Bhandari swami dominates raj bhavan

BOYCOTT: Not only Digamber Kamat and Vijay Sardesai, even many of the new mantris boycotted the Governor’s Tea Party where the CM was sandwiched between Brahmeshanand Swami (inset) and Governor Mridula Sinha

BY RAJAN NARAYAN’

And a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when former PWD minister Sudin Dhavalikar blamed the notorious contractor Venkata Rao for the water crisis in Tiswadi and Ponda. For a Saturday following the week when the chief guest at the Independence Day tea-party appeared to be the flamboyant Bhandari Samaj’s PP Brahmeshanand Swami. For a Saturday following the week when the BJP held a one-day training program on discipline and core values of the BJP for the Congress MLAs who had defected. For a Saturday following the week when the battle between Minister for Waste Management Michael Lobo and Tourism Minister Babu Ajgaonkar intensified. For a Saturday following the week when I was mystified over the logic, or lack of it, of the Grim Reaper who took away several close friends.

SUDIN CHARGES Venkata RAO

And a few stray thoughts on former PWD minister, Sudin Dhavalikar, blaming the notorious contractor Venkata Rao for the mishap in Curti-Khandepar.
Apparently, Venkata Rao had also bagged the contract for the expansion of the national highway which is Nitin Gadkari’s pet project. Having the backing of Nitin Gadkari, the arrogant Venkata Rao ignored the risk of damage to the water pipelines while the digging was going on for expanding the national highway. The 900 mm and 700 mm pipes were on the same side on which the national highway was being dug for expansion. Venkata Rao could have shifted the pipelines to the other side of the road so that no damage is caused. This was not done and the damage that resulted has tramautised the people of Panjim and Ponda.
The engineers of the PWD Department are either incompetent or indifferent. It was reportedly pointed out to them that cracks had started appearing in the three-decade-old mega galvanized pipes which supply water to Tiswadi and Ponda. Unforunately, PWD engineers normally wait for the pipes to break before taking any action.
The PWD is not even equipped with professional welders who are needed for most of their jobs. They had to import a dozen so-called expert welders from Mumbai to connect the new pipe which was bent in the shape of a T to connect it to the main pipe. As against their promises of completing the work by Monday, then Tuesday at the latest, even as on Wednesday they had completed the welding only on the 900 mm pipe supplying water to Tiswadi. Ponda will continue to suffer from a water crisis since the 700 mm pipe which supplies water to Ponda has not yet been repaired.
When prominent Ponjekars complained that PWD tankers have not supplied water to them despite the Chief Minister’s promise, it is pointed out that most of the gated colonies get no potable water at all and are dependent on private water tankers.
While the gated colonies on the Dona Paula bypass and internal roads get some Municipal water, the entire Kadamba Plateau which now has over 2,000 flats does not get a drop of water.
Whether it is leakages in pipelines or breakdowns or even potholes, part of the indifference of the contractors is because many of them have not been paid their dues for work completed. The excuse of the government is that following the suspension of mining and the slowdown in charter tourism the government has no money.
Excepting for Venkata Rao, who is also responsible for other disasters like the collapse of the roof of the lecture halls in the GMC, and the notorious bypass road delays, most contractors do not even apply for government tenders. We fail to understand why local contractors are not engaged for major works in the state.
Part of the problem is that in an attempt to marginalize Ravi Naik, who had joined the BJP and held the PWD portfolio in 2005, the late Manohar Parrikar set up the Goa State Infrastructure Development Corporation to which he diverted all the major construction work.
So much so, ironically the PWD has lost its attraction and the holy cow is now the GSIDC which incidentally was chaired by the current chief minister Pramod Sawant with Siddharth Kuncalienker as his deputy.

TEA PARTY AT RAJ BHAVAN

And a few stray thoughts on Brahmeshanand Swami being virtually the chief guest at the Independence Day tea party hosted by the Governor Mridula Sinha.
While the cattle class comprising senior industrialists, bureaucrats and even editors had to sit on plastic chairs, the governor and her chosen favourites sat on sofa sets laid out on the forecourt of the Raj Bhavan. It was the Bhandari swami who sat next to Governor Mridula Sinha with Chief Minister Sawant having to give way to the swamiji. Though many ministers wanted to occupy the sofas to demonstrate their clout, very few of them made it. There were more BJP office bearers like party president Tendulkar, than members of the Cabinet. After a lot of struggle Mauvin Godinho managed to find some space at the edge of the sofa in the outer circle.
Unlike in the past there were not many members of the ruling party or even the Cabinet, leave alone the Opposition. Traditionally, political leaders put aside their differences and attend the Independence Day tea party. Neither the leader of the Congress Legislature Party Digambar Kamat, nor the GPCC president attended the party.
I have noticed that ever since the BJP came into power in 2017 the number of Catholic invitees has been sharply cut down. There was a time when at least 40% of the invitees were Catholics, including a prominent doctor from Porvorim whose father was the mayor of Bardez during Portuguese times. For some inexplicable reason he seems to have been dropped from the list of invitees.
I have also never seen members of the South Goa social activists and intellectuals giants at the Raj Bhavan tea party. There was no sign of either Datta Naik or Uday Bhembre. Understandably, the breakaway chief of the RSS Subhash Velingkar was also not invited to the governor’s Independence tea.
Normally the tea is held on the lawns, whereas this year because of fear of the rain, it was held at the forecourt under a rainproof pandal. For Chief Minister Pramod Sawant it is was his first occasion of being co-host of the tea-party. Traditionally, the chief minister receives the governor, and after the national anthem is played, he accompanies her to introduce her to the VIPs invited.
Till recently the invitations were hand delivered by a Raj Bhavan employee. Under Mridula Sinha you get them by post which I think lowers the stature of the event.
Getting to the governor’s tea party is a smooth affair irrespective of whether you reach before time or on time. But getting out of the Raj Bhavan estate after the function is another matter altogether. Only the ministers have special parking closed to the entrance to the enclosure. The cars of others including top brass of the army and navy are parked all over the Raj Bhavan, going right up the helipad at the entrance. How fast you can get out of the Raj Bhavan after the flag comes down marking the end of the tea party depends on how enterprising your driver is. The crowd at the exit is a great leveller as everyone has to stand impatiently stamping on one another’s toes till their “chariot” arrives.
Traditionally the Cidade and the Marriott used to do the catering at the Raj Bhavan. This time around it was the turn of the Taj Vivanta, Panaji, whose entire team was there, including the GM Jaikant Shroff and his executive chef. For the first time I came across a vegetable lollipop, although chicken lollipop are common at these events. I did not risk it as it seemed incongruous to have a vegetable lollipop.

CONGRESS DEFECTORS BACK TO BJP ‘CLASS’

And a few stray thoughts on the workshop conducted by the BJP top brass to educate the Congress MLAs who had defected on the values of the BJP.
I understand that the workshop, which was conducted by organising secretary Satish Dhond who is a veteran pracharak, stressed on discipline. This is laughable considering that the BJP, not only in Goa but in the rest of the country, has been inducing other party MLAs to defect.
Among the most recent casualties was the mass defection of the Congress and JDU members in Karnataka to the BJP. Which resulted in the toppling of the Congress-JDU alliance and the return of the 80-year-old Yediyurrapa to power. Yediyurappa, who was chief minister earlier, stepped down on charges of corruption. On his acquittal he was determined to win back Karnataka for the BJP and occupy the CM’s post for a last time. Admittedly Yediyurappa is the most popular leader of the BJP in Karnataka and was responsible for breaking the Congress monopoly of the state.
The BJP seems to be determined to topple all the remaining Congress governments in the states. Amit Shah waved his magic wand and all the Congress MLAs in Himachal Pradesh shifted to the BJP, leaving poor Hooda alone.
Similarly, in one of the Northeastern states the BJP dislodged the longest serving chief minister who suddenly found himself in a minority of one. The BJP tried the same tactic in Congress-ruled Madhya Pradesh, but was checkmated by veteran Congressman Kamal Nath.
Apart from discipline, the Goan defecting Congress MLAs were also lectured on the core values of the BJP. Since the only interest of the defecting Congress MLAs is power, it is unlikely that they showed any interest in Ram rajya. They were more interested in their rewards for supporting the BJP.
With Babush Monserrate sacrificing the ministry to his wife Jennifer, he once again has been appointed chairperson of the Greater Panjim Planning and Development Authority, which includes Taleigao. This will give him license to convert Panjim into another Manhatten or Caranzalem with high-rise buildings going up to 10 floors in case of residential buildings and 12 for commercial buildings. Digambar Kamat even referred to plans for a 25-storey building being approved by the PDA.
Some of the other defectors who could not be accommodated in the Cabinet have been given chairmanship of minor bodies like the Khadi & Handloom Corporation. It is house full as far as the major corporations are concerned.
Babush Monserrate refused to attend the BJP’s training program. Michael Lobo, who considers himself a chief ministerial candidate, also stayed away. In the case of Goa it is the BJP MLAs who require a training program in hardcore Hindutva values as most of them are beef-eating pracharak.

LOBO VS AJGAONKAR

And a few stray thoughts on the continuing war between Tourism Minister Babu Ajgaonkar and the Waste Management Minister Michael Lobo.
Right from the time Michael Lobo got elected as the representative of the Calangute constituency he has always coveted the Tourism Ministry. Lobo deserves to be Tourism Minister as the Calangute constituency, which comprises Candolim, Calangute and Baga, account for more than 60% of the revenue from tourism.
Poor Michael Lobo has instead been appointed Waste Management Minister. But his bitter foe Babu Ajgaonkar will not even allow him to take care of the waste on beaches. According to Babu the beaches are his territory and he is quite capable of taking care of the waste there. Except that there have been allegations that Babu has been tendering the beach cleaning contract at extortionate rates. Moreover even the lifeguard contract has remained with Drishti for over a decade.
Babu has also been accused of spending more than 4 crore on touring the world with his family and friends at a time when charter tourism is declining. Babu even went to San Francisco, as if American citizens are going to desert sunny California for the dirty Goan beaches. We are quoting Michael Lobo who has been angrily yelling that Babu is inviting tourists to see the garbage on our beaches. The beach management contract has finally gone to the chief minister who is likely to give it to Lobo, who is also chairperson of the Waste Management Corporation headed by our old friend Sanjit Rodrigues. Poor Sanjit has been shifted from his high profile post as managing director of Goa State Infrastructure Corporation to Waste Management. He is back to where he started because as the first commissioner of the CCP he was the one who started door-to-door collection of segregated garbage. As Parrikar’s blue-eyed boy he went on to head the ESG and Cannes style would get on the stage and exclaim, “We are happy to recognize the presence of so and so and so and so…”. A beginning has been made with the government deciding to ban single-use plastics like spoons, knives and forks, which proliferated with the entry of Swiggy and Zomoto. Many restaurants also offer takeaway meals in plastic containers. The proposed fines are quite stiff ranging from5,000 to `5 lakh. Whether it will actually take off is a moot point as the lobbies will sabotage it.

GRIP REAPER

And a last stray thought for yet another Saturday.
I do not know if there is any logic to the manner in which the Grim Reaper decides to send his subjects to hell or heaven or the moon. The fact remains that over the last two months I have lost a lot of close friends.
Amongst the latest to go is Percival Noronha who was the first director of tourism and revived the carnival. He later regretted reviving the carnival as he did not expect that it would so grossly commercialized. Percival was also the founder of the Astronomy Society and introduced a lot of young people to the stars. He himself was a star historian with no airs about himself.
While Percival was 96 years, another old friend, Prasad Kirtani, went into space much too young. He was one of the brightest lawyers in Goa. I had known him for more than 30 years as he was a junior of the former chief justice of the Allahabad High Court, Ferdino Rebello, and an excellent table tennis player. His sudden departure due to cancer in the kidneys was a shock since his wife who had very serious illnesses had been nurtured back to health by him.
We will also miss Prof Alito Sequeira who was the most selfless sharer of knowledge and mentor we have met. Alito fought against caste discrimination in every institute in Goa, including the University of Goa. The university had kept the OBC faculty positions vacant under pressure from Saraswats who dominated the university. One of the beneficiaries of his campaigning is Savita Fernandes who finally got a job as lecturer in the Sociology Department. Alito also started the ‘Hanv Kon’ movement which was about the identity crisis of Goans. Literally he posed the question ‘Who am I?’ The best tribute to Alito would be to continue this movement so that Goans learn to respect each other irrespective of which community or caste they belong to.

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