UNPAID: The Entertainment Society of Goa has still not cleared the advertising bills of any media organisation for IFFI 2018
BY RAJAN NARAYAN’
And a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when VG Siddhartha Hegde, the founder of Café Coffee Day, allegedly committed suicide. For a Saturday following the week when some MLAs were pleading with Chief Minister Pramod Sawant not to send back the thousands of migrants who have been coming to Goa every Monday from Patna. For a Saturday following the week when after the final round of admissions 325 seats in engineering colleges were still vacant. For a Saturday following a week when India hopes to send Indians to the moon, but cannot repair potholes.
And a few stray thoughts on the suspected death of VG Siddhartha, founder-owner of the popular Café Coffee Day chain.
Although Siddhartha was the son-in-law of the most enterprising of Karnataka Chief Ministers, SM Krishna, who brought IT to Bangalore, he wanted to carve out his own identity right from the start. Though he could have retired at the age of 21 as he was born with a golden spoon, he was eager to do something on his own. Siddhartha decided he would start Café Coffee Day (CCD) an alternative to Starbucks, the American-origin biggest coffee chain in the world. Siddhartha also integrated backwards, buying a number of coffee estates in his home town, Chikkamagaluru. Realizing how important English was in order to work as salespersons in CCD outlets, Siddhartha also started a spoken English school in Chikkamagaluru so that he could provide more jobs to the people of his native place.
Through his efforts Siddhartha provided jobs for over 20,000 young men in CCD outlets across India. He was obsessed by quality and though the coffee he served was much cheaper than Starbucks, there was nothing cheap about the quality or the look of his outlets.
Siddhartha did fine till demonetization and GST forced him to increase the price of coffee and other snacks at his outlets. Always very committed to his staff, even though he was facing a major cash flow crisis, Siddhatha never defaulted on payment to his staff knowing they were from poor families and needed the money to sustain themselves.
Perhaps because he was supporting the wrong party he was the victim of income-tax raids. In his last letter addressed to his employees he spoke about the stress he was going through because of the pressure he was facing from his creditors. Siddhartha was last seen on a bridge near the swollen Nethravathi River. Siddhartha told his driver to wait at the start of the bridge while he took a walk on the bridge and made some calls. He never returned. It is suspected that he committed suicide because he could not bear the stress of meeting his financial obligations to his staff and suppliers.
I can sympathize and empathize with him because many businessmen, including me, face the same problem. Particularly if they are seen as hostile by the ruling party. I have been running the Goan Observer along with by better three-quarters Mrs Tara Narayan for 18 years. Until 2012 when the BJP came to power in the State and at the Centre in 2014, we had relatively no problems. We used to sell over 10,000 copies every month and use to receive contracts on merit from the Health Department and the Department of Culture.
But everything changed when the BJP came to power as the government, particularly former Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, was extremely hostile to the Goan Observer. The then Additional Secretary to Chief Minister Parrikar, Michael D’Souza, rudely told our marketing executive that the Goan Observer was the last priority for making payments, as Parrikar considered us his biggest enemy.
We have continued to fight for Goa and Goans even though it has been a struggle to find the funds every month. Funds to pay the printing bill. Funds to pay salaries, which my reduced staff will testify is always paid at the end of the month, and not the 8th or 10th of the next, as many employers do. Paying my staff, my printing bills and rent take priority over taking any salary myself. By the 20th of every month the stress increases and I become more and more agitated as to where the salary will come from.
There are times when I wonder why I keep the Goan Observer alive. I have made repeated offers to transfer the managerial and editorial control to any young Goenkars who will keep the spirit of Goa alive. Unfortunately, there are no takers for a news weekly which is considered anti-BJP, which in fact it is not. We do not write about people or parties, but about issues. Our concerns are to keep Goa green. Our concerns are to find jobs for Goans.
In my 35 years in journalism in Goa, first in the Herald and later in the Goan Observer I have never hired bhaile. On the contrary I’ve trained hundreds of Goans and provided them very lucrative careers in journalism. The metropolitan editor and some of the senior most reporters of the TOI are people that Rajan Narayan trained. I like to say that the Rajan Narayan School of Practical Journalism has its graduates working not only in every newspaper in Goa, but even newspapers in the Gulf, Singapore and in China.
But this legacy cannot keep away my depression and stress about how long I can keep the paper alive. Ironically, when I posted that I sympathised with VG Siddhartha, I got a reply from a Mr Rajan Naik asking me to jump off the Atal Sethu bridge. I don’t think Atal Bihari Vajpayee, after whom it is named, would have done so, and nor will I. Because the battle has to be fought and Goa has to be saved from the saffron brigade on the one hand and the growing influx of migrants on the other.
I am painfully aware of the effect of migrants as I live in Dempo Bhat which should be renamed Kathmandu or Nepal, because it has more Nepalis than Goans. It is the contribution of old friends who still appreciate my courage and my resilience that keeps me alive. Fighting and living from day to day in the hope that someone will take over the Goan Observer and convert it into a youth-centric techno savvy weekly. Hope springs eternally in the human heart.
And a few stray thoughts on the clash in the Assembly over the mass influx of migrants to Goa.
During the last two Mondays it has been reported that over 2000 migrants have been arriving on the weekly train from Patna. There is large section of MLAs in the ongoing Assembly session who are pleading with Chief Minister Sawant to send the migrants back.
Though the police have been instructed to find out why so many migrants have been arriving suddenly nobody knows where the migrants have gone. It is obvious that the migrants must have come to Goa in the confidence or the guarantee that they would get a job. The MLAs of the costal belt are claiming that the sudden mass migration is due to fishermen returning to Goa as the fishing season starts again on August 1st. As in the case of tourist taxis, it is bhailes who actually work on fishing trawlers though they are owned by Goans. In fact without the bhaile fisherman from Karwar, Chennai, Orissa and Vijaiwada, trawlers would not be able to catch any fish, whether with formalin or not.
The only time you get fresh fish is during the fishing season. Goans have now become shano and go directly to the fishing jetty to pick up fish and do not rely on formalin-king Ibrahim Shaikh to get their fish from the fish market. The extent of the influence of Ibrahim Shaikh was dramatised by the fact that he got Iva Fernandes, who exposed his formalin racket, sacked even after Vijai Sardesai was dropped from the Cabinet.
Whether the sudden mass influx of migrants into Goa is in view of the start of the new fishing season or whether they are hired by Buildcon, the contractors of the Zuari Bridge, is not relevant. The fact is that migrants are not taking away Goan jobs. They are only doing the menial jobs like collection of garbage and mopping the airport which Goans do not want to do. None of the bold and beautiful and the rich and powerful can survive without the help of slums that spring up next to them to meet their requirement of maids and drivers.
325 SEATS VACANT
And a few stray thoughts on the disclosure that after the final round of counseling there are still 325 engineering seats vacant in the six engineering colleges in Goa. The least number of vacancies in the general category is in the Goa Engineering College run by the Goa government. Out of the 200 seats only two are vacant. The highest number of vacant seats are in the Rayeshwar Institute of Engineering and Information Technology (RIEIT) owned by the Shiroda MLA Subhash Shirodkar. Of the 163 seats, as many as 122 are vacant, dramatising the faith (or rather lack of it) that students and parents have in the college. Ironically, after Shirodkar shifted to the BJP the college was allotted a hundred more seats by the All India Council for Technological Education (AICTE).
It is not true that private engineering colleges including the ones run by the Church are in greater demand than government engineering colleges. The oldest of them, the Padre Conceição College of Engineering in Verna has 37 seats vacant of a total of 168 seats. The Agnel Institute of Technology and Design (AITD) at Assagao has 31 seats vacant out of 104. The latest engineering college started by the Don Bosco priests, namely the Don Bosco College of Engineering in Fatorda, has 18 seats vacant against the total capacity of 192.
This is in sharp contrast to the days when there used to be a long waiting list for admission to the private colleges even though they charged high capitation fees. There seems to be a lack of interest in certain branches of engineering like civil engineering and even mechanical engineering due to the decline in manufacturing activity. There has been more than a 30% drop in the sale of cars and two wheelers itself.
There appear to be few takers even for the engineering seats available under the ‘Economically Weaker Section’ (EWS) quota. This refers to the new reservations, available purely on an economic basis and not on caste basis, for families whose annual income is less than
8 lakh a year and who do not belong to any reserved category such as SC/ST/OBC. Either the Saraswats and other ‘high’ castes are rich enough to pay for their seats or there is not enough awareness on who is eligible. I doubt if there are any Saraswat families with an income below8 lakh year. This is reflected by the poor response to the seats lying vacant in the EWS category.
Even in the Goa Engineering College where the fees are very affordable there are 15 vacant seats as against the capacity of 36. The most number of vacant seats under EWS is under the Padri Conceição where 22 of the 24 seats are taken. The best performance is in the Don Bosco College in Fartoda where all the 24 seats for EWS have been filled. Interestingly, even in the Subhash Shirodkar college all 24 seats in the EWS quota have been filled as also AITD in Assagao.
Unlike during the Portuguese regime, when there were no engineering colleges in Goa, now there are six of them. In addition to the six engineering colleges there is BITS Pilani, set up by the Birlas because they did not want to lose the large amount of land that had been allotted them by Pratapsingh Rane. Thanks to the efforts of the late Manohar Parrikar, Goa also has a National Institute of Information Technology (NIIT) and even an Indian Institute of Technology. In terms of international quality institutions it also has a hotel management institute set up by Dattaraj Salgaocar. There is also an institute of ship building and an institute for construction promoted by builder Anil Counte. While there are ten institutes of higher education in engineering and catering, there are no jobs for the engineers who pass out. This is because industry has stopped growing for the last two decades. The biggest casualty is the degree in mining technology which has been discontinued as there are no students interested.
It would seem that Goans cannot complain that there are no training facilities. However these training facilities do not seem to make graduates job-ready. The last mile in creating employable engineers has to be filled by setting up skilling centers related to specific jobs — as for instance aeronautical engineering and maintenance degrees and diplomas, so that GMR cannot claim that there are no qualified Goans when it commissions the Mopa Airport.
And a last stray thought on the continuing downpour which has flooded every part of Goa in the last fortnight.
Every time there is a heavy shower lasting a couple of hours, water enters all the fancy shops on 18th June road. Every time the monsoons come, the residents of Mala have to shift out of their ground floor homes as the levels of the roads is higher than the entrance to their homes.
During the current monsoon there have been several cases of huge trees falling on cars and houses. Fortunately there have been no casualties. All the reservoirs are full and in fact there are fears that the Anjunem dam in Sanquelim will overflow, which will affect the neighbouring villages.
India is ready to launch Indians to the moon. But we have not mastered the technology of repairing potholes. We are of course, geniuses in creating roads which will develop potholes during the first shower. Previously some special chemical was imported to repair potholes. It obviously was a scam as the chemical got washed away. Now they are experimenting with new pothole repair machines.
Inspired by the example of Norway, where residents have started putting flowers in potholes, my colleague Saish Shirodkar and some other young men from Saligao have started putting plants in the potholes of Porvorim. Maybe when the moon men return after studying the huge craters on the moon, the rocket scientists will come out with solutions on preventing and repairing potholes.