GRANT: The TMC manifesto has offered a grant of Rs10,000 to Rs30,000 to install digital meters and GPS systems to tourist taxis which have been affected by Covid-19 pandemic.
By Joshua George
The joint manifesto of the TMC and the MGP promises to scrap the ongoing mega projects, to facilitate the movement of coal from the Mormugao Port Trust to Karnataka. The manifesto also promises to fight for Goa’s rights with respect to the Mhadei waters. Every section of the community from women to youth has been targeted in the 10-point program of the TMC.
The Goa TMC-MGP alliance released their 10 point manifesto at the Fidalgo hotel last Saturday. Among the key highlights of the manifesto was the termination of the sanctioned three linear projects that was viewed by many as major destruction to the environmental biodiversity. The expansion of the Panaji-Belgavi highway along with the Tamnar power transmission project and the double-tracking that were sanctioned by the BJP-led government was to run through the heart of the Mollem Wildlife National Park. The termination of the three projects could be viewed as a smart tactic to woo the sentiments of the large number of people who took to the streets in protest of these projects. However, the major announcement that will certainly raise eyebrows is the TMC-MGP’s promise to take on the arduous task of overcoming the debt that has increased 8 fold since 2001.
The state ranks 4th worst in India in ease of doing business. Among the statistics provided, 16,000 MSME’s have shut in Goa in the last decade making it the only state in the country to witness such a steep decline. The proposed sanction to improve the economic growth is the double-digit economic boost of 6% to take Goa’s GDP from 0.71 lakh crore to 1.80 lakh crore and the annual per capita income to more than 11 lakhs in 5 years. The reason listed to fulfil this promise is the resumption of sustainable mining activities and growth in tourism.
Mining alongside tourism is indeed the backbone of Goa’s economy. While tourism continues to flourish, mining activities stopped in 2012 when the case for the renewal of leases was in litigation and came to a complete standstill after a Supreme Court order in 2018. This points to the fact that while the TMC-MGP may claim that it is in a position to bring back sustainable mining activities the truth of the matter is the case rests solely with the Supreme Court and unless it’s a national interest that affects the BJP no hand will be raised. Hence the promise of creating 2 lakh jobs over the course of 5 years seems unlikely to be fulfilled if mining isn’t resumed. However, what can be achieved is giving permanent status to contractual and temporary employees working with the government. The 80% reservation for Goans promised seems farfetched with the majority of Goans going abroad in search of greener pastures. Reservation has always come at the cost of quality, and this in turn is the root cause for corruption and stagnation.
Goa ranks 8th worst in the country, in terms of unemployment. Around 25% of the Goan youth between the age group of 18-29 are unemployed. Mis-governance of the BJP government and the COVID-19 pandemic has caused an economic slump that has caused subsequent job losses. Further, the increase in price of basic commodities under the ruling government has added to the turmoil.
In order to counter this consistent decline, the TMC-MGP promises to increase budget allocation on social expenditure by 30%. This will be achieved by the introduction of schemes such as Griha Laxmi, Yuva Shakti, and several other schemes for the fishing community. The promise is to pull 5% of the population that falls in the Below Poverty Line (BPL) out of abject poverty.
TMC’s biggest disadvantage here is perhaps its limited understanding of Goa at the mid level of leadership. The TMC led by their firebrand leader Mamata Banerjee rose to power in the 2011 Bengal elections on the promise of a corruption-free government. Their strategy in Goa has been to cajole citizens with the introduction of different schemes. On the face of it, the Griha Laxmi and the Yuva Shakti look enticing. As opposed, to the pro-poor welfare schemes introduced by past governments, the TMC has tried to entice the poor which make a considerable vote bank as well as the general population by making them eligible to avail them.
At the manifesto release on Saturday. The TMC-MGP announced their plans to set up another medical college in Margao. The major limitation to this is the central government mandate which impresses on one criterion, that there should be a 30 km distance between two government-regulated Medical Colleges said Dr Edwin Gomes (HOD of the Geriatric Medicine at GMC). He further went on to add that the 30 km distance isn’t road miles but air miles. The TMC has thus failed to state if the proposed medical college will be privately owned as a Government one doesn’t fit the criteria. It is for this reason that the South Goa district hospital in Margao can’t be converted into a medical college.
The privatization of health infrastructure has bored a hole in the pockets of the citizens. The Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the liabilities and loopholes of our medical system. It wasn’t too long ago when the health care system of Goa and around the country was brought to its knees during the second wave of the pandemic. If there is one thing we can learn from the repercussions of this deadly virus, it is to increase the budgetary spending of GDP towards health care. The TMC has thus promised to double the budgetary from 1.35% to 2.75%. However, it remains to be seen whether this is a viable promise with all the debt the state of Goa has incurred. It is also questionable as with the BJP ruling at the centre, the sanction of funds will not come that easy.
With education becoming a form of business, a lot of politicians have taken to the construction of schools and colleges for technical and professional education. There is a multitude of schools but a severe lack of quality acumen required to render quality education. The proposal of the TMC is faulted when it aims at building one model residential school per taluka as the same funds can be utilized to improve the infrastructure of the existing structures.
School education in the state of Goa in majority of schools is almost free as most schools are either run by the government or aided by. The number of schools per sq km increases every 5 years. It so happens that the demand for students isn’t that high and hence most schools end up not having their classes up to capacity. It’s important to understand that in order to improve the education infrastructure one needs to focus on the system and quality of teachers rather than building new schools in its entirety.
The TMC-MGP has stated that it plans to increase the budget expenditure on education in conforming with the Kothari Commission recommendation which states budget expenditure on education must be 6%. Goa’s budget expenditure on education will thus increase from 2.39% to 6%. While this is an absolutely necessary and valid agenda of the manifesto, the funds should be spent judiciously with a proper vision in mind and not one that is solely carried out for a matter of leaving a false legacy.
It is a fact that women have fewer opportunities for participation than men, less access to basic and higher education, greater health and safety risks, and less political representation. Guaranteeing the rights of women and giving them opportunities to reach their full potential is critical not only for attaining gender equality but also for meeting a wide range of development goals.
Among the list of candidates put out by the NCP for the February 14th polls there isn’t a single woman. Whether deliberate or not it is indeed shocking. The TMC has highlighted a very important topic that relates to the progressive changes of modern age and this is “Women Empowerment”. It proposes a 33% reservation for women in the government and private sector and a 50% reservation for women in all local bodies.
These proposals are however a far cry from actually seeing the day of light. We’ve seen women reservation bills in the parliament not being passed as one or the other houses have opposed it. The most recent one was in 2020 however the bill is still stuck in the lower house of the parliament.
As highlighted earlier the TMC plans to stop the three linear projects at the Mollem National Park. However, an important topic that isn’t stressed enough is the garbage crisis. Neither does the panchayat lift a hand to tackle the issue nor does the state government. The situation is in need of a clarion call to lawmakers and citizens to use their conscience and set up a system.
While TMC has proposed a waste management and garbage collection system taluka wise, I am of the opinion that each village can do their little bit to stop this menace. Each panchayat should organise a garbage collection program for dry waste. On the other hand each household should mandatorily have a compost pit for their wet waste and if it’s a building the society should have a provision for the same.
Given the very high dependence on tourism by the Goan economy in the wake of the suspension of mining the TMC-MGP has proposed several schemes to increase revenue of the hospitality industry. At the same time, it has tried to safeguard its’s vote bank.
In order to win over the Taxi-Mafia, in Goa, the TMC-MGP have proposed a 100% refund on meter installation charges for Taxi drivers. The Taxi Driver union is as dangerous as the Covid-19 virus. Its refusal to comply with a regularised meter system has harassed domestic tourists. From a political perspective, it is understandable that the Taxi Union represents a large vote bank and they need to be pacified. However, with Goa being a destination state we should be more accommodating and cater to the needs of the fodder (tourists) that feeds the economy.
Goan taxi fares are the highest in the country, with drivers quoting whatever they please. Anyone offering competitive prices is dealt with by the taxi union. The taxi union has formed a cartel that prevents any individual driver to offer better prices even if he wishes to.
The other proposal to safeguard the interest of the Taxi drivers is a subsidised tax regime during the lean season. While this proposal to a certain extent breathes relief to the concerned taxi union it reiterates Goa’s “susegaad” outlook to life. Taxi drivers make a maximum of three long trips per day as the exorbitant fares quoted justifies a means to an end. The TMC should be impressing upon taking the whole system digital so that tourists are not fleeced and drivers are forced to work the extra bit to earn their due.
Taxi drivers believe that they can charge higher during peak seasons only because flight and hotel prices go up during that time. However, what they fail to realize is that the airline and hotel industry have already gone online and has a healthy amount of competition, thanks to portals like MakeMyTrip and Goibibo. With competition comes improvement and this, in turn, brings out the ability to invoke innovative ideas. Whereas the lack of competition has killed entrepreneurship.