BY RAJAN NARAN
CONTAINMENT: Collector of North Goa imposed a lockdown on entire Dempobhat, Tonca; including high-rise Yashodhan building in the vicinity. The suspect is the daughter of a Munkarian resident who had contacted Covid-19 and contact tracing suggests that she picked up the infection from her in-laws place at Ponda, but while in Panaji on a job she came to visit her mother at Dempobhat.
AND a few stray thoughts and a few observations for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when we discovered first hand that Covid-19 affects livelihood more than life. For a Saturday following the week when we could not decide whether Chief Minister Pramod Sawant is more afraid of the Supreme Court than the novel coronavirus. And a few more stray thoughts on the sacking of Vandana Rao, secretary and director of Education. For a Saturday following the week when Goan Observer will publish names and contact numbers of key personnel involved in managing Covid-19.
And a few stray thoughts on my personal experience of Covid-19. This does not mean without the means to buy essential groceries and other requirements how will daily wage labor survive. Every time there is a death in Goa, as Governor Satya Pal Malik himself observed, it is attributed to co-morbidity. Which simply means the victim lived poorly and his or her immunity levels were low.
Whenever there is a containment zone and CCP garbage workers are asked to stay at home without salary, naturally morbidity will increase. For more than two weeks now the garbage collectors and drivers of the CCP staying at Camarabhat and Chimbel have been asked to stay at home without wages. Just because there was one positive case in the Camarabhat area. We are going to personally experience the sheer incompetence of the Pramod Sawant government and his minions like Collector R Menaka.
We learnt on Wednesday morning from one of our employees that the area we stay in at Dempobhat, Tonca in Panaji, has become a containment area. To hammer the point home there were two constables at the beginning of the lane leading to Dempobhat where our residence and offices are located. The double-storied villa is independent and not connected to any other buildings in the area, leave alone munkarial residents 10 meters away where one of the daughters had reported positive for Covid-19 on late Tuesday evening.
The next morning our staff coming down the lane to work were stopped by cops on duty and told to return home. Our admin manager who apparently knew about the case was not permitted by her parents to leave her house at La Campala Colony nearby to come to work. North Goa Collector R Menaka is responsible for declaring containment areas just because of a single instance of Covid-19 in the area. The whole area including Yashodhan, a high-rise complex of residential blocks in the vicinity was sealed. We rang up the collector to find about Covid-19 protocal but perhaps Menaka was merrymaking with the apsara of some heaven, and didn’t come on the phone. I sent several messages asking her what the protocol or SOP was and there was no answer. I called up a very old friend who is a senior police officer in charge of the foreigners’ branch, Bosco George, and he promised to speak to the collector.
I pointed out to Bosco George that in the order passed by the Central government which is binding on all district collectors, media is an essential service. The collector does not have the right to stop media employees from moving in and out of the containment area. The Governor himself has acknowledged that it was from the media that he learned about the incompetence of the administration in dealing Covid-19.
When Chief Minister Pramod Sawant claimed that the governor had blasted the media for misleading people, the governor refuted him in an interview to Prudent Media. Indeed, even Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu recently declared that it was the media which was the main source of authentic reliable information. Facebook can be fake news and not to be relied on.
It was only after I spoke to Chief Secretary Piramal Rai, that the collector’s secretary condescended to talk to me. I told her that the area in which a media house or for that matter any office was located could not be declared a containment area without informing the affected parties.
This was an action replay of the shutting down of the Corporation Bank at Tonca because one of the security guards registered positive. We could not pay our TDS and GST by the due date of the 6th of July because the Corporation bank which we normally use for these deposits to the government was closed. We hope that any fines that are imposed on us for late payment will be reimbursed by the Office of the Collector (North).
In a situation like this communication is crucial and as of noon on Wednesday the mamladar had just arrived and no decision taken on the area needed to be contained or length of containment. It could be five days, 14 days or even 21 days.
Indeed, even the family concerned was not tested promptly, and neighbors including us. It has not even been decided whether only the immediate family should be tested or the entire region which includes hundreds of slum dwellers living as tenants at the munkar homes and working for residents of the high-rise Yashodhan building occupied by the bold and beautiful and rich and powerful.
NO STANDARD POLICY
THE government does not have any standard policy. When a guard outside the CM’s residence who was formally the late chief minister Manohar Parrikar security guard tested positive, the official CM’s residence was sanitized and back to normal in a jiffy. Similarly, when some of the constables attached to Panjim Police Station tested positive, the police station was promptly sanitized and it was back to duty within 24 hours.
But elsewhere concerning citizens and residents matters may depend on the whims and fancies of the collector, as to whether the containment period may extend to five or 14 or 21 days. If the patient recovers the period may be cut short to seven days. Is there any standard criteria on how to determine containment area?
The mamladar and collector may not have even confirmed the origin of the Covid-19 infection. We understand that the girl who had married a year ago had returned from her sasural in Cumbarjua which has a huge number of Covid-19 cases. She came back to her mother’s home early in the week and complained of a cold bothering her, it was only on Tuesday evening that she was tested positive for Covid-19, after her swab test was done.
The universal thermal gun which is used to check core body temperature is just a toy as high temperature alone is no proof of Covid-19. As of date I not sure we will be able to bring out the week’s edition of the Goan Observer which normally goes for printing late Friday evening. I’m convinced citizens of Goa must lead a rally to the Governor’s Raj Bhavan residence to protest against the incompetence of the State administration.
AND a few stray thoughts on Chief Minister Pramod Sawant being more concerned about the Supreme Court than the Coronavirus pandemic in Goa. Of the three- member MGP group in the Assembly, two of them, Babush Azgaonkar and Vinod Palyekar, had merged with the BJP. Leaving Sudhin Dhavalikar as the only MGP MLA in the current Assembly. With increasing signs that Vijay Sardessai’s Goa Forward Party may break away along with Independents like Rohan Khaunte, the stinking lotus lured ten MLAs of the Congress. The ten MLAs of the Congress who defected to the BJP included Clafasio Dias who recently registered positive for Covid-19 amidst rumors that the ten Congress MLAs may return to parent party. The CM rushed to the Cuncolim residence of Dias for a meeting with the group of ten. Now the suspicion is that the Cuncolim MLA may have gifted Covid-19 to the remaining nine MLAs and the CM himself. Since before that meeting there was no report of any positive cases in the CM’s official residence, it is suspected that it was the CM who infected Manohar Parrikar’s old security guard.
The CM’s attention is now diverted to the possible verdict of the Speaker who has been directed by SC to take a decision in the next few days. The Supreme Court has ruled that the autonomy of the Speaker does not mean that he can indefinitely delay a decision on the demand for disqualification of MLAs who defected from the Congress. Under Parliamentary procedures, the MLAs who want to shift parties have to inform the party president before informing the speaker. The MLAs were voted on the party ticket and their first obligation is to the party on whose ticket they were elected.
In the 2017 election the Congress to its own surprise won 17 seats as against only 13 by the BJP. The government was literally hijacked by Nitin Gadkari who in a midnight trip to Goa managed to persuade the three- member MGP group to extend support to the BJP. The Goa Forward which had an informal poll alliance with the Congress and was supposed to form the government with Digambar Kamat as chief minister had a change of heart and joined the BJP.
This was because the Congress Low Command and High Command did not agree to the demand of Vijay Sardesai that Digambar Kamat should be made chief minister. Luizinho Faleiro, then President of the GPCC was very close to Rahul Gandhi and he staked claim to chief minister’s post for himself. He mischievously pointed out to Rahul that the Congress would be ashamed if the BJP arrested Digambar Kamat for abetting illegal mining after he was elected chief minister! It will be recalled that Digambar Kamat was accused of retrospectively converting mining concessions into leases long after the expiry period was over.
But an impatient Vijai Sardessai was hijacked by Nitin Gadkari even as a team was negotiating with a Congress High Command observer on who should be chief minister of Goa. Even if the Speaker upholds his own disqualification the BJP will be in trouble as it can be challenged in court.
There have been instances in the past where the Supreme Court has overturned the decision of the High Court to disqualify then chief minister, Ravi Naik, in the 90s. If the SC could well disqualify the ten Congress MLAs and the two MGP MLAs who merged with the BJP, reducing it to a minority in the Assembly. There is every possibility that the Congress which had earned the right to form the government after the 2017 election will be able to do so with the help of Vijai Sardessai and the Independents. The probability however is that Goa will witness another spell of President’s rule which will be a second tenure as governor for Satya Pal Malik who was earlier governor of Kashmir. He has a tough reputation and put all the senior Kashmir leaders including two generations of the Abdullah family Farooq and Omar into jail under the National Security Act. In which bail cannot be granted for six months.
AND a few more stray thoughts on the sacking of Director of Education Vandana Rao. Vandana Rao issued the absurd directive that aided schools should pay salaries to staff for the month of June and July out of their own funds. This makes nonsense of the very expression aided schools. If their schools are to paid salaries themselves they will cease to be aided schools.
Vandana is also accused of making a mess of the online teaching and studying due to Covid-19. The government had decided to switch to online teaching and studying as is being done in other countries affected by the contagion. But in Goan schools given the capacity of the classroom, it would be impossible for all the students to maintain physical distance from each other. Under the system of online teaching and study the students were asked to remain home whereas the teachers would take the lessons on smart blackboards which are really computer screens in the school.
The issue came up of how to verify whether the students had attended the online classes for the specified hours? The even bigger scandal was that for lack of range many students could not participate in the online classes. There have even been jokes and cartoons about students having to climb up trees or a hill to be able to make out what the teacher was saying because there was no network.
Moreover online teaching requires a lot of illustrations as the same model as normal text books cannot be followed for online teaching. The only beneficiaries of online teaching would be the telecom companies and those who make smart phones. Students who cannot afford computers or smart phones will be deprived of any education till a vaccine is found for coronavirus.
AND a last stray thought on when Goan Observer will publish the names and contact numbers of the key personnel involved in management of Covid-19 in Goa. The person who decides on containment areas is the collector of the concerned areas tested. A containment area is the space which is barricaded for movement if a large number of cases are reported from a particular waddo. The mamladar in the collectorate is responsible for ensuring that all those suspected to have Covid-19 get themselves tested. It is the SP who is responsible for putting up the blockades and posting constables at the starting point of a containment area.
You can insist that the containment area is too large and may be converted into a micro containment center so that residents are not needlessly inconvenienced. If you test Covid-19 positive you have the option of quarantining yourself at home subject to the fact that you have a separate room for yourself where you will be visited by doctors and nurses to check the status of your health. Only if your condition turns serious you have to be taken to the Covid-19 hospital or any other center equipped with oxygen supplying ventilators.