FEKU: The plogging images that have been projected have been widely condemned as being staged. Ironically, Narendra Modi seems to be carrying a plastic bag on his mission to clear plastic from the beaches
BY RAJAN NARAYAN
And a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when Atanasio Babush Monserrate finally got Panjim city (CCP) excluded from the North Goa Public Development Authority (NGPDA). For a Saturday following the week when Michael Lobo and Vijai Sardesai have decided to sort out their differences over a drink in the Goan tradition. For a Saturday following the week when the battle to prevent the expansion of the Saligao Waste Management plant intensified. For a Saturday following the week when the High Court appears to have started a war against the State government. For a Saturday following the week when a new word — “plogger” — was added to the vocabulary of Indians.
And a few stray thoughts on Babush Monserrate finally achieving his goal of having the CCP excluded from the North Goa Planning & Development Authority.
When Babush decided to join the BJP the deal was that the Taleigao PDA would be converted into the Greater Panjim PDA. This would imply that the CCP would be dropped from the NGPDA. The Greater Panjim PDA — which Babush is now in charge of — includes the Kadamba Plateau, Bambolim and parts of the St Andre Constituency.
It is perhaps not a coincidence that the order including in CCP in the Greater Panjim PDA coincided with the re-allotment of the conversions that had been announced by Vijai Sardesai.
When Vijai was dropped from the ministry, the earlier ad hoc conversion was also dropped and it was decided to review the conversions. This was obviously to facilitate conversions that Babush might demand. Under the amendment to the TCP Act it was decided that over a thousand urban and rural plots under a 1,000 sq mtrs classified as orchard and agriculture, would be automatically converted. Permission of the TCP will not be required for this conversion.
So confident has Babush been about inclusion of CCP in the Greater Panjim PDA and the change in conversions that he has allegedly already struck deals with builders. It is alleged that Babush has struck a deal with the owners of the Casino Pride to build an 8-storey hotel in Bay View, Dona Paula on a narrow six foot-wide road. Under the pretence of re-development it is also planned to concretize the green lungs of the heart of Panjim. This includes primarily the La Campala colony.
It may be recalled that for over two decades the Rosary School, started by Thecla Rosario, was being run in flats and garages at La Campala Colony. Subsequently, when the state government decided to shift city-based schools to Curca, the Rosary School, now owned by Santa Cruz MLA Tony Fernandes, was also shifted to Curca. The proposal is to increase the FAR and built high rise building after demolishing the existing ground-plus-one buildings in La Campala colony.
Similarly there is proposal to increase the FAR in some parts of Dona Paula where there are still only one-plus-one bungalows, under the name of redevelopment.
The only danger is that as in the case of the Cochin high rise in the news, structures may be demolished for violating the CRZ rules. It may be recall that the Cochin Municipal Council recently issued an order ruling that the five building with 350 flats should have been located in the no development zone of less than 2,000 mtrs from high tide line.
In the case of Goa the Coastal Authority Management Plan has been delayed by over three months. Which is why even the allotment of shacks has been postponed.
HC TALKS TOUGH
And a few stray thoughts on the High Court hitting out at the state government on a number of issues.
The most serious is the long standing promise of the Transport Department to install digital meters in tourist taxis. The HC has issued a contempt notice to the transport director Chief Secretary for not implementing the orders of the court. Earlier, the state government had informed the HC that digital meters would be installed from August 1. Subsequently, the state claimed that the installation would be completed in a period of six months and a penalty of `10,000 would be imposed on the Transport Department for any delay. Though it is October now, even the process of calling for tenders for the installation of digital meters has not started.
Private tourist taxi drivers are of course happy as they can continue to loot and plunder tourists since the season has started. In the absence of meters they can continue to charge whatever tariff they wish too.
The High Court has imposed a fine on the Mines Department for not acting on its order to close the laterite mines. It may be recalled that four students of the Don Bosco school in Pernem died in a laterite quarry in Pernem. Mine owners are required to see the quarries are safely sealed after they finish extracting ore from them. Many of the mining pits are under water level, which poses a danger if they are not sealed. The NGT has asked the State to take remedial measures to prevent tragedies.
Since nothing had been done since April 3, 2019, when the order was passed by the NGT the High Court decided to act and has imposed a fine on each of the iron ore quarries which have not been sealed.
In another blow to the state government the HC has also pulled it up on allotment of shacks. The NGT has ruled that shacks can be allotted only after the Coastal Zone Management Plan is finalised. The Coastal Management Plan has been continuously delayed and is not likely to be ready soon. Though the courts have permitted allotment of plots for shacks, the construction will have to wait till the Coastal Management Zone Plan for the State is completed.
LOBO vs Sardesai
And a few stray thoughts on the tussle between Waste Management Minister Michael Lobo and former Town & Country Planning Minister Vijai Sardesai.
Lobo is in favour of closing down the Sonsodo plant. Vijai considered the Sonsodo facility his personal property though it is managed by the Fomento group. The Sonsodo plant has been non-functional as the MMC has been unable to supply waste in a segregated form. Consequently mixed waste is being fed, which caused enormous damage.
The Fomento group has decided to give up the management of the waste management plant. It however wants the MMC to pay the arrears for managing the plan for so many years. Fomento is even demanding a fine of `1 lakh per day, demanding that the waste dump in front of the plant be removed.
Thanks to the intervention of CM Pramod Sawant, Michael and Vijai decided to sort it out over a drink at Vijais place. The former TCP Minister and Michael are old friend and it was Lobo who persuaded Vijai Sardesai to extend support to the BJP so that they could form the government even though they were a minority in the Legislative Assembly.
While the Sonsodo plant may be nearing solution the so-called state of the art waste management plant at Saligao seems to be on the verge of a breakdown. This is provoked by the decision of CM Sawant at the instigation of Babush that the garbage from Taleigao and Panjim should also been accumulated at Saligao.
Already the Saligao plant is grossly overloaded as it caters not only to the villages of Calangute, Baga and Candolim and Saligao itself but the whole of north Goa. Most of the restaurants, not only in the northern beach belt but even in Panjim, allegedly dump their wet waste on Saligao.
The dirty water which leaks from the wet waste is called leachete. Since the garbage is not packed properly, leachete keeps flowing out, making roads slippery and putting both local vehicles and students of neighbouring schools to a disadvantage. Over 50 trucks leaking leachete have been stopped and turned back by the Saligao people. The village of Saligao is planning to file a PIL against the expansion of the Saligao Waste Management plant including an interim stay on diversion of Panjim and Taleigao wet waste to Saligao.
CM SAWANT ON JOBS
And a few stray thoughts on Chief Minister Pramod Sawant getting tough with his colleagues.
There are over 50,000 vacancies for government jobs pending in various departments. Understandably, all the ministers are anxious to fill up the vacancies. Government jobs are much sought after, keep voters happy and bring the agents, if not the minister, a lot of money.
Health Minister Vishwajit Rane, who wants to convert the GMC into a Sattari medical college, is still filling the GMC with people from his constituency. This is true of other constituencies also. In the past, departments used be permitted to fill up jobs concerning their portfolios. This means that recruitment for all department earlier were done by the ministers is concerned. Unfortunately for Pramod Sawant’s colleagues he has issued an order that recruitment for Class III staff will be done only after the appointment of the Goa Staff Selection Commission. The setting up of a separate commission will ensure honesty but will deprive ministers of votes and money.
The unfortunate part is the Staff Selection Commission for Grade III is not even set up. Grade III refers to lower officials like LDCs and Class IV staff are referred to as servants in the GMC. There is also an issue with recruitment to jobs of officers.
The problem here is not interference from politicians. The Chairman of the Goa State Public State Commission is responsible for the recruitment of class A and B staff. Either he is very strict or in the past the politicians were very lenient but the fact remains that very few candidates seem to be passing the GSPSC exams. Recently less than six candidates passed exams for various Class B posts. Earlier not a single candidate passed the qualifying test for the post of accountant in the Directorate of Accounts.
Perhaps Goans have become so used to getting government jobs by bribing officials and politicians that they don’t take the exams seriously. The biggest problem is the online multiple choice exams which they are totally unfamiliar with. Unless Goans realise that times have change and they have to compete to get jobs it is unlikely that any of the vacancies will be filled in the near future. Perhaps online sites where Goans can have practice runs at such tests could be set up.
And a few stray thoughts on technical jobs.
The CM has exempted technical jobs from the purview of the Staff Selection Committee. Technical jobs can be filled by the department after they get clearance from the personal department. There are several technical jobs for which the Staff Selection Commission may not be qualified to recruit candidates. Sawant has however clarified that technical positions can be filled only by qualified people. Sawant seems to be following the example of Narendra Modi who believes in the lateral principle of filling senior government specialised jobs.
Traditionally even jobs which required very specialised qualification like the chairman of the railway board or the managing director of Air India were occupied by IAS officers. Similarly the top jobs in the Income Tax Service were given to officers from the IAS. After Modi came to power he ordained that for jobs requiring special skills people could be taken from the private sector. The criteria for filling vacancies would be efficiency and not seniority.
Even in Goa the Chief Minister made it clear that promotion in the Police Department will not be by seniority but entirely by merit.
And a last stray thought on the new word that has been added to our dictionary.
We are already familiar with jogging and many of us probably jog on the beach to be fit. There is now an additional job assigned to joggers. Joggers now have to take responsibility to keep the areas in which they jog clean. Which does not mean only not littering, but also cleaning cigarette packets or even beer bottles from the beach.
The new word that has been introduced is plogging. Plogging is a combination of jogging with picking up litter (etymology: from Swedish “plocka upp”, literally “pick up”). This demands that while someone is jogging he should also clean up the area on which he has been jogging.
No one is an exception, including the PM. During the summit meeting with the Chinese President Xi Jinping in Tamil Nadu, Narendra Modi did his share of plogging on in Mamallapuram (Mahabalipuram) beach in a stylish black shirt. Never mind that very few people believe the picture and video that went viral, claiming that it is just another photo op for our publicity-loving PM!