DANGER: Nalini was carrying 2,400 tones of naphtha when she ran aground. Naptha, petroleum hydrocarbons or tar balls can have adverse impact on marine life. Eventually the impact will be felt futher up the food chain too and can result in cancer and various organ failures in human beings
BY RAJAN NARAYAN
AND a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when the naphtha-laden Nalini crashed on a rock near the La Marvel colony just outside the Raj Bhavan. For a Saturday following the week when simultaneously it was the end of the road for another lady, Mridula Sinha, the governor of Goa. For a Saturday following the week when the former governor of Jammu & Kashmir was relieved and transferred to Goa. For a Saturday following the week when Chief Minister Pramod Sawant very strongly objected to the diversion of water of the Mhadei river. For a Saturday following the week when the Chief Minister postponed the hearing on the proposed nauxi marina in the face of strong objections from locals and fisher folk. For a Saturday following the week when an IAS officer was appointed to head the committee which will be responsible for the recruitment of staff for all departments of the government.
And a few stray thoughts on the ticking time bomb which is perched on a rock off the La Marvel colony in Dona Paula which is next to the Raj Bhavan. A naphtha-laden chemical tanker Nu Shi Nalini had been berthed in the MPT following a dispute among the owners. The ship carried 3,000 tonnes of the very dangerous chemical naphtha which is highly inflammable and can cause major explosions.
Goa got a preview of what even a small leak from a Naphtha tanker can do when one of the tankers carrying Naphtha to Zuari Agro Chemicals had an accident and started leaking.
Even more dangerous to Goa than the ship grounded at Dona Paula are the huge naphtha tankers in Sancoale where Naphtha meant for the production of fertilizers by Zuari Agro are stored. The naphtha tankers at Sancoale, which stock petroleum and diesel besides naphtha, are just outside the gates of BITS Pilani. Indeed no storage of inflammable chemicals beyond the minimum necessary like petrol, including aviation fuel, should be stored in Goa. This is because Goa also happens to have the largest naval airbase where new Air Force pilots are trained between 9 am and 12 pm every day.
Some years ago I personally witnessed a head on collision between two MiG aircraft which narrowly missed crashing over the naphtha tanks within the Zuari factory. In fact, one of the parts of the MiG fighter landed within the Zuari compound. Naphtha is not the only dangerous chemical that is imported into Goa. There are others like ammonia used by Deccan Chemicals which are equally dangerous.
The 3,000 tonnes of naphtha aboard Madam Deadly Nalini just 800 metres of the Marivel beach can cause great damage not only to fishermen and residents of the area but even the Raj Bhavan. Fortunately the government is acted very promptly and has made arrangement for transferring the naphtha and other inflammable chemicals and oils to other vessels. CM Pramod Sawant has managed to secure the co-operation of the Air Force and the Coast Guard to mobilize the equipment needed to pump out the naphtha to tanks loaded on barges before any damage is done. All the equipment is already in place and weather permitting the pumping operation would have been completed by the time this issue hits the stands. The CM has also apparently ordered the arrest of the owner of the vessel and even filed cases against MPT officials for permitting the Nalini to berth in the MPT waters.
The damaged ship, which fortunately has no crew, was bought to the MPT from Cochin more than six months ago. It is fortunate that no disaster took place when it was berthed in the MPT premises. Obviously the ship broke away from its anchor and drifted towards the Raj Bhavan during the Kyarr storm which besieged Goa.
There is an urgent need for setting up a disaster management committee to deal with hazardous chemicals brought into or stored in Goa.
BYE BYE MRIDULA
And a few stray thoughts on former Governor Mridula Sinha’s departure from the Raj Bhavan as Nalini arrived.
Almost simultaneously with the news of Nalini grounding on a rock of the shore near Marivel beach next to the Raj Bhavan, came the news that Mridula is going to move on from her position as governor of Goa. Nor has Mridula been offered the governorship of any other state in the country. Mridula, who is normally quite vocal, has been silent on her loss of gubernatorial status.
There was no immediate provocation for the sudden removal of Mridula as governor of the state of Goa and the lack of a new position. Mridula has been careful not to rock the boat over the past five years though she has promoted Hindutva ideology at every opportunity. Mridula made no secret of the fact that she was a traditional pious Hindu who believed in rituals like Karwa Chauth.
Totally loyal to the Modi government at the Centre, she did not raise any objection to the late Manohar Parrikar hijacking the government even when the BJP got only 13 of the 40 seats in the 2017 election. The governor also did not object or intervene when 2/3rds of the MGP merged with the BJP. She remained silent when subsequently 10 Congress MLAs also merged with the BJP. There is no reason why she should have been cast aside as she was the ideal Hindutva governor and had the support of both the BJP and the RSS.
At the time or writing there is been no communication on Mridula’s political future.
GOA GOING THE J&K WAY?
And a few stray thoughts on the Centre appointing Satya Pal Malik as the new Governor of Goa.
Satya Pal is very controversial. It was during his tenure as governor of J&K that Home Minister Amit Shah scrapped Article 370 from the Constitution. Under Article 370 J&K enjoyed special status with outsiders barred from buying any property or setting up any industry in the state. In fact under Article 370 at one time J&K even had its own PM. The special status is part of the historical legacy of the partition of India.
The principle behind partition was that Muslim majority states, subject to contiguity, would go to Pakistan. The rest would be part of India. The country’s first Home Minister Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel persuaded hundreds of Rajas to voluntarily join the Indian Federation.
There were some problems in the case of princely states like Junagadh and Hyderabad. In the case of Junagadh although the ruler was Muslim it could not form part of Pakistan as it was surrounded by majority Hindu states and was 80% Hindu itself. Eventually the Nawab and his family escaped to Pakistan and Junagadh became a part of India.
The Nizam of Hyderabad was also unwilling to co-operate. The story goes that he even sent an ambassador to Goa expressing willingness to align with the Portuguese. The Central government finally had to use the army to dislodge the Nizam and take over Hyderabad. The recent separation of former Andhra Pradesh into Telangana and Andhra is also linked to partition. Telangana comprises those parts of Andhra Pradesh which were ruled by the Nizam.
Satya Pal Malik who has been transferred to Goa as governor is also responsible for reducing the status of J&K from a State to a Union Territory. Under the new system Jammu & Kashmir has been split into three Union Territories comprising Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh.
It was Malik who has been presiding over the lock down imposed by the Modi government for the last three months in the state. It may be recalled that all senior political leaders including veterans like Sheikh Abdullah and his son Farooq Abdullah were arrested. An emergency was declared and communication to other parts of the country was completely cut off. The first casualty was internet coverage, mobile networks and even landlines.
There have been many incidents of violence during Malik’s tenure as Governor. No news has appeared as there has been severe censorship.
Understandably there is concern in Goa as to why Satya Pal Malik has been made governor of Goa. It could be to offer him protection as he may be facing threats for his acts in the last three months in Kashmir. But by that token he becomes a security risk to Goa.
Maybe Satya Pal Malik has been posted as governor to grant him immunity against cases that may be filed against him for his role in the Kashmir lockdown. But the biggest fear is that under the pressure of the powerful Maharashtra lobby, the Centre might be considering reducing Goa also from the status of the State to Union Territory. The silence on the part of both Mridula and Satya Pal Malik is very worrying.
CM TAKES ON CENTRE
And a few stray thoughts on Chief Minister Pramod Sawant taking on the Central government over the diversion of the Mhadei waters.
It started with a tweet by Union Minister for Environment Prakash Javadekar stating that Karnataka had been given permission to build a dam at Kalasa-Banduri which would divert the waters of the Mhadei river to the Malaprabha basin. Mhadei is the life line of Goa and is the main source of supply of drinking water to Opa.
If the Mhadei waters are diverted by the building of the dam at Kankumbi close to Belgaum, the Dudhsagar falls will vanish. Agriculture in Goa will also be severely affected. The main victim will be the Mandovi river. The flow of water will be so badly affected that casinos will no longer be able to anchor in the Mandovi river as the depth will not be enough.
The state of Goa has been fighting against the diversion of the Mhadei River by Karnataka for more than a decade. Thanks to Atmaram Natkarni the dynamic former advocate general, Goa managed to get the Supreme Court to ban Karnataka from diverting the Mhadei water. The decision or announcement by Prakash Javadekar amounts to contempt of court.
Clearly there has been pressure from the BJP government in Karnataka on the Centre. Karnataka is very important to the BJP as it is the only southern state which is under its control. The BJP has just recovered Karnataka in the recent elections after losing it to the Congress in the previous election. Karnataka CM Yeddyurappa is considered very close to Narendra Modi and the RSS. At 80 plus he is among the senior-most leaders of the BJP. The BJP would not like to lose Karnataka under any circumstances. There is a fear that in the next election the BJP may be defeated on the water supply issue as there is severe water shortage in Hubli and Dharward. Karnataka’s demand to divert the Mhadei River is primarily to supply drinking water to Hubli and Dharward. Goa on its part has been arguing that the Mhadei is the main source of water to Goa and that any diversion would have severe environmental consequences particularly on the Molem sanctuary.
The CM needs to be commended for challenging Javadekar. Sawant had made it clear that he will not permit the diversion of the Mhadei waters by Karnataka. Goa will approach the Supreme Court and the Central Water Tribunal to prevent Karnataka from taking any action which could harm the interests of Goa. Sawant even runs the risk of being sacked for his defiance.
There is speculation that Satya Pal Malik who has a tough reputation may have been brought in as governor to put pressure on Pramod Sawant to permit the diversion of the Mhadei rivers. During the tenure of the late Manohar Parrikar, Goa had almost agreed to permit Karnataka to divert some quantity for drinking purposes but this was not accepted by the Supreme Court.
And a few stray thoughts on the postponement of public hearing on the proposal to set up a marina at Nauxi.
The marina at Nauxi is planned near the Bambolim plateau and will affect the entire coastal area from the Zuari river to Dona Paula. The marina has the support of the MPT, which has been staking claim to all river resources of the state. This may be part of the larger conspiracy to permit the nationalisation of rivers and promote the transport of coal through Goa’s rivers. The people of the State, including several MLAs, have strongly opposed the marina.
A marina is basically a special harbour where hundreds of smaller ships and luxury yachts can be berthed. The proposal also envisages creating infrastructure for repairs and maintained of the yachts. The public hearing on the project was to be held on Sunday. But Pramod Sawant postponed it indefinitely insisting that the Nalini was a focus of all his attention and there was no hurry to discuss the marina. Sawant has hinted that he is also opposed to the Nauxi marina.
And last stray thought on the decision to appoint an IAS officer to supervise the recruitment of class two staff.
Earlier the practice was for every department to recruit its staff directly. This gave scope for a lot of corruption and additional costs for holding separate exams for each departments. Politicians who did not want to lose their clout over recruitment suggested an inter-department committee. This was turned down by the CM who has created a separate commission which will have a joint exam to recruit staff required by all departments. Thus the last hope that they could manipulate the recruitment is lost, as the ministers were hoping that the politician would head the committee. With the appointment of an IAS officer the hope is that the selection will be purely on merit. The only fear is that exams may be so strict that nobody may pass as has happened in the case of class one officers.