ATAL SETHU: The late Manohar Parrikar dream of a final landmark memorial bridge was made a mockery by contractor Venkaiah Rao to whom Larsen & Toubro had sub-contracted the work.

By Rajan Narayan

AND a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when Town & Country Planning Minister Vishwajit Rane has decided to scrap the regional plan altogether. For a Saturday following the week when tenders have been issued for twin towers on the Zuari Bridge which will be revolving restaurants amongst other tourist things. For a Saturday following the week when it was revealed that Goa University does not rank within even the first hundred top universities in the country. For a Saturday following the week when an even greater polluter than plastic bottles are the caps of various plastic and metal containers. For a Saturday following the week when schools have started again and schoolchildren will have to bear the worst of the expected flooding during the monsoon season on its way.
AND a few stray thoughts on the Town & Country Planning Minister Vishwajit Rane who had decided to scrap the regional plan altogether. Vishwajit Rane is ten times worse than Panaji MLA Atanasio Babush Monserrate who formulated the notorious Regional Plan 2011. It may be recalled that after the Goa Bachao Abhiyan agitation the 2011 Regional Plan was scrapped. A new regional plan under the leadership of Dr Edgar Rebello, former chief town planner of the country, was formulated. Unfortunately, it was not notified since there were claims that the government had changed it. The Digambar Kamat government had provided for mini-industrial estates in every taluka and this was opposed by Goan environmentalists. The a first regional plan was formulated in 2001 by Edgar Rebello. The primary objective of a regional plan is to decide a just division of land for industrial, commercial, agricultural, residential development.
The Town & Country planning department is authorized to permit conversion of agricultural and forest land to settlement or commercial zones. In the last two decades large portions of agricultural and forest lands have been converted into concrete jungles. Vishwajit Rane has sabotaged the regional plan by making it easier for converting farm land into settlement. It is suspected that the series of fires which broke out about three months ago were deliberate acts to facilitate conversion of land. Everyone wants a house with a view. Every village in Goa has one or two thickly forested hillocks called dongor (hills). No construction may be carried out here on hills because they’re densely forested. However, the majority of the fires which broke out were on the forested hillsides.
Then the owners of the land there could claim that their land is barren and ask for conversion for commercial purposes. The most shocking new development is that Rane has decided to abandoned regional plans altogether. I presume Rane will be a one-man Town & Country Planning Board and decide what land may be converted or may not be converted himself.

AND a few stray thoughts on tenders which have been issued for the construction of twin towers on the Zuari Bridge – these will double as watch towers and revolving restaurants. In keeping with the Modi government’s obsession with building grand showpieces, tenders have been issued for the proposed 120-ft towers on the new bridge. The revolving restaurants will be high up on the top of course. The government may also try to commercialize the towers by permitting malls and other commercial establishments.
The installation of the last segment of the second phase of the new Zuari bridge will be completed by July. It is claimed that 76 steel segments and 70% of the cables have already been installed. The launch of the first phase of the Zuari bridge has so far been successful. Everyone forgets that primarily a bridge is for vehicular traffic to cross a river safely and securely.
Indeed, initially when Liberation came to Goa there were hardly any bridges in Goa. To travel to Panaji from the airport meant taking two ferry rides across the rivers Zuari and Mandovi. The first ferry crossing was to take passengers across the Zuari river as there was no access to Panaji from Verna. Subsequently, since there was no bridge across the Mandovi river, a second ferry had to be taken. The first Mandovi bridge was built around 1975 and within a decade of its construction it collapsed.
We remember that day clearly when we woke up and a guest we had sent sightseeing to Calangute called. They ask me how they could cross the river Mandovi? I was shocked when they told me that the bridge there had split into two. For almost two years residents of Panaji had to use the ferry to travel to north Goa. To compensate for the collapse of the Mandovi bridge the government decided to build two parallel bridges.
But even the new bridges did not permit direct entry to Ponda and Margao as there were no approached roads linking them to the bridges. This is why the towering Atal Sethu bridge was dreamed up by the late chief minister of Goa Manohar Parrikar. It would be his swan project. The bridge was planned so that those who wanted to go north or south do not have to come to Panaji city.
But the various arms of the Atal Sethu bridge to go to Goa Velha, Merces, etc, are not yet complete. The tragedy of a corrupt sub-contractor Venkaiah Rao, a close relative of former vice-president Venkaiah Naidu, destroyed Parrikar’s dream of a grand Atal Sethu which he visited for a last public appearance pipes connected to various parts of his body for oxygen cylinder and other sustenance. Parrikar stood on the badly finished Atal Sethu bridge and declared bravely to all “Josh bhi hai aur hosh bhi hai!” The government has neither time nor money to build a bridge to connect Divar Island to Panaji now. Similarly, there is no bridge over the tiracol river. The village of Tiracol is completely isolated from Goa and is more like it is a part of south Maharashtra.

AND a few stray thoughts on the revelation that Goa University does not rank within even the first 100 top most universities in the country. This is perhaps why Goa University does not attract either students or teachers. Initially, when Goa University was started, special quarters were built which was equipped with the all the mod cons in place. Goa University was the dream of then governor of Goa, Dr Gopal Singh, who considered himself a great author. He had translated various chapters of the Sikh Holy Granth into English. He had even written a book on Jesus Christ called “The Man Who Never Died.” We had the privilege of publishing about his books.
Initially, virtually all the staff of Goa University were from outside the state. In the first place there were very few Goan PhDs. Even the few Goan PhDs – PhD being the minimum qualification for teaching in a university — did not want to risk joining a new university. Interestingly, it is the Konkani department which produces the most PhDs in Goa. The quality of the Science department is pathetic. One of the few courses which attracts a lot of students is the Master’s in financial studies. Even the management course ranks very low among the list of management institutions. The biggest lacuna is in research. A university is not a college though colleges are affiliated to it.

AND a few stray thoughts on a greater polluter than plastic bottles – the caps of plastic and metal containers. Everyone is concerned about plastic pollution and there are repeated drives to ban plastics below a certain grade. Plastic waste has grown enormously because everyone from soft drink manufacturers to retailers of liquor find it cheaper to use plastic bottles. The thinner and flimsier the plastic bottles the more cost the manufacturer saves.
I was shocked to see how flimsy the once highly reputed bitters added to Vodka turned out to be. Everyone is worried about the bottles. Nobody seems to be concerned about the caps atop every bottle. The caps of beverage bottles are inevitably made of thin tin. They are presumably even more difficult to recycle than plastic. A new report reveals that there are areas of the sea choking with caps of various bottles and containers which human beings are so addicted to.
Interestingly, an Italian had started producing a special kind of cork called “goola.” The unique feature of this cork is that it has a mechanism whereby the liquor or daru could not be filled in from the outside, it could only be filled one way. This is because of widespread adulteration of top brands of liquor like Black Label whiskey. Indeed, even the foreign market liquor bottles now use goola capping.
Chief Minister Pramod Sawant has announced re-cycling centers for the state’s waste of plastics and other material of the consumer society. Such as the one there is on the way to the Kedarnath pilgrimage. When you buy a bottle you pay a deposit. When you deposit it back at an authorized collection center you get your deposit back. There are some recycling centers which pay you small amounts for return of junk bottles. But we have to start paying more attention to the caps of all kinds of bottles, tubes and other containers which get separated and end up where we don’t want them to end up – in the stomachs of land and sea animals foraging for their food and mistakenly they swallow all our man made plastic junk packaging in bits and pieces. The caps pollution is particularly revolting and deadly pollution we are told.

AND a last stray thought on schools which have opened for education and will have to bear the worst of all the monsoon flooding expected in the state. I have never been able to understand why schools start when the monsoon is here. In all other countries the academic year is formulated on calendar seasons. In India educational institutions are open even during the rainy season and many parents may not be able to afford even rain gear like good raincoats for their children. Children invariably get wet on the way to school and coming home to fall sick with various infections and illnesses.
We think it must have been doctors who recommended school academic year starts in June. Admittedly, children enjoy the rains. They love to play in rain water. They have lots of opportunities wading in ditches left to turn into mini swimming pools courtesy the road contractors of Babush & Rohit Monserrate. The kids no doubt will think what a Smart City Panaji can be. They the children fall sick the doctors’ clinics do brisk business with anxious parents thinking of keeping the children at home rather than go to school.

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