BY RAJAN NARAYAN
AND a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when I felt desolate about having been abandoned by Gen Next on the eve of Diwali. For a Saturday following the week when Chief Minister Pramod Sawant directed Fomento to get out of Sonsodo. For a Saturday following the week when UP Chief Minister Swami Yogi Aditiyanath was very upset to hear that the cows in Calangute in Goa had turned non-vegetarian. For a Saturday following the week when we discovered that Goa is totally unsuitable for medical tourism which Tourism Minister Babu Azgaonkar seems to be keen on promoting. For a Saturday following the week when the government decided that any constructions releasing sewage into waterways will be penalized.
And a few stray thoughts on feeling abandoned by Gen Next on the eve of Diwali. I am 70 plus now and in our time whatever our personal differences, we always helped one another in troubled times. I was reminded of this when the son of an industrialist very close to me told me that he had handed over his business to his children, that is when I asked him for a Diwali ad for this month. Maintaining good relations with old friends particularly when they’re in trouble, is nothing to do with Gen Next. I recall the industrialist concerned coming to my residence over two decades ago with a senior minister in the Congress cabinet. The police had discovered that his brother-in-law was running a prostitution business in one of the Panjim hotels. The brother-in-law was getting married and the minister wanted to protect his reputation. I readily agreed on the condition that he should stop the prostitution business and the police officer concerned should not be penalized.
The minister was not even a relative of the industrialist. But the industrialist friend that I knew believed that he should help everyone he could in times of trouble. He was among the most popular industrialist as he had friends in all parties and also engaged in lots of charity.
To cite another incident the then Chief Minister of Goa had come to my house early in the morning. I was aware that he was having an affair with the daughter-in-law of the president of the Goa Pradesh Congress Committee. I was also aware that a hotel owner with whom he had a fight had a video tape of them together. The Chief Minister requested me to return the video clip. I refused to do so but told him that I would not take any action on it as neither the husband nor mother-in-law seem to object to it. More recently when I met him at the Fortune Miramar and appealed for some advertising for the Goan Observer, he claimed he was out of power and bankrupt. Never mind as PWD minister and chief minister he had looted and plundered the State the most.
There are many other instances when politicians and industrialist have come to me for help. I have been willing to help if the public was not adversely affected. Unfortunately, with some industrialists, if they considered you a friend they expected you to be their slave. There is the industrialist who keeps boasting that it was he who brought me to Goa to promote the public issue of his company. But when the Supreme Court ordered the demolition of a large part of his five-star hotel for violating CRZ rules, he expected me to black out the news. Worst still was when he bullied the then Chief Minister to retrospectively change the law to legalize his action, he again expected me to remain silent. I suspect that he started The Goan to confuse readers and kill the Goan Observer.
PEAK OF POWER
At the peak of my power as the editor of OHeraldo and CEO of Goan Observer dozens of industrialists and politicians came humbly to me for some favor or another. There were industrialists who had illegally diverted land for industry for educational purposes. There were politicians who had favored industrialists in allotting land in the Goa state industrial estates. They were industrialist who approached me to get payments for products they had supplied to the government but did not want to pay a kickback. I was among the few journalists who came to the defense of real estate magnate and businessman Datta Damodar Naik when the late Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar arrested him for protesting against the demolition of sex workers’ huts at Baina in port town Vasco.
And subsequently the CM got his Monginis plant at Verna estate raided because he opposed Manohar Parrikar. Now, of course, since I’m older and wiser and the BJP government is hostile, to me few want to help me or the Goan Observer. The excuses are that they have handed over their business to their children and why should Gen Next bother about their father’s relationship with me. But then the wheel will come full circle and even though Gen Next is rude I will continue to help the younger generation to the extent I can. From my 50 years of experience in journalism I would like to advise Gen Next that public relations is the most important element in business. Do not destroy the network of friends built by your father on which your empire stands.
AND a few stray thoughts on Chief Minister Pramod Sawant directing Fomento to move out of Sonsodo. The announcement by the CM is politely worded as a request. Sawant has made it clear that if Fomento does not move out it will be forcibly evicted. The only hitch is that Fomento’s want `12 crore to quit while the government is willing to pay only ` 6 crore. The chief minister revealed that two bio-digestive plants, each spread over 500 meters, would be set up in Margao to treat wet waste. The dry waste would be baled out. The CM has promised a solution to the CCP-Saligao issue within ten days.
The CCP wants the Saligao Waste Management Plant to accommodate the garbage from Panjim and Taleigao. Which Saligao is not willing to do. In revenge CCP has stopped the sewage tanks from the north Goa hotel belt to use the Tonca sewage facility. Both CM and Michael Lobo are keen that the Baiguinim Waste Management Plant should be completed as soon as possible.
And a few stray thoughts on Swami Yogi Aditayanth being very angry with the cows of Calangute. He has apparently been informed by Goa’s Minister for Waste Management Michael Lobo that the cows of the beach belt of Calangute at least have turned non-vegetarian. When they were offered vegetarian food at the cow shelter at Calangute they refused to eat it. Since there is no space for humans or vehicles let alone cows, the cows have been shifted to a plot in Bicholim bought by the Calangute Panchayat. The Calangute MLA has jokingly suggested that it may take some time for the digestive system of the cows to get used to vegetarian food again. It may also sound like a joke but the fact remains that the problem of stray cattle roaming the streets of Goa and feeding on plastic bags full of garbage has become very serious and critical. As if the potholes are not bad enough stray cattle act as sudden additional speed breakers.
If you don’t see a black cow and her progeny in the late evening darkness in the near distance while out on the roads and streets you are likely to go for a toss and injure your head or suffer a fracture even before entering the GMC. This is because in the dark it is difficult to differentiate between potholes and dark black cows squatting on roads in the middle or comfy warm corners where traffic passes to and fro. Earlier when farmers found that cows had grown old and could not be used for ploughing they used to give them to butchers. But now that the slaughter house has been closed the farmers just let them loose to wander the urban streets. It may be very desirable to worship the holy cow but the consequences must be taken into consideration. In a country where there is not enough food for people to eat it is unrealistic to set up cow shelters or cow orphanages.
And a few stray thoughts on the suggestion from Tourism Minister Babu Azgaokar that Goa should promote medical tourism. This is absurd as Goa does not have the infrastructure for medical tourism. In any case with the spread of dengue and the breakdown of the garbage distribution system tourists are more likely to fall sick in Goa than get well. Medical infrastructure does not mean only fancy buildings and expensive equipment like MIR and CT Scans. You can even have state-of-the-art cardiac facilities but more important is post-operative care. Many patients succumb to post-hospital infections picked up in second rate ICUs and third rate wards post-surgery. The resident doctors and nurses are the backbone of any hospital. The hospital may have the best consultants in the world but it cannot deliver results without competent minimum MBBS-trained doctors. The majority of RMOs with the exception of the Goa Medical College are Ayurveda graduates or Homeopaths.
It makes far more sense to set up Naturopathy, Ayurveda and Homeopathy hospitals independently in Goa for those who are practicing the alternate medical systems. The only medical facilities which attract foreign tourists to Goa are those of dentistry and ophthalmology. These are very expensive medical specialties in developed countries. Though dentistry is covered by the National Health Care System in the UK, there are long queues and waitlists. It is cheaper for a British charter tourist to combine a holiday along with taking care of their dental problems while in Goa. In fact, Internet savvy dentists are promoting dental holidays on Goa on their websites. The problem with any kind of tourism in Goa is that the stress is on quantity and not quality.
And a few stray thoughts on the government getting tough on sewage ups and downs. Historically, there have been very few sewage service pipelines in Goa even in the urban towns and cities. The traditional practice has been to create soak pits into which all the human excreta goes and collects and periodically it may be manually sucked out and removed. In some parts of Goa like in capital city Panaji there are sewage trucks which pump out the sewage from hotels and residential complexes to convert it into manure at the Tonca Sewerage Plant. Indeed, the bulk of the sewage from hotels in north Goa come to Tonca. There was a crisis only recently when the CCP refused to permit sewage trucks from coming to Tonca as revenge for the turning back wet garbage loaded trucks of Panaji and Taleigao from reaching the garbage plant in Saligao.
In Panjim and Taleigao more and more constructions are coming up with garbage and sewage being dumped into the long-suffering St Inez Creek which has become a filthy, unmaintained, dilapidated gutter. Some builders have alleged encroached on the creek area by filling up stretches and building walls for their gated colonies. It is not widely known that some of the best known buildings in Goa are built virtually on the banks of the St Inez Creek including Caculo Mall and Caculo car showrooms. It is the same story in other parts of Goa where sewage from hotels in the South are dumped into the Sal river.
The Pollution Control Board and the National Green Tribunal have ruled that any gated colonies or constructions with over 50 flats should have their own solid waste management system. The government has directed all Municipalities including Taleigao not to give construction permission and occupancy certificates if STPs are not installed. The State government has identified over a hundred establishments dumping sewage into waterways. They were issued demolition notices for not making adequate arrangements for sewage treatment and water drainage systems.
And a last stray thought on the rains which refuse to withdraw. In the normal course the rains arrive in Goa around the first week of July and depart by end August. Admittedly this time the monsoons arrive late but it does not show any sign of retreating. The heaviest showers wiped out two of Goa’s most popular festivals, namely Ganesh and Dassera. There is anxiety that Diwali will also be a rain swept away. The curious part is that at least for the last one week the heaviest showers have been coming between 4 pm and late night, ruining most evening functions. The only event which understandably survived the rains was the Ironman Triathlon in Panaji over the last weekend. It started in the early morning and ended before the evening storm of rain would descend.
This is the first time the intensity of rains has been so severe that not only have potholes formed and re-formed but whole roads have been wiped out. There have been at least half-a- dozen deaths due to lightening. Walls have crashed on cars damaging both cars and human beings caught up the tragedy. This has exposed the lack of a disaster management system in Goa. Our fire brigade and police are ill equipped to handle heavy rains even though we have a special marine squad. The primary reason is that the drains are choked with garbage and water simply overflows everywhere.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT!
And a last stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. Thanking all our Readers, Subscribers, Advertisers and Distributors. Together we have managed to keep alive this small independent media organization alive and thriving for 16 years. The first issue of the Goan Observer was published on November 15, 2003 soon after I quit the OHeraldo following a change in the ownership. I decided along with my wife Tara Narayan that we shall maintain the tradition of independent journalism instead of serving the interest of owners. Over the last 16 years I have learnt that it does not require deep pockets to run a media organization. We have been running Goan Observer at a cost of between ` 30 and ` 50 lakhs per year. The problem is not money as such even though it does create problem’s if the government boycotts you. Not only has the BJP government boycotted the Goan Observer even our dues have not been paid because of the vindictive stand adopted by late Manohar Parrikar. An equally serious problem is generation next. The real problem is cash flow. Even if you get an advertisement from the government or a private party they take more than a month to settle the bill. This affects cash flow as you cannot ask printers and employees to wait. What is important is a steady cash flow and not income alone. Ideally, if someone was willing to give me a fixed deposit of ` 5 crores, I would be able to survive without worries on the interest. On the contrary big is not necessarily safe in the media business. It attracts too much attention and makes you vulnerable.
We have a large number of friends among industrialists and businessmen who used to generously support us with advertising. But Gen-Next, thriving on the pillars that their parents built, is extremely kanjus. Gen-Next does not realize that it is the contacts that their parents built that enabled then to expand and sustain the businesses for which the foundation had already been laid. It is difficult enough to start from scratch. It is much easier to build on the legacy of goodwill that your parents have built. My generation, which believed in helping each other, is also not quite so generous. They forget the favours now they had sought and received. They claim that they have handed over their business to Gen-Next. This does not absolve them of the obligations to their old friends who stood by them when they were struggling to build their business. We hope at least this year my business friends will be more generous and not use the excuse of having handed over business to Gen-Next. Because, Gen-Next will also say the same thing to their parents and friends.
— Rajan Narayan, Editor