WHAT AILS THE CORPORATION OF THE CITY OF PANAJI?

STORMY: Meetings of the Corporation of City of Panaji have been witnessing fights between corporators belonging to the Rohit Monserrate group and the rival Surendra Furtado faction. Rohit Monserrate, the mayor is entirely dependent on CCP Commissioner Agnelo Fernandes and Municipal Engineer Vivek Parsekar. Agnelo who is not familiar with CCP affairs has to depend on senior CCP officials to make things move.

By Tara Narayan

A LOT of things are ailing the Corporation of the City of Panaji! But one can’t put a finger on it. Or can one? Do you know how well-staffed the capital city of Panaji is? A dear CCP friend of mine wants to remain anonymous but tells me that the CCP has “57 white collar office staff as you call them, six officers, 294 workers, 26 drivers, 23 supervisors…270 temporary daily wage earners and they don’t get Rs500 anymore but Rs700 now.” All have sworn to keep the city working on oiled wheels but this is a laughable suggestion!
If you want to know the nitty gritty of anything don’t ask the brand new Commissioner Agnelo Fernandes or Mayor Rohit Monserrate. They haven’t a clue or they are just beginning to have a clue of how difficult it is to fill up the empty CCP coffers. Small matters don’t concern the big shots. They’re far too busy cracking big issues like how much in the red the CCP coffers are — and how soon the convoluted mess of the Panaji market shopkeepers and vendors not paying rent to the CCP since as far back as 2003, may be resolved amicably.
It’s anyone’s guess if 73 vendors have not paid their dues or is it more like 340 altogether who’re staying put in the market without paying anything (hard to believe). On the surface of it nobody seems to give a damn and nobody is going to throw them out for illegal occupation of a public market and the CCP corporators can continue to have their meeting and hog on freebie samosa snacks and good cups of chai. Freebie pet bottles of water too because it is so hot these days even in air-conditioned offices!
Speak to Narayan Kavlekar (sub-registrar RBD) who has been head clerk at CCP for many years, he’s the best, to query he offered, “These figures are just approximate figures I am giving you but the market is running a loss of Rs10 lakh monthly…the CCP workers have maintained and cleaned it from 2003.” It’s a kind of gradation of rentals to be paid from 2009 to 2014 and higher charges up to the present time. Nobody is paying the CCP, “They have to pay! We spend about Rs30,000 every day to keep the market clean…and we collect only Rs1,500 or so by way of daily sopor collections…”
As far as the shopkeepers are concerned the first and second floors of the lovely market (one of the best designed in Goa) there are about 200 shopkeepers, all waiting for something to be formalized so that they may start paying their dues old and new! Panaji market’s issues have become a most complex, acrimonious issue which corporators including Surendra Furtado (former mayor) exchanging nasty notes at CPP meetings for the media but patting each other on the back later on in private. Nobody can work out how much who owes the CCP, that is the civic exchequer. Nobody knows and nobody cares.
From the sound of it the shopkeepers are freeloadaers but the amongst the sopor vendors they offer Rs20 on a daily basis for occupying space. The ancient lease and licence rentals have long since collapsed and a free for all rules. Now Mayor Monserrate is trying to sign a memorandum of understanding offering three-year leases to them but nobody is buying yet. Talks can go on forever sitting in offices drinking cups of tea and chewing on the latest lot of snacks.

CINE NATIONAL
THERE’S also the issue of getting back the dilapidated premises of the oldest cinema hall in Panaji, the Cine National, it has been on a 99 year lease which has long since expired and now awaiting further development. The CCP has several rentals and this one is a lucrative one if only it’s control can revert to the civic fathers who’re anxious raze Cine National to the ground and put up a modern, bigger block so that it may acquire new working premises and also some rest and recreation club for CCP officers and staff (or so one hears).
And now to come to why I called on Commissioner Agnelo Fernandes on Tuesday morning, April 26, 2022. For some time now I have been worried about this huge garbage pile proliferating and getting higher and higher in front of the residential colony in which I’m staying in old Caranzalem, near a Children’s Park. Talking over the phone I got some CCP workers to come and fill up bags of garbage but these they left behind half-filled and departed forever! After that I have been trying to find out to whom to call, to whom to appeal to for completion of the job.
It was time to visit the CCP officers and Commissioner Agnelo Fernandes welcomed me into his spacious air-conditioned parlour and offered me a cup of green tea while he sipped his coffee and called for the information I wanted! I tell him and show him pictures on my cell phone this huge pile of garbage several years old at the gates of the residential colony where senior stay along with their families and children at Caranzalen. The residential complex is sited behind a badly maintained Children’s Playground.
I explain to Commissioner Agnelo that since we stay in a ground flat here at the San Antonio Apartments I had been appealing to various CCP functionaries if the garbage dump at the entrance could be cleared up? A small garbage pile has turned into a monumental one now. With the forthcoming monsoon rains the place will become a nightmare of a breeding ground for mosquitoes, flies, mosquitos galore, snacks and other vermin.
He introduced me to Vivek Parsekar who tells me the garbage will disappear by the time I return home! The commissioner’s office fills up with visitors, various CCP workers come and go and I’m told I should speak to local councillor Nelson or why not Taleigaon MLA Jennifer Monserrate herself? Or Babush Monserrate whose one word would get my job done, don’t I know Babush Monserrate, he can get anything done!
Supervisor of Gardens Mahendra Parwatkar tells me to speak to one Madeline who is in charge of this lower end of the Caranzalem area, she is the supervisor of cleanliness. I collect various telephone numbers and return home. The half-filled garbage bags at the entrance of the gates are still there languishing there as if in despair of ever being lifted!
At a meeting Mayor Rohit Monserrate tells me if I am complaining about a private plot of land in terrible shambles here by the playground at Caranzalem, nothing can be done by the CCP, “If it’s private property we cannot do anything!” Excuse me Sir, perhaps you should be aware that in civilized countries if somebody’s premises no matter how private are affecting the neighbours to the point of making them sick, then the local civic authorities reserves the right to serve a notice on the property owner — to clean up his private mess or else pay the fine, or go to jail.

DON’T KNOW, DON’T CARE!
SO what ails the City of the Corporation of Panaji? A lot of things apart from just lazy attitudes to do with I don’t know, I don’t care! And mind you these are folk who earn monthly salaries of Rs35,000 and the higher ups much more …who don’t know and who don’t care. No wonder capital city Panaji is with every year degenerating into a more and more unplanned city, a vertical slum city which will continue to welcome more and more settlers anxious to breathe the air of Goa (which is still fairly breathable than back home in Mumbai or Delhi or Bengaluru) and there will be more migrant labour at burgeoning construction sites…but little or shoddy development of primary infrastructure. Of course, there’re a lot of killings to be made all around for our politicians and corporators and their admirers!

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