MOON MIST: The Vikram lander may not have successfully landed on the moon, but perhaps it would have found it easier if it had chosen a crater in Goa. The PWD minister is not able to see the potholes and has asked citizens to send photographs of potholes in a new sentinal scheme


And a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when well known TV anchor Faye D’Souza was shunted aside. For a Saturday following the week when it was obvious that the Goa government is outsourcing jobs even when thousands of young Goans are unemployed. For a Saturday following the week when the government’s dengue statistics were wrong. For a Saturday following a week when there was some relief for those who break traffic rules. For a Saturday following the week when former PWD Minister Sudin Dhavalikar claimed that bad roads were not the reason for accidents.


And a few stray thoughts on a further attack on the media by the Modi government.
Among the boldest and most critical of the TV anchors who dared to take on the Modi government was Faye D’Souza, a journalist of Goan origin. Unlike the controversial Arnab Goswami of Republic TV and other TV anchors who inevitably support the government, Faye is known to ask razor sharp questions. One of the few anchors left who had the guts to question the government policies, she never felt the need to flatter either Narendra Modi or Amit Shah and took up controversial issues like the ban on beef and the harassment of Dalits.
Faye, who had a sound economic background, opposed the decision of the government to extort reserves from the RBI. She repeatedly pointed out that investment was falling quarter after quarter. Faye had the guts to point out that the automobile industry had declined sharply over the last one year, leading to a large number of job losses not only in the automobile industry itself, but also in the spare parts industry, as there are over 50 lakh employees in units making accessories like tyres and other parts. The decline is primarily due to a sharp cut in loans from national banking finance institutions. In view of the job losses, strong anchors had repeatedly demanded that GST on automobiles and two-wheelers should be reduced.
Absurdly enough Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman has been attributing the increase in use of Uber and Ola for the decline in the automobile industry. She has refused relief by way of GST or other concessions to the auto industry.
Ever since the Modi government came back to power all independent journalists have been forced to go. The first victims of the Modi government were Barkha Dutt and Rajdeep Sardesai. Similarly, several senior journalists like 2019 Ramon Magsaysay award winner Ravish Kumar, were also targeted.
Virtually every big and small newspaper has been affected and the viability of the print media has been undermined. Import duty on newsprint has been increased. Newspapers and TV channels which oppose or criticize the Modi government have been denied advertisements. A prominent example is the Rajasthan patrika. The TOI which has consistently supported Modi has received the maximum advertising support unlike the Express which has been seeing a sharp fall in advertising. The only media houses which have been extended the sympathy of the government is Zee TV which is owned by Subhash Chandra, a hardcore RSS worker. Chandra has even been given additional time to repay loans to banks of over `8,000 crore.
Media is being choked even in small places like Goa. There is not a single magazine or newspaper in Goa which dares to write against the government. During a meeting of editors organised by the PIB, the editor of the Gomantak Times openly expressed support to government, claiming that the house believed only in positive journalism, which meant that he would not write against the State or Central government. Goan Observer is one of the independent organisations that is being choked by the government. Government ads have been banned and the private sector is afraid of supporting Goan Observer with rare exception. With the shifting on Faye D’Souza from her powerful job as anchor of the Times Mirror the last of the tough anchors has been forced to quit.


And a few stray thoughts on my time spent at the Goa Medical College.
I’ve been a guest of the GMC on several occasions over the last few decades. It’s been getting worse and worse. The new medicine block that’s been added has not significantly improved the situation. Even the new gynac block is extremely crowded. The only part which is extremely well maintained is the cardiac block. This is because it is a special block where all the employees are from outside the GMC.
The HOD — Dr Guruprasad Naik — is from the US, and Dr Manjunath Desai, who revived me by giving me 27 shocks in February 2016, was trained in the UK. The surgeon, Dr Shirish Borkar was a junior of Dr Manke, principal surgeon to the late Bal Thackeray. Manke kept Thackeray alive through three heart attacks. Dr Shirish Borkar’s wife, Anupuma Borkar, an oncologist, will head the super-speciality cancer block once the super-speciality building is complete.
I happened to walk through some of relatively newer blocks. Being worked on by the GSIDC, they are degenerating even before completion. Every building put up by GSIDC has been a disaster. Slabs have been falling from the teaching rooms. Politicians have big ideas, but when it comes to execution the work is shoddy because there are huge kickbacks.
During my last stint in the GMC om 2016, I was in a ward called the ‘death ward’. There was seldom water in the toilets. Attendants had to look after the patients and some were lying on the floor due to the shortage of beds.
Fortunately, I was accommodated in one of two special rooms at the side of the ward meant for patients who needed isolation. Unfortunately, there were rats — huge rats — running up and down the ceiling of the so-called special room. The late Dr Wilfred Mesquita, who was the friend of the then Superintendent, sat down for two days in his office to solve the problem.
This week around I was in the ‘VIP ward’ for my dengue. The VIP ward is paid for and very fancy. Except that there is no way of calling the nurses. If you also do not have an attendant you have to walk right up to the nursing station to get anything you want. Occasionally there are two nurses during the day, but at night, more often than not, there is only one nurse for the 23 rooms in the VIP block. The only way of contacting the nurse is to take the landline number of the unit and call the nurse from your mobile. If she is at a distance from the main station she will not be able to hear you.
At the end of the VIP ward I discovered that the late Manohar Parrikar had his own special VIP ward. There was no access from the main VIP ward to the late Manohar Parrikar’s room where he would rest whenever he was in serious pain.
Despite all the talk of Chief Minister Pramod Sawant extending facilities to the media, things have taken a turn for the worse. In the past when I have been in the GMC, even in a special room, I was never charged as the room was free for journalists. Apparently now there are no exceptions and everyone has to pay, including ironically, GMC staff and senior government officers.
I have a DDSSY card which I have renewed twice. The value of the insurance coverage provided under the DDSSY scheme is 2.5 lakh for a couple. It was subsequently decided that one could upgrade one’s room in a private hospital if it fell within the insured amount. Either the government is bankrupt or Vishwajit Rane wants to make as much as money he can. Despite having a DDSSY card I was told it was not applicable to special, so-called VIP ward rooms. Forget about having to pay for the special room, one also had to pay for all treatment and procedures carried out including doctors’ visits. It is logical that whether you are in a private room or a public room the cost incurred should be adjusted against the insurance coverage. In this case I did not get any benefit from my DDSSY card and had to pay20,000 in cash. I was also told that I could not get any reimbursement against my DDSSY card. For all it is worth I may as well destroy or burn my DDSSY card as it is of no use even in a government hospital.
I enquired if I could claim the over 20,000 I spent against my Oriental Insurance card. I was told I could make a claim but the GMC accounts department did not have the insurance forms which have to be filled in along with detailed billing in order to claim insurance. Though my money was accepted I was told that detailed billing would take a lot of time and I would be informed when it was ready. If I had gone to a private hospital I would have got a cashless arrangement and the insurance company would have directly paid the bill to the hospital. In the past I have in fact even secured reimbursement for my wife’s open heart surgery to the extent of4.5 lakh against the total insured amount of `5 lakhs.

And a few stray thoughts on the Goa government outsourcing jobs even when thousands of young Goan are unemployed.
The food at the GMC both for patients in the ward and in the special rooms has been outsourced to a French company called Sodexo. It is supposed to be an international company which sets up food distribution systems for large institutions all over the world. In every country the food sold or offered is local. In the case of the GMC the food varied depending on whether you were on a normal diet or had diabetes or some other diseases.
There are over 600 breakfasts, lunches and dinners being served every day to the GMC wards and rooms. Admittedly the food is of reasonable quality and there is a high level of hygiene. But the Sodexo food served comes at the expense of jobs for Goans. All the employees of Sodexo are from outside the state. We have not heard of even recruitment being done in the state.
Vishwajit Rane keeps talking about outsourcing various facilities in the GMC. Ironically he has also been talking about filling 1,000 vacancies in the GMC.
Initially, those interested in a job with GMC have to go to the office personally and pay `50 and collect the forms. After lots of protest the whole process was put online. I do not know whether those who want jobs still have to still pay for the forms. What is the point in outsourcing jobs if they can be filled by Goan themselves. Most of the Sodexo employees as far as I can guess are not even SSC pass.
While the patients are getting their healthy food, the canteen for doctors is yet to come up. Most of the doctors either bring their own meals or go out to eat. All that they have at the moment is the old canteen where they can have the usual unhealthy snacks and tea and coffee.


And a few stray thoughts on the government misleading Goans on the number of dengue cases in the state.
According to statistics provided by the Department of Health Services there are 62 cases of dengue reported in the State this monsoon. Clearly the figures are an understatement. According to the government figures in August there were 16 dengue cases in Canacona. The next highest reported number of cases were in Candolim. Although in Dempo Bhat in Tonca alone there are over 20 cases of dengue reported, the department claims only one case in Panjim. Believe it or not there is only one patient reported from Chimbel, which is among the dirtiest slums.
If you go to the GMC, where I spent a week, you can see that the number of dengue cases in Panjim alone will exceed a hundred. This does not include the number of cases reported to private hospitals.
Every year the number of dengue cases is growing. Increased dengue cases were inevitable this year due to the heavy prolonged rains in August. There was one spell which lasted for more than ten days. Due to choking of drains and the lack of preparation like fogging, etc, the dengue epidemic has been much worse than in earlier years.
The monsoon did not spare even Lord Ganesh as Lord Ganesh got a very wet welcome this Chaturthi and the entire Ganesh week was very wet.


And a few stray thoughts on some relief for those who break traffic rules.
In an attempt to increase the revenue for the Transport Department Nitin Gadkari and Central government had hiked fines for traffic offenses steeply. For cases like drunken driving the fine imposed by the Centre was as high as 10,000. Even for relatively minor offenses like not wearing helmets the fine increased to1,000. For driving without seat belts the fine was raised to as high as `5,000.
Interestingly, BJP-ruled states have sharply reduced the fines to 10% of the original, although the law was passed by a BJP-ruled government at the Centre. Nitin Gadkari has climbed down and extended the concession that States can revise traffic fines according to their discretion.
Accordingly Transport Minister Mauvin Godinho has also decided to reduce some traffic fines.
The reason why there are so many traffic offenses is because of the huge number of vehicles in Goa in the absence of an effective public transport system. As against a population of 14 lakh there are more than 16 lakh vehicles. With so many vehicles on roads that don’t have the capacity to accommodate them, traffic offenses cannot be avoided.


And a last stray thought on the claim of the former PWD Minister Sudin Dhavalikar that bad roads are not the reason for accidents.
The fact remains that the roads were at their worst this year. Many of them were washed away leaving behind moon craters. Even in capital city Panjim there are more potholes then roads. The situation was complicated by landslides even in Mala, because of poor retaining walls.
Politicians blame citizens, but it is they who are responsible for accidents caused by bad roads. Politicians, particularly PWD ministers, demand huge cuts from contractors. Contractors in turn use substandard material. It is a vicious circle with politicians demanding increasing kickbacks and contractors lowering the quality of material used.
During the last few years no contractors are willing to tender for new contracts. This is because our bankrupt government has no money to pay their dues.
In developed countries potholes are almost nonexistent however heavy the rains. Their roads, particularly highways, are built for high speeds and vehicles can reach speeds of more than 200 kms per hour without any damage. Here vehicles are often reduced to moving at 20 kms per hour!
Admittedly there has been some improvement with Nitin Gadkari becoming the Union Transport Minister. He is pushing for building of high speed roads. However, these roads are privatised and you have to pay tolls to use them. So much so, public transport has become much more expensive within the country.
We should concentrate as a country more on basic infrastructure than trips to the moon. We cannot call ourselves a five trillion dollar economy if we cannot take care of basic infrastructure like roads, water and sanitation.

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