By Rajan Narayan
AND a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when South Goa witnessed a shutdown. For a Saturday following the week when Narendra Modi’s coming to Goa is a windfall for the local papers. For a Saturday following the week when Speaker of the Assembly Ramesh Tawadkar created a controversy within the BJP. For a Saturday following the week when the British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak gave VIP treatment to the INFOSYS family. For a Saturday following the week when protests by tribal communy choked traffic for hours in Panaji and Porvorim.
AND a few stray thoughts on South Goa witnessing a government-enforced shutdown. Normally shutdowns are called by Opposition political parties. Traditionally, shutdowns have been enforced by several unions for people’s popular causes. The late George Fernandes (later on former minister of defence at the Centre) for instance was considered the master of shutdowns. On one call from George Fernandes entire Mumbai would shut down. To begin with George was the leader of the largest and most active BEST Workers Union, the train union, the taxi and bus unions and every working class service that kept Mumbai alive and moving.
But the February 6 shutdown or lockdown in Goa was to facilitate the resetting of Narendra Modi as the prime minister in the forthcoming elections. Well-known lawyer Cleofato Coutinho posted on Facebook that it was advisable not to go to any government office on Tuesday, February 6. Cleofato pointed out that they may find nobody at work in the government offices.
It is a serious issue that schools and even colleges were forced to shut down. This is not voluntary but a shutdown ordered by the government of Dr Pramod Sawant, the chief minister of Goa. We do not know if the banks were functioning in south Goa. You may think this is a State-sponsored goondagiri shutdown. On the eve of Narendra Modi’s Goa visit, Modi told Parliament that he will return to power with more than 400 seats. He has been hailed as a world leader by his BJP party loyalists.
Modi’s visit to Goa on Tuesday, February 6 was to inaugurate Indian Energy Week at the ONCG complex at Betul. Narendra Modi was on a spree of inaugurating other major projects in Goa. He inaugurated the National Institute of Technology (NIT) campus in Cuncolim. Contractor BG Shirke boasted in newspaper advertising that the NIT campus was finished in perfect time because of the precast technology used. Reportedly, with precast RCC 3-S technology all blocks of the buildings are taken to site and assembled. The NIT can house as many as 10,000 students, plus faculty.
The long-awaited river Mandovi flyover bridge to Reis Magos Fort (built 1493, 531 years old) has also finally been given the green signal to give Goa’s tourism additional boosting. This quick flyover bridge will cut shut the tedious road route to the much-visited grand fortress and has been a long-standing promise waiting to be fulfilled by successive governments. Ominously or not Modi also inaugurated the Naval War College in Betim-Verem where there is a major naval installation. It would appear that Goa is being increasingly taken over by the defense forces.
Recently, the defense forces set up their own military super-specialty hospital at Bambolim. Now there will be enough power or energy generation for both the nearby GMC to benefit courtesy the military hospital and we are happy about it. Amongst other projects inaugurated is the National Water Sports Institution at Dona Paula-Caranzalem Beach. As far as we remember this is constantly being inaugurated by various ministers but has remained incomplete more or less in any kind of active use in the sporting arena. Inaugurations do not cost much anywhere we presume and we doubt if the projects will be completed during the tenure of Dr Pramod Sawant as chief minister.
WINDFALL FOR LOCAL MEDIA
AND a few stray thoughts on Narendra Modi coming to Goa being a windfall for local newspapers. Ironically, the Central Public Works was given an award for excellence but we don’t think Goa’s PWD qualifies for such an award. Most of the public buildings outsourced by the PWD have been to unreliable contractors like Venkaiah Rao. Venkaiah Rao was an “untouchable” for is the son-in-law of senior BJP leader Venkaiah Naidu. The Goa University buildings have been built by the PWD contractor and there have been complaints of leakages of many of the new public buildings built by the PWD.
It is no longer news that the PWD is the most corrupt department in the state of Goa. Everyone wants the steeped in corruption PWD portfolio. Minister for Legislative Affairs Alexio Sequeira was expecting it as a reward for joining the BJP. Pramod Sawant would not oblige and kept the PWD portfolio for himself. It is the major source of funding for the BJP.
Not that any other department is honest. The Electricity department has reported over 6,900 complaints from consumers. The arrears of electricity bills run into hundreds of crore. The Electricity department tried a one-time settlement scheme for defaulters. It did not work in many steel rolling mills which shut down because the power tariff was very high. It is consumers who bear the burden of the Electricity department’s sins of omission and commission. The consumers face arbitrary and repeated hikes. We are happy to note that the latest hike has been rejected by the citizens of Goa.
The panchayats and government departments of Goa are among the biggest parties which owe money to the Electricity department. It is obvious that they are very reluctant to pay. The Electricity department has not cut their connections. It is only the private parties like the units in industrial estate who suffer. Goa continues to witness major shutdowns.
If we may say so amongst the worst affected is the Goa Medical College & Hospital which faces shutdowns as long as four to eight hours.
AND a few stray thoughts on speaker of Legislative Assembly Ramesh Tawadkar creating a controversy within the BJP. Ramesh Tawadkar made the allegation that Culture Minister Govind Gaude was corrupt. There is been a lot of criticism against Govind Gaude in his capacity as culture minister in charge of the Kala Academy. The Kala Academy had launched a major renovation which took almost a year if not more.
The most critical indoor auditorium of Dinananth Mangeshkar Kala Mandir was closed for a long time. All the renovation and refurbishment apparently did not address some serious issues. Even in the old days after the Kala Academy auditorium was inaugurated there have been reports of water rushing from the floor of the auditorium. It has been presumed that the auditorium has been built on a watery body or fountain or a well.
It is also possible that the sea still tries to reclaim its land where the Kala Academy auditorium is built. The outdoor auditorium wall collapsed even before the renovation of the indoor auditorium was started. Govind Gaude blamed the climate, weather and everything else except shoddy construction. Govind Gaude has had a very controversial tenure as the cultural minister. Rajya Sabha MP Sadanand Shet Tanawade insisted that the remarks of speaker Ramesh Tanawade about Govind Gaude are an internal affair of the BJP. This has been sharply contested by Goa Forward chief Vijai Sardesai. Vijai has pointed out that the corruption in the government cannot be a mere party affair.
The BJP High Command has to intervene to restore at least a facade of unity. It is well known that there is a lot of contrary opinion within the party and what it chooses to overlook. The new BJP which comprises members of the Congress legislative party are seen to be revolting. Only Alexio Sequeira managed to get his reward while senior leaders like Digambar Kamat are still waiting to be rewarded.
Goa’s former chief minister Pratapsingh Raoji Rane has also joined the defecting Congress rebels. This is the first time Rane senior had defected from the Congress party. Alexio Sequeira is perceived as an opportunist. But Chief Minister Pramod Sawant it appears has effectively silenced all dissent within the party.
RISHI SUNAK’S VIPS
AND a few stray thoughts on British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak giving VIP treatment to his wife’s INFOSYS family. INFOSYS family and management have always considered themselves above petty politics of wellbeing. The Investment Minister of UK Dominic Johnson has been accused of having a private meeting with INFOSYS officials in Bengaluru. Dominic Johnson has told INFOSYS management that he would appreciate a much larger presence of the company in the UK. Remember, Rishi Sunak in married to Akshata Murty, the daughter of founder- owner Narayan and Sudha Murty of Infosys. The daughter inherits a large chunk of INFOSYS shares and is a billionaire in her own right. She met Rishi Sunak while studying at Stanford Business School and both fell in love with other and got married.
Reportedly, Akshata does not believe in mother Sudha Murty’s simple living and likes to flash around her lifestyle of unimaginable riches, she wear designer clothes and owns top notch brands. The couple don’t particularly do their best to identify themselves with India. However, Sudha Murty, the mother-in-law of Rishi Sunak, during her UK visit didn’t hesitate to give 10, Downing Street as her visitor’s address. The British immigration officials would not believe her. They never thought the simple Sudha Murty in saree and tikka on her forehead could be the mother-in-law of the Britain’s Chief Minister Rishi Sunak. When they got a confirmation they were told to give Sudha Murty VIP treatment. Sunak may be British as British can be but he maintains close links with India and even chanted “Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram…” on Mahatma Gandhi’s death anniversary observation.
TRIBALS CHOKE TRAFFIC
AND a few stray thoughts on protests by the tribal community choking traffic for hours in Panaji and Porvorim. A protest held on Monday, February 5 by members of the scheduled tribe communities caused massive traffic congestion in the city, but the agitation exacted an assurance from Chief Minister Pramod Sawant, who promised to pursue with the Centre issuance of a notification to constitute a delimitation commission for reserving four seats for STs in the state Legislative Assembly, before the announcement of the Lok Sabha poll schedule.
The Mission Political Reservation for Scheduled Tribes of Goa, which held the protest, took back the stir after the chiefa minister’s assurance on the reservation of assembly seats. The tribal organisation intensified its agitation in the state capital as initially there was no response from the government, which enraged protestors.
The agitators, who were stopped at the Merces junction till Monday, February 5 afternoon, started marching towards the assembly complex. But the police stopped them at the old Mandovi bridge, and this caused a massive traffic congestion in the capital city and its surrounding areas for nearly three hours.
The protestors led by association president John Fernandes, its spokesperson Govind Shirodkar and others demanded that the chief minister should meet them and speak to them on their demand. They became furious when the CM told the State Legislative Assembly that he would reply to the Opposition demanding political reservation for the STs.
Later, Goa Forward Party MLA Vijai Sardesai visited the protesters. He led a 16-member delegation to the CM in the assembly complex to discuss the matter. Assembly Speaker Ramesh Tawadkar, Art & Culture Minister Govind Gaude, Opposition leader Yuri Alemao, MLAs Ganesh Gaonkar, Vijai Sardesai, Altone D’Costa, Venzy Viegas, Cruz Silva and Viresh Borkar were also present along with the delegation during the discussions.
Fernandes disclosed that the CM told them that he would make a formal announcement on Saturday, February 3, and not on Wednesday, while answering the call for attention on the floor of the house. The CM said he would find out the present status of the file for notifying a delimitation commission and accordingly inform the house on Saturday.
“The file has been pending before the Union Ministry of Tribal Welfare. It has gone to the Registrar General of India. After obtaining approval from the home ministry, a delimitation commission has to be notified,” he explained. Sawant added that he had spoken to officials in the home ministry two days back on the notification to be issued. “My efforts are on to get it done. There has been a procedural delay,” he clarified.