member of Manohar Parrikar’s immediate family. The latest target of Pramod Sawant has been the father-in-law or sasu pai of Utpal Parrikar, Dr Mahesh Sardesai. Dr Mahesh Sardesai has been on his tenth extension as HOD of the radiology department in the GMC.
Right from the time I came to Goa in 1983 there were complaints about Dr Mahesh Sardesai spending more time in his private clinic in Porvorim than in the GMC. He was even allegedly accused of pilfering material from the GMC for his private clinic.
Unlike in the case of Shivanand Bandekar who was suspended and has returned as acting Dean, the CM seems to be unconcerned over the fact that Dr Mahesh Sardesai is the father-in-law of Utpal Parrikar. It is not clear whether it is strike against Mahesh Sardesai or his son-in-law. Relations between Pramod Sawant and Utpal are not very good. It may be recalled that Utpal was opposed to the dropping of Vijai Sardesai and Rohan Khaunte from the Cabinet.
There is no question that Mahesh Sardesai deserves to be sacked. But among Saraswats there is the “amche” factor. Even if a Saraswat commits a major crime, the community condones it, as they feel that the tiny minority of Saraswats should protect each other.
How long Pramod Sawant can take on the Saraswat community is a question mark. The Saraswats are known to be quite vicious when they feel that there is a conspiracy against it. However, the conspiracy exists only in the imagination of the Saraswats. All that Pramod Sawant is doing is cleaning the administration of those Saraswats who had taken undue advantage of Manohar Parrikar.
Talking of the “amche” factor I am reminded of the time when I wrote something critical on Dr Mahesh Sardesai. The son of cancer specialist Dr Shekar Salkar was doing his post-graduation under Dr Mahesh Sardesai. The son was so furious that he called me and abused and threatened me. Unfortunately for him he used his father’s phone, which was in my contact list. I immediately identified the number and made a complaint to the police. In fairness Dr Shekar Salkar came home with his wife Medha Salkar and his truant son and gave me a written apology.
BABUSH CORNERS CM
And a few stray thoughts on Babush cornering Chief Minister Pramod Sawant, who is also the home minister, on the serious drug menace.
Babush pointed out in the Legislative Assembly on Tuesday that none of those who are caught selling ganja on the Campal grounds had been arrested. It may be recalled that the mayor of Panjim, Uday Madkaikar, and Municipal staff found more than 40 packets of ganja in a cement pipe that had become a storage area for the migrants who had occupied the Campal Parade ground. Babush pointed out that a pan card had been found during the raid and apparently one of those caught with ganja had been trying to buy a house for `40 lakh.
That drugs are widely available in every part of Goa is well-known. The charges are that many Goan kids have not only become drug addicts, but have been peddling drugs to finance their habits. Goan kids seem to prefer drugs like ganja to daru. The most commonly used synthetic drug is ketamine which is popularly known as a date rape drug. Boys can slip ketamine, which comes in liquid form, into any drink — which can be even be fruit juice or a coke. The drug, which is an animal anaesthetic, paralyses the victim letting the crook do whatever he wants. The worst part is that very often the victim cannot remember what happened. We recently have been powerfully reminded of how young Goans drug and rape young firang teens and leave them to die as in the case of Scarlett Keeling.
Babush insisted that the police were hand in glove with drug peddlers as it is not possible for them to sell drugs in schools and colleges without the knowledge of the police. At one stage it was believed that all the gados, including the one at the Miramar junction near the Dempe and law colleges was selling drugs. Which is why all the gados near educational institutions were closed down by the then government of Digambar Kamat. In the coastal belt the dropout rate in the 8th and 9th standard is very high as young teens gets jobs in shacks and supplement their income by peddling drugs. The narcotics branch of the police are expected to destroy drugs seized by them every three months under the supervision of the Collector. The CM admitted that for the last two years no seized drugs had been destroyed.
It is probable that police attached to the narcotics branch are themselves selling drugs to peddlers. It may be recalled that in the video made by Atala’s girlfriend police officers were seen buying drugs from the Israeli drug chief. Though everyone talks about the police being involved in the drug trade everyone is silent on the political patronage extended by leading Congress and BJP leaders to drug peddlers. It has even been alleged that Babu Kavlekar was blackmailed into joining the BJP as he had been allegedly implicated by the Nigerians during the war between the local and Nigerian drug peddlers.
And a few stray thoughts on Goa Forward chief Vijai Sardesai claiming that his exit from the Cabinet was a conspiracy against the Saraswat community.
Vijai has been also been claiming that Pramod Sawant wants to destroy the legacy of Manohar Parrikar. Vijai claimed that Parrikar had promised that the alliance would continue for the entire term of the Assembly. In turn Vijai claims he was very loyal to Manohar Parrikar and did not insist on a change in leadership even when Parrikar was suffering from pancreatic cancer for over a year. Vijai also claimed that his contacts were directly with the BJP high command and not with the local BJP. It was Union Transport Minister Nitin Gadkari who convinced Vijai to extend support to the BJP coalition government even though the party had got only 13 of the 40 seats in the assembly.
But Vijai has no right to grumble as he had made it very clear that his commitment was not to the BJP but to Manohar Parrikar personally. So much so now that Manohar Parrikar is not there the BJP felt free to drop him and Rohan from the Cabinet.
Even senior members of the BJP have been condemning Pramod Sawant for dropping Vijai Sardesai. Senior Margao BJP leader Bhai Naik also is upset with Chief Minister Sawant for dropping Vijai Sardesai. Pramod Sawant on the other hand does not seem to have any use for arrogant Saraswats who think they are superior to everyone else. Sawant, who reportedly belongs to the Bahujan Samaj, is determined not to tolerate any Saraswat dadagiri.
The Saraswats have dominated both politics and business in Goa for decades. The longest serving Chief Minister after statehood has been Pratapsingh Raoji Rane, who claims to belong a royal family. Apart from him, the only Chief Ministers who have completed a full term or a substantial part of it are Digambar Kamat and Manohar Parrikar, both of whom are Saraswats.
Ironically, the first chief minister of Goa after Liberation was Dayanand Bandodkar, who brought together all the so-called lower castes under the umbrella of the Bahujan Samaj. The only other non-Saraswat Hindu chief minister was Ravi Naik of the Bhandari Samaj. None of the Catholic chief ministers — ranging from Dr Wilfred D’Souza, Luizinho Faleiro and Fransisco Sardinha, not to mention Dr Proto Barbosa and Churchill Alemao — managed to complete a full term in office.
Unlike in others part of the country where it is the trading class like the Baniyas of the north and the Chettiars of the south who control the towering heights of business and commerce, in sharp contrast in Goa, with the exception of the Chowgules and the Bandekars, most of the big mine owners are Saraswats. Prior to Liberation even the big commercial businesses were in the hands of Saraswats, like the Caculos to give an example. The appointment of Pramod Sawant as chief minister seems to be a conscious affair by the BJP to get rid of its image of being a party of Brahmins and traders.
And a few stray thoughts on the growing power and influence of Waste Management Minister Michael Lobo.
Though in theory the senior-most ministers are the old and new deputy CMs, Babu Ajgaonkar and Babu Kavlekar, it seems to be Michael Lobo who enjoys the confidence of Chief Minister Sawant. Unlike Babu Ajgaonkar and Kavlekar, Lobo is one of the original members of the party, and not a defector. Ajgaonkar was made deputy CM for merging the legislative wing of the MGP with the BJP. Babu Kavlekar was part of the 10 Congress MLAs who defected to the MGP and was probably made Deputy Chief Minister because he was the leader of the Congress Legislative Party before he defected.
Unlike Ajgaonkar and Kavlekar, Lobo uses diplomacy rather than threats to get work done. After achieving his long standing ambition of becoming a member of the Cabinet, he has started taking a larger interest in other departments also. I have no doubt that he will win the conflict with Tourism Minister Babu Ajgaonkar on who will be responsible for cleaning beaches. Right now there is no contractor appointed to clean beaches as the Drishti contract has ended and not been renewed. As Waste Management Minister, Lobo logically should be in charge of all waste management, including cleaning beaches. But it would appear that Babu Ajgaonkar insisted that as Tourism minister the beaches are his property and Lobo has no authority to clean them. The CM will decide in Lobo’s favour as the BJP has a comfortable majority and can afford to drop Babu Ajgaonkar from the Cabinet.
The most important sign of Michael’s growing influence is the taxi issue. The CM has repeatedly supported GoaMiles, while Michael has been supporting local taxi drivers. Although everyone from the ruling party and the Opposition has been protesting against the tourist taxi mafia, Michael seems to be determined to protect their interests. Which is why suddenly there is even talk of banning GoaMiles. This would be a disaster as it is providing an alternative to the extortionate taxi mafia. The taxi mafia should be compelled to install meters as well as GPS system and the fares should be strictly regulated.
At present the private taxis charge whatever they want and have ridiculous restrictions like not allowing both Goans and tourists to pick up their guests from hotels. Even if you have private car you can drop your guest at the hotel but cannot pick him up as he is expected to take a taxi attached to the hotel if the guest wants to go anywhere. There is a North-South divide with North Goa taxis not being allowed to enter South Goa and vice versa.
The claim that GoaMiles drivers are outsiders and the private taxis are driven by Goans is also false. The owners of the taxis may be Goans but the majority of them are driven by migrants. Most of the migrant taxi drivers of both GoaMiles and private taxis are illiterate and I wonder how they get their licenses since the 10th standard is the minimum qualification for getting a taxi batch.
And a last stray thought on the mess in primary education.
Until Liberation there were only Portuguese schools. And a few Marathi schools run by landlords for their own children and the tenants’. After Liberation the first government under Dayanand Bandodkar started hundreds of Marathi mediums primary schools.
When I came to Goa in 1983 there were almost 1,500 government Marathi primary schools. The numbers have now shrunk to less than 500. Even in the 500 odd government schools, enrolment at the primary level across four classes is less than ten. The ground reality is that everyone, including in particular the children of migrants, want to study in English schools. So while the number of vernacular schools are going down, those offering English medium, even without grants, have increased sharply.