THOUGH THE growth of population of Goa over the 2001-2011 decade has not been significant with an increase of less than 10% from 13.48 lakh in 2001 to 14.58 lakh, what is alarming is that the increase of 1,10,000 in absolute numbers comprises almost totally of migrants. The continued influx of migrants in the 2001-2011 decade comes on top of migration rates of 26% in the 1971-1981 decade, 16% in the 1981-1991 decade and 15.21% in the 1991-2001 decade. The fact that migrants now form large parts of Goa’s population is dramatised by the fact that over 64% of Goa’s population now lives in urban areas. Any increase in Goa’s population over the last three decades has been due to influx of migrants as the reproduction rate of the ethnic Goan population has averaged around 1.5%, which is below the replacement rate.
THE OUSTER of the BJP in the elections held to the Karnataka Assembly on Monday, May 6, 2013 is an action replay of what happened to the Congress party in Goa. As in the case of Goa, the association of the BJP with the Reddy brothers of Bellary, who were found guilty of large scale loot and plunder through illegal mining, also proved the downfall of the Jagdish Shettar BJP government in Karnataka. It may be recalled that the then Goa chief minister, Digamber Kamat, and virtually half his cabinet stood discredited following their indictment by the Shah Commission report on charges of not only extending patronage to illegal mining, but being actively involved in various aspects of illegal mining.
CHIEF MINISTER Manohar Parrikar has made the outrageous claim on the floor of the Legislative Assembly of Goa that Goa was the cheapest city or state in the country. It is an outrageous claim because even Mumbai, where I spent almost a fortnight, is cheaper than Goa on every count. And I am not talking only about the fares that taxi drivers, auto rickshaw drivers and even motor cycle pilots extort even from the niz Goenkar, let alone tourists. Since there is so much controversy over public-private transport with honourable members of the Legislative Assembly calling taxi and auto rickshaw drivers bandits and worse, let me first compare fares of taxis and auto rickshaws. We will start with the fares of auto rickshaws, which is the aam aadmi’s preferred choice since the aam aadmi cannot afford taxis. To begin with, unlike in Goa, all public transport vehicles in Mumbai, whether it is taxis or auto rickshaws, have meters. The fares are charged strictly according to the meter reading. Auto rickshaws are eligible by law to return fare only for travel after 11 pm.
ON THE occasion of National Panchayati Raj Day, April 24, 2013, the Council for Social Justice and Peace organised a day-long protest at Azad Maidan in Panaji to create awareness about the non-devolution of powers to panchayati raj institutions. The Church body has been hyperactive since Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar started questioning the powers of gram sabhas in March this year. We don’t know if it’s because of the Church’s waning control over its flock, public apathy, or the summer heat, but when GO visited Azad Maidan at noon that day, there were only 20 people at the meet. One woman said she dropped by to “make my presence felt” as her parish priest had told the congregation to attend.
Whatever the reason for the poor turnout, one couldn’t help but feel that perhaps this may soon be reflected in gram sabhas at village panchayats - if the government succeeds in diluting their powers. And while CSJP and citizens’ movements may be up in arms over the Chief Minister’s comments, we should have seen through the BJP’s agenda when the government stopped collecting house tax - a source of revenue for village panchayats to carry forth minor developmental works. The minister for panchayati raj, Laxmikant Parsekar, has said that doing away with the tax has not hindered works as the government is providing panchayats with aid. Which has resulted in the panchayats being at the mercy of the government.
IT IS becoming obvious that tourism is the latest milch cow of the political establishment. With tourism replacing mining as the mainstay of the Goan economy and new resorts opening every second day with even the controversial Playboy Club wanting to set up shop in Goa, there is money for jam in the tourism industry. The first among the tourism ministers to recognise the potential for personal advancement through tourism was the low profile Nilkanth Halarnkar, who was the tourism minister in the Digamber Kamat government. According to the Association for Democratic Rights (ADR), which monitored the increase and the percentage in the increase of the assets of various MLAs and ministers holding office of profit, Nilkanth Halarnkar led the list. The ADR report based on the affidavits filed by candidates recontesting the elections revealed that Halarnkar’s assets had increased by over 300% during his tenure as tourism minister in the Digamber Kamat government.
BIBLICAL LEGEND has it that when Moses was being persecuted by the Pharaoh, he invoked the angel of death to protect his followers from harassment and persecution. To ensure that the angel of death did not target his own followers, he told them to put a sign on their door so that the angel of death would know that they were the chosen ones and would be spared. In a diabolical modern day variation of the biblical legend, the top leadership of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has apparently told party workers and those who support the party to put party stickers on their door. That this devious and totally undemocratic step has the blessing if not initiated by the BJP Supremo Manohar Parrikar himself is dramatised by the fact that the first sticker on the house of party supporters from Panaji was stuck by the Chief Minister himself.
EVER SINCE I came to Goa on October 1, 1983 which is almost 30 years ago, I have been a victim of the fatlem-fudem syndrome. A syndrome which means travelling in grossly over crowded buses with no room even to stand on. And being pushed and squeezed and even molested along the route.
Fatlem-fudem has meant putting up with rude conductors who are inclined to abuse if you give them a big currency note or ask for change. Fatlem-fudem has meant seeing tourists being ripped off and being charged twice or thrice the normal fare. Fatlem-fudem has meant that all through the 30 years I have travelled in Goa’s public-private transport, tickets have never been issued. Fatlem-fudem has meant that one never knows when a bus will arrive and whether it will stop at the scheduled bus stop. Fatlem-fudem has meant that after 9 pm. I have had to take a motorcycle pilot or an auto rickshaw at extortionate rates from my place of work because there are no public buses after 9 pm.
ON MARCH 13, 2013, the Commissioner of the Corporation of the City of Panaji (CCP) issued notice for the convening of a special meeting of the Corporation on March 20, 2013 at 10 am in the Corporation Hall in view of the expiry of the term of office held by the mayor, deputy mayor, standing committee and other special consultative committees: “…in accordance with Section 22 and Section 26 (1) and 42 (2) of the Corporation of City of Panaji Act, 2002 a meeting for election of the mayor, deputy mayor and their respective committees is convened in order to consider the agenda as detailed below. You are requested to kindly make it convenient to attend the same on the above date and time.” The agenda enclosed listed the election of the mayor and the deputy mayor as the principal business. The notice signed by Sanjit Rodrigues, the commissioner of the CCP, also informed corporators that nomination forms for the post of mayor and deputy mayor had to be collected from the administrative section and furnished to the deputy commissioner, Bhushan Savaikar, on March 19, 2013 before 5 pm.
TWO DEVELOPMENTS, one in the national capital and the other in Goa, have raised serious questions about the credibility of the police in investigating crimes against women. The principal accused in the ‘Nirbhaya’ rape and brutal assault case was reportedly found hanging in his 15×12 cell early in the morning on Monday. The curious part of the death of Ram Singh, who drove the bus in which the couple was taken for a deadly ride, was not alone in the cell but shared it with three other inmates. The incredible claim by the Tihar jail authorities is that Ram Singh committed suicide while his three cellmates were sleeping. Singh was short and weighed 60 kgs. How did he reach the ceiling to tie the rope without waking up his cellmates? The Tihar authorities apparently took two hours to inform the police about Ram Singh’s death. There were no CCTV cameras in the cell though the courts had directed the jail authorities and the police to be extra vigilant to prevent the principal accused from committing suicide. Significantly, the Delhi Police have not been willing to label the death as suicide, claiming that it could also be murder. But then who murdered Ram Singh and why? Was there a fear that he might implicate other people if he remained alive and was called to the witness box?
THE anger of the chief minister, Manohar Parrikar, is not directed only against Claude Alvares and the Goa Foundation, who filed a petition in the Supreme Court demanding the suspension of mining based on the revelation of large scale irregularities in the Shah Commission Report. It may be recalled that the Shah Commission Report had made three principal accusations against the state government. The first of these was that successive chief ministers had issued permissions for mining long after the deadline set by the Union Ministry for Mines for conversion of the mining concessions into leases had lapsed. The Shah Commission had also alleged large scale encroachment of forest, government and private land by the mining industry beyond the areas specified in the mining leases. The Shah Commission has also accused mine owners in Goa of producing much more ore than they were licensed to extract. The Shah Commission had concluded that virtually universal irregularities by the mining industry and non enforcement of the rules by the state Department of Mines and other agencies involved in the regulation of mining had caused a loss to the exchequer of Rs 35,000 crore.