Wednesday, Aug 10, 2022

Goa Diary

With the alleged rape of a Canadian tourist on a beach last week, women being safe in Goa seems like a myth.

File - PTI Photo

Heartbreak?,? but the show must go on

The heartbreak over losing the victory that was within FC Goa's grasp at the Indian Super League has made not only fans but this football-loving state feel dejected. After the hype over the final being held at home, the usual scramble for tickets because politicians cornered most of them, Goa is whimpering.

This state which is yet to experience the winter chill (it had the hottest November ever) does not have much to celebrate. Tourism is dull (former tourism minister Mickky Pacheco says "tourism is dead") with international tourists either keeping away from Goa because it is expensive/ dirty or not travelling because their own economy has grounded them. Then there is the horror of the Paris terrorist attack although tourism minister Dilip Parulekar assures "Goa continues to be a safe tourist destination." But with the alleged rape of a Canadian tourist on a beach last week, women being safe in Goa seems like a myth.

Less than a week away, Goa's extremely popular Electronic Dance Music (EDM) festivals — Sunburn (ninth edition) and Supersonic (third edition) — continue to battle an inefficient government that is yet to give the go-ahead. The festivals will take place but as happens every year, it's finally "jugaad" that wins the day. So far the government has resisted putting down a blueprint which has allowed all manner of deals possible at the last minute.

Finally the Bombay High Court, hearing a PIL, handed out an order which was not music to the Government's ears. It rapped it for delay in recovery of dues of Rs 2.30 crore pending from 2011.? 

Meanwhile locals are unhappy with the noise and traffic. Locals have long complained of drugs being peddled on the coast and these EDMs are seen from the prism of providing the environment for drugs to proliferate. But thousands of young people will come to see the 120 artistes and the show will go on.

Song and dance

But who knew that a Konkani film will give Goans a reason to sing and dance? Aptly entitled Nachom-ia Kumpasar (Let's Dance to the Rhythm)  the movie has already won the National Award for Konkani films, it has now been shortlisted among 300 films for the Oscar awards in two categories — Best Foreign Film and Best Background Score.

The film is a tribute to Goan musicians of the 1960s and 1970s who not only made a living but were the soul of jazz clubs of Bombay and were even an anonymous part of Bollywood music. It centres on the love affair between a young singer and her mentor.

This film has gone where no Konkani film has — a clutch of film festivals around the world have been raising a toast. "Yes, we have been shortlisted and this is a huge step. We had applied in these two categories. Now the films will be judged by a panel comprising members of the academy, and the waiting game begins. We can only hope for the best," says Bardroy Barretto, the film's Director.

And we wish him the best!

Parrikar ?versus Parsekar 

It's one of the things you would probably do a double take on particularly with the BJP government desperately making moves to get mining, which has been closed for three years, restarted but has failed so far. But defence minister Manohar Parrikar is singing a different song.

Parrikar told a gathering in Shiroda here last week that, "Though the mining industry created jobs earlier, it will not create them now. International iron ore prices (?$ 31 during the boom and its ?$ 21? ?now) have collapsed. There are few chances that this industry can be sustained anymore. We have to look for alternatives." Parrikar, as Opposition leader was instrumental in a report that there was a scam worth Rs 35,000 crore in the mining industry and it had led to a Supreme Court-ordered ban in October 2012 that was lifted this April.? 

Now the boot is on the other foot because Parrikar then had pointed fingers at Congress leaders as being involved in the scam? ?—? ?now, BJP leaders are alleged to be. Besides, with the BJP seen as the key to the closure of one of the biggest revenue earners in Goa (Rs 125 crore annually), it is eager to prove it got mining back on the rails.

But Laxmikant Parsekar, the current CM, and Parrikar, who was the CM before moving to Delhi, are not on the same page. So while Parrikar is talking of not being able to "rely" on mining and that the government was looking at "pollution-free industries like tourism for job generation", Parsekar, in August inaugurated Vedanta's (formerly Sesa Goa) Codli mines, with great fanfare and proclaimed he had got mining going. Just for the record, there is no excavation only transporting of iron ore sold in e-auctions.

Till the seventh phase, the Goa government had e-auctioned 6.85 million tonnes of ore, earning a revenue of Rs 713 crore. In the eighth and ninth phase in September, the State earned Rs 48.13 crore through the e-auction of six lakh tones. By the eleventh phase in November, falling international market prices of low grade iron ore had led to interest petering out.

The reality kicks in

But like the ore-transporting trucks which have ground to a halt since December 4 demanding Rs 11.27 per tonne per kilometer (which was what prevailed during the boom when the rate of diesel was Rs 39.60) whereas they are getting Rs 8 (when diesel is Rs 47.96) , "mining", as the BJP sees it, has also ground to a halt. In fact, their stir had turned violent on December 6 with a truck being burnt at the Codli mine.

Even as the Supreme Court is hearing a Goa Foundation petition that the state government had doled out, instead of auctioning 88 leases, costing it Rs two lakh crore, the BJP government is battling the image of being pro-mining companies. Dubbed the "CM of mining companies", Parsekar did himself no favours by telling agitating truckers, "The aid provided to mining truck owners during the ban was not from the CM's pocket but from taxpayers' money, that too when the government was going through tough times, financially. The truck owners should not be selfish now and should think of the collective welfare of the state."

With such an attitude, the talks with truckers failed.

And now Vedanta, which was on a high in October after exporting its first consignment of 88000 metric tonnes of low grade iron ore to China, on Monday threatened that "If the transport does not start at Rs 8 per tonne per km, which was agreed upon, the company will have no other alternative but to suspend operations which were started at the behest of the CM. Such suspension will naturally result in no-work, no-pay."

So impasse all around.

Not so sweet sixty

It seemed out of character for Manohar Parrikar. The man who took out his credit card to pay for his lunch bill soon after being sworn in as the CM of Goa — and whose attitude has been to carry his own bag and wait in queues at the airport while other ministers/MLAs/ even bureaucrats have not baulked at getting their handlers do menial jobs including slip on their footwear — was suddenly in the news last week for going over the top. It was his 60th birthday on December 13 and he was going to have the mother of all parties with the government and ministers pulling out all the stops for their 'bhai' as Parrikar is referred to.

At least that was the plan, till the opposition Congress rained on his parade and blackmailed him emotionally saying how could he as India's defence minister, even think of celebrating in the face of Chennai's tragedy? It sent out a petition to the PM to stop the party and the BJP ended up getting cold feet.

So even while a sarpanch/panch/ MLAs/ minister gets carpet-bombed in newspapers with birthday wishes, there was none for Parrikar because he and Parsekar (the chairman of Parrikar's birthday celebration), discouraged ads and bouquets and instead asked people to contribute for Chennai's relief. Ultimately, the BJP (or so it claims) threw the party at the Campal ground in Panaji where BJP workers came in their thousands. So did union minister Rajnath Singh and Nitin Gadkari. It beats logic how the Chennai tragedy did not cast a dampener on that visit which cost a pretty penny but politics is full of these hypocrisies.

The BJP government claims it did not pay for the razzmatazz, the party did. But how do you draw the line when ministers came with their paraphernalia, a ground owned by the state's Sports Authority was commandeered, etc?

Et tu?,? Remo?

In the late seventies and eighties, Remo Fernandes, now 62, was one of the most famous Goans outside the state. In his heyday, he would write and compose songs that mocked politicians and that became his signature and made him very popular.
? ?
And now he seems to have done what politicians, who are arrested for scams do — fake a heart problem and get admitted to a hospital or disappear beyond the reach of the law. And Remo has done the latter by seemingly upping and going to Europe. Although Remo claims his trip was planned months earlier because of some "very urgent work and meetings", the point is he has ducked the summons by police on December 21. He says, "My lawyers will be attending court on my behalf of course."

In fact, for the last one week, the Padmashree awardee has made it to the front pages of newspapers and music is not the reason. Firstly, because his 26-year-old son Jonah was booked for "rash driving" after he allegedly knocked down 17-year-old Helen D'Souza from neighbouring Malvan in Maharashtra. And then Remo — who was also in the car at the time and in fact waited till the 108 ambulance came and took the victim to hospital — was booked on a complaint filed by Aires Rodrigues under the Goa Children's Act. An NGO has also recorded the statement of the victim at the government-run Goa Medical College (GMC) Hospital. Rodrigues complaint is that Remo visited the hospital (he has been seen on CCTV) and allegedly abused the girl saying, "Why are you alive? You should have died."

The girl with her mother and sister among many others was on a walking pilgrimage to the St Francis Xavier (known here as Goencho Saib) Cathedral in Old Goa from Malvan when ?she was knocked down at Guirim (near Siolim in North Goa where Remo lives in his ancestral house) on December 1 at 4 pm.? 

The injured girl was first taken to the Mapusa District Hospital and from there to GMC where she has undergone two operations, one on her broken left ankle and the other a skin graft on it. Apart from that, she has five stitches on her right temple after sustaining a deep cut when she fell. The victim's sister Loytina claims Remo offered Rs 50,000 but her mother declined.? ?

Incidentally, as often happens in Goa where police is dismissed as being inefficient and corrupt, the complaint in this case was filed only on December 15, a fortnight after the teenager was knocked down.