DON’T DELAY: If you have any symptoms of Covid-19 which includes temperature above 102 degree F, a sharp drop in oxygen levels in the blood and severe respiratory problems, you should promptly get yourself tested. It might just be a normal viral flu attack due to a change in the season, but it is better to be sure than sorry.


AND a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when the civic elections for all 17 Municipal councils including the Corporation of the City of Panaji have been scheduled for March 22, 2021. For a Saturday following the week when Goa international airport handled over 160 flights during the weekend as tourists rushed to Goa to escape the spike in covid-19 cases in Mumbai. For a Saturday following the week when the Supreme Court ordered a joint inspection to verify Goa’s charges that Karnataka was diverting Mhadei waters. For a Saturday following the week when a 32 years old disc jockey (DJ) was arrested by the Goa Police for allegedly posting vulgar comments against Shivaji Maharaj. For a Saturday following the week when tears were back in the eyes of housewives with another steep hike in onion prices.


AND a few stray thoughts on when the State Election Commission announced polls to the Municipal councils including the Corporation of the City of Panaji. The SEC has been rapped by the Goa Bench of the Bombay High Court for hurriedly notifying the Municipal elections despite the petitions that have challenged the notifications on reservations and delimitation of Municipal wards. It is quite evident that a lot of fixing has taken place to ensure the victory of candidates selected by Babush Monserrate.
There has been stiff competition between Babush and the BJP on the allocation of seats to each of the groups. But in the battle Babush has managed to get the majority of his candidates including his son Rohit Monserrate selected to contest the CCP polls. However, the BJP may not agree to make Monserrate junior the mayor if the Babush-selected panel wins all the seats in the CCP. Historically, though the Babush panel has been controlling the CCP for the last two terms, nothing much has been achieved to solve the major problems looming over Panaji city.
During the tenure of Surendra Furtado as Mayor of Panaji, he made an attempt to clean up St Inez Creek with a weed removal boat sponsored by a private party. Unfortunately, in his eagerness to prove his diligence he invited the media to go for a ride with him on the weed removal boat. Due to overloading the boat turned turtle plunging Surendra Furtado into the ganda nallah. The nallah winds its way through the foothills of Altinho all the way to the sports complex at Miramar to drain into the river Mandovi and on to the Arabian sea.
Though the casino managements have been repeatedly asked to use the multi-storeyed car park built opposite the cruise boat terminal very few of them bother to do that. So much so the multi-storeyed complex built at a whopping cost of several crore remains largely unutilized. Even in the shopping areas of 18 June road around the Municipal garden it is impossible to find parking space. Though the secretariat has been shifted to Porvorim the majority of government offices continue to be in Panaji like the Directorate of Accounts and Regional Transport Office which a large number of people visit. The head offices of several big companies are also located in Panaji.


As has happened in Mumbai alternative hubs should be set up for offices and commercial centres. A lot of the former crowding in south Mumbai has been eased with the development of the Central Mumbai areas of Parel-Sion. A lot of land became available at Patel after the closure of the textile mills. Similarly, the Bandra-Kurla complex has provided an alternative relocation area. Even the US Consulate has shifted to the Bandra-Kurla complex.Many of the newspapers located in South Mumbai have shifted office to Parel which is now called Upper Worli.
Similarly in the case of Panaji too alternate hubs should be created towards the St Andre side which is relatively less crowded. The continuing construction activity in the Taleigao-Caranzalem and Dona Paula areas should be stopped to save whatever open breathing and agricultural spaces there are. These village suburbs no longer have infrastructure to support any more high rise constructions or blocks. The existing ones are already dependent on tube well water tankers.
Babush may be tempted to make Panaji a Hong Kong just as he wanted to convert Taleigao into a Singapore. The Code of Conduct for the Municipalities and CCPs comes into immediate effect. We do not know if this includes repairs and fresh tarring of the roads in Panaji. Clearly, in the case of the CCP at least, Monserrate is calling the shots.

AND a few stray thoughts on the bold and the beautiful and the rich and the powerful flocking to Goa to escape Covid-19 in Mumbai. As Mumbai and Pune apart from other parts of Maharashtra are witnessing a new wave of Covid-19 cases, those who can afford it are beating a fast trek to take refuge in Goa. The number of people coming to Goa has increased sharply ever since Maharashtra’s Chief Minister Uday Thakre started talking about imposing a fresh lockdown.
We understand that Goa airport last weekend saw over 160 fights landing in Goa, bringing in almost 25,000 passengers. This is the highest number of flights landing in Goa without taking into account the relief flights which come to Goa bringing stranded Goans from Covid-19 affected countries. There is also a boom in real-estate as more and more people from Delhi and Mumbai are buying holiday homes and old Portuguese houses in the state. This is besides the bus loads of lower middle class domestic tourists who bring their own cooks and rations and camp in their buses.
Goa is also witnessing a steep increase in the number of migrant residents, particularly because NRIs are renting their unused apartments to people from Delhi and Mumbai. Fortunately for Goa the covid-19 situation is under control with only 29 cases at last count and no deaths. In contrast, the number of covid-19 cases in Maharashtra has gone up by 57% from 4,092 cases on Valentine’s Day to 6,971 cases on February 21. As many as 35 deaths were reported in February.
The big fear is that the rush of visitors from Mumbai and Delhi, not to mention domestic tourists in buses, may spark a fresh wave of the covid-19 in Goa. Goans have become bindaas with relief that covid-19 infections are coming down in Goa. Goa not only permitted New Year celebrations but even allowed Carnival to take place and now Shigmo revelry is coming up. Curbs on gatherings of more than 50 people have been relaxed. Though in theory everyone is advised to continue wearing masks and maintain physical distance, few bother about it anymore. Friends in the GMC and the Urban Health Centres tell me that very few people come even for covid-19 testing anymore. This is dangerous as people with symptoms of covid-19 who put off treatment end up dead.
Recently, a 34-year-old who went to the hospital in final stages did not survive. Indeed, even the frontline health workers and doctors eligible for the vaccine are reluctant to take it. As it has been dramatized in Kerala and Mumbai there can be a second wave of Covid-19 anytime and we in Goa must led down our guard. In the greed for revenue and under pressure from the tourism industry no curbs have been imposed on tourists from Maharashtra which is witnessing a fresh wave of Covid-19; in contrast, Karnataka has imposed restrictions on tourists and visitors both from Maharashtra and Kerala where the Covid-19 situation is still serious.


AND a few stray thoughts on the verdict in the Disha Ravi case. The environment activist has been released on bail by a Delhi court on the grounds that the evidence against Disha Ravi was “scanty and sketchy evidence.” Judge Dhramendra Rana ruled that “there is not even an iota of evidence (that has been) brought to my notice connecting perpetrators of the violence on January 26, 2021 with the accused.”
Judge Dharmendra Rana came down very strongly against the police and defended the right to dissent, “Citizens are conscience keepers of the government in any democratic nation. They cannot be put behind bars simply because they chose to disagree with State politics. Sedition cannot be invoked to minister to the wounded vanity of governments. An aware and assertive citizenry is indisputably a sign of a healthy and vibrant democracy.”
The judge added that India’s 5,000 year old civilisation has never been averse to ideas from varied quarters. The right to dissent is firmly enshrined under Article 19 of the Constitution of India…the freedom of speech and expression includes the right to seek a global audience. Creation of a Whatsapp group or being editor of an innocuous toolkit is not an offense. Sessions Judge Dharmendra Rana added “Differences of opinion, disagreement, divergence, dissent, for that matter even disapprobation, are recognised legitimate tools to infuse objectivity in state politics. An aware and assertive citizenry in contra-distinction within indifferent or docile citizenry is indisputably a sign of healthy and vibrant democracy.” Granting bail to Disha Ravi the judge added that “we find no reason to breach the general rule of bail in the case of the 22-year-old young woman who has blemish-free antecedents and firm roots in society.
It is also pointed out that going by the prosecution’s own admission, the court underscored that PJF was not a banned organisation and no criminal action was pending against the founders with respect to the charges against Greta Thunberg, the court found nothing on record that could suggest the Nobel prizewinner has endorsed any secessionist ideas.
For those who may not be familiar with legal terms, secession means attempts or calls to overthrow the elected government of a country through violence. To give an example, the attack on the US Kapitol while it was in session was an act of sedition, as supporters of Donald Trump attacked the Kapitol, which is the American Lok Sabha, with arms.
The judgement made it clear that the mere creation or possession or posting of toolkit unless it calls for a violent overthrow of the elected government does not amount to sedition. We must also clarify that that a toolkit is not a nuclear bomb or a AK 45 rifle but merely a booklet or a book which provides suggestions on how to mobilise supporters for a cause like the farmers protest. In this context, it may also be pointed out that the act of the Goa police in arresting a 32-year-old disc jockey (DJ) for posting comments considered vulgar by the government, is highly objectionable. Expressing an opinion about Maratha king Shivaji does not amount to sedition. We hope that the State and Central governments will stop terrorising young people merely because they disagree with government viewpoints. The Constitution of India protects the right to freedom of speech and expression. The arrest of young women like Disha Ravi is nothing short of the murder of democracy.


AND a last stray thought on my testing negative for Covid-19. Like a number of residents of Goa I am suffering from a viral cold for more than a week. The problem is that the symptoms of covid-19 are very similar to that of a viral infection. I did not have any other symptoms such as high fever or low oxygen saturation levels in my blood. My oxymeter reading was between 97 and 99. In this context doctors believe that an oxymeter reading below 90 calls for immediate attention. Ultimately, covid-19 is a respiratory disease which affects the lungs.
People with health problem such as diabetes or a history of cardiac problems, which are referred to as co-morbidities, are more vulnerable to getting the dreaded contagion. I have been reading about how a large number of covid-19 deaths in Goa are happening because the persons concerned delayed getting tested to find out if they had contracted the infection. Relatively speaking I was an asymptomatic patient as I only had a persistent cold.
However, I decided not to take a chance and went and had myself at the Manipal Hospital on February 23 by Dr Marzook Mustafa Sheikh, who has an MD in pathology and is in charge of covid-19 testing at the Manipal. I sought the advice of two leading doctors Dr Amit Dias of the Preventive Medicine Department of the GMC and veteran physician Dr Oscar Rebello. Both were of the view that I must get myself tested if I had any doubt that I may have contracted the infection.
I was reluctant to go to the GMC or the Urban Health Centre in Panaji. Not because I have no faith in the GMC which has virtually been my sasumai, as I have been hospitalised there several times for various medical problems. It is just that it is more convenient to rush to the private Manipal Hospital which also has the specialised equipment for doing RT-PCR test – considered the gold standard in testing for covid-19 infection and its variations.
For those who are putting of testing because they are scared, I may note that it is very simple and virtually painless. At Manipal they carry out the testing outside in the compound of the hospital where the Emergency unit is. There is a camp put up here where the technician extracts a tissue sample from both nostrils and the inside of the throat. There is only a sense of irritation and no real pain.
I got the message that I had tested negative for Covid-19 the same day, much to my relief! The records show that a large number of fatal covid-19 cases are from the minority communities. Clearly, just as there is a hesitancy to take the vaccine among frontline workers like nurses and ward boys and even doctors, there seems to be either a fear or complacency abroad over getting tested. I believe that the heads of all religious organisation, whether they be Hindu, Muslim or Catholic, should get themselves tested to create awareness on the importance of covid-19 testing promptly.
While testing at the GMC and Urban Health Centre is free, private hospitals have varying charges. But the fixed charge for those who want to travel and want a negative covid-19 certificate is around Rs 4,000. A negative covid-19 certificate secured 72 hours before travel is mandatory for catching a flight or even crossing the Goa borders.

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