DIVERSION: Water Resources Minister Prakash Javadekar has issued a letter legalising the dam being built by the Karnataka government at Kankumbi to divert Mhadei waters
BY RAJAN NARAYAN
AND a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when Prakash Javadekar refused to withdraw the letter on the Mhadei diversion. For a Saturday following the week when the ‘Nu Shi Nalini’ time bomb continued to tick outside the Raj Bhavan. For a Saturday following the week when the government reviewed its decision to shut down the Raj Bhavan to the public in the interest of the security of the new governor for six months. For a Saturday following the week when thousands of residents of Delhi took refuge in Goa to escape the unbearable level of pollution. For a Saturday following the week when the number of jobs kept falling particularly at the middle level.
And a few stray thoughts on Union Minister for Water Resources Prakash Javadekar refusing to withdraw the letter issued permitting diversion of the Mhadei river. Indeed Prakash Javadekar claimed that he was unaware of any such letter and said it must have been sent by some junior officer.
In his meeting with members of the all-party delegation from Goa which called on him he also made it clear that the letter would not be withdrawn immediately. Javadekar has asked for 10 days time to study the matter before taking a decision.
In what smacks of collusion between the BJP in Karnataka and Goa, Pramod Sawant has called for a joint inspection of the dam being built in Dharbandora to divert Mandovi water to the Malaprabha basin. It is not widely known that Maharashtra also stakes claim to part of the Mhadei water.
In the meanwhile environmentalists like the Mhadai Bachao Abhiyan have decided to pursue the matter in the Supreme Court which had issued a stay order on further construction of the Kalasa-Bhandura dam coming up at Kankumbi near Belgavi.
We remember visiting the site on the way to Belgavi for a function and the dam was in an advanced state of construction. Karnataka’s excuse for diverting Mhadei water is that Hubli and Dharward suffer from a very severe shortage of water. The late Manohar Parrikar, Goa’s former CM, after complex calculations had pointed out that the amount of water needed to meet the drinking water needs was much less than the amount Karnataka was demanding. But even this admission by Parrikar that Karnataka’s claim that there was a drinking water shortage was partially valid may go against the interests of Goa.
It is significant that Prakash Javadekar has asked for 10 days time which may be extended up to December. The real motive behind issuing the letter permitting Karnataka to divert water may be the forthcoming by-election in Karnataka in December. Karnataka has a coalition government comprising of the JDU and the BJP. By-elections are scheduled for as many as 15 seats. If either Janata Dal group or the Congress gets the majority of the 15 seats they can topple the BJP government.
There is no doubt that the diversion of the Mhadei river will be a total disaster for Goa. We do not know whether Prakash Javadekar’s claim that no environmental assessment is needed for dams is true. But Javadekar himself admits that several other permission relating to the environmental impact have to be obtained. Among this is that no wildlife sanctuary should be impacted by the diversion of the river. In the case of the Mhadei diversion, the Mollem and Netravali wildlife sanctuaries will be very badly hit.
It is also expected that drinking water supply to Panjim will be affected as the diversion of the Mhadei river will affect the Valvanti River which supplies water to Opa from where drinking water is purified and supplied to Tiswadi and Ponda.
Pramod Sawant is caught in the middle as he cannot defy the BJP high command even while he has to support the people of Goa against the diversion of the Mhadei.
TIME BOMB TICKING
And a few stray thoughts on the time bomb ‘Nu Shi Nalini’ that continues to be on the rocks off Marivel beach, only 800 metres from the Raj Bhavan.
On Tuesday when we checked all the daily papers we were surprised to see that there was not a single reference to the naphtha-loaded ship. After a great deal of effort we found a small single column report which gave the impression that naphtha had been pumped out, which we later realised was untrue.
It is typical that the media, including the Goan Observer, only highlights a news item after there is a disaster. With the disaster that ‘Nalini’ represents continuing to pose a threat even to the governor of Goa, let alone the fisher folk of Marivel beach, certainly one expects prominent coverage. I wonder whether the media was under pressure not to intensify the panic by reporting that the specialised teams had been unable to pump out the naphtha from the Nalini.
The original plan was to drop a hydraulic pump on the deck of Nalini from an air force helicopter. Unfortunately the wind velocity was so high that the Sea King Navel helicopter decided to drop the pump into the sea rather than risk it falling on the ship.
It was then claimed that a special electronic pump had been secured which would be placed on a barge which would be brought alongside the Nalini and the naphtha would be pumped out. Apparently the experiment did not succeed and was abandoned out of the fear that the barge may knock into the Nalini.
Nalini carries naphtha which is high inflammable. Breathing naphtha can irritate the nose and throat. Exposure to Naphtha can cause headache, dizziness, nausea and vomiting. The slightest damage to the ship or even the smallest leakage would be a disaster.
Finally common sense seems to have dawned on the CM. Unfortunately it will cost the Goa government `4 crore to attempt to pump out the naphtha and remove the ship. This despite the combined expertise of the MPT, the Navy, the coast guard and salvage experts.
In fact the whole farce seems like an action replay of what happened to the River Princess, the ship which was abandoned by Anil Salgaocar on the Candolim beach, next to the Taj group of hotels. In the case of the River Princess also several efforts were made by different parties to re-float the ship. Finally it was decided to cut up the ship and carry the remains over land. We do not know if the Candolim beach is still full of metal pieces from the Aguada beach.
By coincidence it was a Singapore firm which was awarded the tender to remove River Princess. This time also the Chief Minister Pramod Sawant has reportedly sought help from salvage experts from Singapore. There is no question of Nalini moving out of Marivel in the near future. This is because even the agency which will execute the task has not been finalised. All of which proves that Goa and the country just does not have the expertise to deal with disasters.
What we are most alarmed about is the fact that a ship originating from Pakistan could berth in a dangerous condition near Kerala for a year and then in Marmugoa for six months before drifting to Marivel beach. At any time hostile forces could find a way to cause a leak or an explosion. This shows how fragile our security is. The Nalini is a large ship. The Coast Guard, Navy and marine police of Maharashtra could not even stop the hijacking of a fishing trawler by half a dozen Pakistani terrorists who held Mumbai to ransom for three days. It may be recalled that the terrorists, including Kasab who was later caught, targeted the Taj and Oberoi hotels and killed several senior police officers. The least that the security forces can do is regularly check all ships berthed in the MPT harbour to prevent a terrorist attack on Goa.
RAJ BHAVAN IN DANGER?
And few stray thoughts on the proposed 6-month ban on entry into the Raj Bhavan that was sought to be imposed to ensure the security of the new governor Satya Pal Malik.
Malik who was sworn in as governor on Sunday has been transferred from Kashmir where he was posted as governor during the abrogation of Article 370 from the Constitution. Article 370 provided special status to Kashmir and barred outsiders from either settling in Jammu & Kashmir state or carrying out any business activity there.
In top secrecy, without the consent of the people of Kashmir and even the Legislative Assembly, the president declared an ordinance abolishing Article 370. The State of Jammu & Kashmir was reduced to the status of three union territories — Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh. Anticipating widespread protests Governor Malik imposed a lock down. All communication was barred including the internet, mobile networks and landlines. For the last three months there is a state of emergency in Kashmir.
Ironically, the courts are open but lawyers are not attending them as they cannot meet their clients. Thousands of young men have been illegally confined without any provision for bail. There are thousands of bail applications lying before the courts in Kashmir.
All prominent political leaders of Kashmir including former Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah, his son Omar Abdullah. and Begum Mufti Mohammad Sayed are under house arrest. None of the political leaders outside the state have been allowed to travel to Kashmir, let alone to meet local leaders. Even Rahul Gandhi who made an attempt to assess the situation was sent back from J&K.
Malik of course behaved like the most faithful servant of Home Minister Amit Shah and carried out all his orders. Even the growers and sellers of the delicious Kashmir apples were not spared. There have been a number of attacks on the migrant drivers of apple trucks by militants. The number of people who have been killed is not available. As during the Liberation of Goa the only sources of news are foreign channels like the BBC.
It is the same Malik who so ruthlessly suppressed the people of Jammu & Kashmir who has been appointed as governor of the most peaceful state in the country. We hope he is not here to fulfil the BJP and RSS agenda. He is a security threat not only to himself but to Goa.
Unlike good old Mridula who freely mixed with the people, the new governor has been put under heavy security with an anti-terrorism squad and a rapid action force. He reminds me of an earlier governor, Bhanuprakash Singh, who had armed police aiming guns towards the sea in the fear that there may be an attack from the sea.
Malik should be more concerned about Nalini which could blow him up at any time!
And a few stray thoughts on more and more Delhiwalas taking refuge in Goa. These are not gamblers who come to Goa every weekend to try their luck in the floating casinos. These are citizens of Delhi who can afford to get away from the horrendous pollution in the National Capital Region.
The pollution levels are so high that schools have been closed and everyone has to wear protective masks. Transport has been disrupted because visibility is extremely poor. Literally hundreds of flights, including those connecting Goa, have been cancelled. The levels of pollution are among the highest not just in the country but the world.
More than a decade ago the main cause of pollution in Delhi used to be the buses and trucks running on diesel which used to emit huge dark clouds. The late Sheela Dixit, who was the CM before Kejriwal, solve the problem by forcing all public transport and even private transport to shift to compressed natural gas (CNG).
The present crisis has emerged from the mass burning of stubble by farmers in the states of Punjab, Haryana and Rajasthan. After the harvesting is over, before planting seeds for the Rabi crop, it is necessary to clear all the fields by removing all the stubble. It has been estimated that on a single day there were more than a thousand fires in the three states.
All normal activity has stopped, with everyone having to carry an inhaler. There were only two exceptions. The Indian Cricket team played a test match against Bangladesh on the Firoza Kotla ground in Delhi. Ironically, it was Bangladesh and not India which won the match, though the Indian team should have been able to put up with the pollution better. The other exception was the chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, who was on a visit to New Delhi. The intrepid Merkel did not use a mask but made it a point to stress that what was happening in Delhi could happen world-over if green cover is not maintained.
And a last stray thought on the sharp fall in jobs at the middle level.
Admittedly there is an overall decline in jobs but ironically the biggest job losses have been in the IT industry. Moreover, those who have lost their jobs are middle level managers and senior managers. Proportionately, entry level jobs have not been as badly hit. This is true not only of Infosys but all the IT giants.
The fact is that technology is growing much faster than the training available for the new demands of industry. Nobody wants the traditional blue collared worker who mechanically performed his work on the assembly line. Bots are doing repetitive tasks much faster and more efficiently.
Till a decade ago there were still thousands or lakhs of secretaries. Their primary job was to input matter with a typewriter. Now there are no typewriters and secretaries and most of the time the boss himself inputs his matter. There is no need for filing clerks or files. All the data is stored in the cloud. There is no fear even if the hard disk on your computer crashes as the contents which are stored in the clouds can be downloaded again. Even for a menial job like cleaning sewage pipes and gutters there is now a solution. Someone in Bangalore has come up with a robot which does all the dirty work for you.
The loss of jobs is a warning sign. Your old skills have become out of date. The expiry period for any skills is brief. You have to keep learning new skills if you want to build up a well-paid, comfortable career.
The only people who seem to have no problem finding a job — even without any qualification — are the daily-wage earning migrant workers, as dramatized in Goa and Kerala where even without any qualification, a migrant worker can get a minimum of `10,000 a month.