Thursday, October 23, 2008

RTI - A Powerful tool

RTI for Goa
Since the time the government Of India has introduced the RTI act ( Right to Information) it has become a nightmare for the bureaucrat, the clerk or the secretary working in a government or a semi-government department.

So powerful is the tool that its very use puts these people on the defensive and pushes them to do their duties which they might have otherwise denied to do.

To use RTI is very simple. You are entitled to any document in government departments ( subject to certain classified documents in defence establishments etc) which you feel may be subject of corruption or undue favour or otherwise. Using this document you can question the department concerned about its double standards and take the concerned person to task.

To seek the document one needs to make an application under RTI paying the requisite fees and presenting the request to the PRO ( public relations officer ) of that department. Failure to respond to your application within 30 days can invite severe penalties and strictures and more importantly will highlight the issue even more.

Goans have been sparsely using RTI but in many cases due to unawareness it is not being used. I urge goans to kindly use the RTI judiciously to ensure that we put a complete end to corruption and its ugly head

Love You Goa!

Mega-Projects.. A Mountain out of a Molehill or otherwise – II

A mega project has not been defined as yet. Why? The reasons are best known to the government. BuGoa protests megaprojectst the reluctance to define it seems to be a cause of big worry to the builder lobby. This lobby is losing by the day. In crores. And the government is not blind. They would like to solve the problem of definition. But I sense that the delay is because these politicians are at their wits end as to how to define and whom to accommodate in mega and whom to leave out. Which parameters to apply and which ones to leave out.

More than one building currently is being viewed as a mega project by the residents of an area. And so residents of Carmona, orlim, Nuvem, Dovandem, pilerne and most prominently Benaulim among others are up in arms against projects which have been planned with hundreds of apartments threatening an injection of thousands of people in an area currently occupied by probably a few hundreds.

So what do these thousands do to the few hundreds? Firstly they bring about an imbalance in one’s own homeland. You are suddenly a minority in your own land and very soon the risk of your say having no meaning is looming large. The risk of the local bodies such as the panchayats and the municipalities being usurped in power by the new residents is probable. And so your identity and your culture disappearing is a harsh reality. Moreover these flats and bungalows planned by the builders are so exorbitant that the local population of Goa would easily find it unaffordable and so the migration of people from all over India and the world is certain.
It is bound to destroy the locality and its identity. It is going to resemble an Andheri , Goregaon or Borivli. Pitifully!

Enrichment wise it will be the opposite. Goa has a more cleaner outlook and rubbish and garbage is normally not strewn openly in all areas. We are born with that culture. You compare that with any other.. I repeat any other state of India and it is a complete contrast. Such contrast is bound to spill over to goan surroundings with such large settlements of migrants.But the protest is not because of this.

However what is most important is that before issuing a licence the licensing authorities turn a blind eye to so many irregularities in the plans and pass the plans in exchange for bribes throwing caution and rules to the winds.Hence the protest.

The government in the meanwhile has failed to address the issue of new settlements vis a vis new infrastructure for the new settlements. It has no regard to the deprivation and the degradation of the surrounding environment. When you bring in extra people there is a burden on the resources such as water, electricity, garbage disposal systems, social balance etc. Without paying heed to any of these considerations there is a rampant grant of licences for construction which was going unabated. Hence the protest!

The government is following old guidelines and old methods but is cunningly allowing new constructions. How? Who is going to ask the government? All the time the people were taken for a ride because the people are not organized. Every person has his or her own work to do and nobody can really spare time to take note of these issues. The government was taking advantage of this fact. Untill a time when people have risen. And the fight has begun. The threat of a revolt for any mega project is lurking in the minds of the builder lobby. The government has to act fast and bring about proper sane means to solve this issue. Mere words will no longer do. The people have shown their might. Thank you Goa and thank you Goans. Succegaaad……? Now what’s that?

Love You Goa!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Mega-Projects.. A Mountain out of a Molehill or otherwise

This is new to Goa. Agitations are not our cup of tea. We are succegaad kinda people.We love our siestas, our feni and our xacutis. So what are these megaprojects doing on our plate?Goa megaprojects
It all actually started with the uncharacteristic revolt against the regional plan 2011. A draconian plan made by our politicians of all hues and colours, only with the design of making cartloads of money only at the expense of Goa and Goans. And it would have gone all the way through. But they misunderstood the silence of Goans as a slumber. In fact they took us all for granted. In our hearts we were always burning to have our say. They mistook us for being a toothless unorganised force.

And so formed the Goa Bachao Abhiyan. An organisation which pledged to take up the plight of Goa and help to scrap the regional plan. Meetings were held and people attended in large numbers. This sent alarm bells ringing for the politicians and they were scurring for cover. Against all odds they had to dump and scrap the regional plan and that was the first victory of an united Goa against the might of the corrupt politician.

Next has been the opposition to the SEZ's and the mega projects. In both the cases the government is at its wits end as to how to solve the vexed issues. SEZ's in principle have been scrapped and apparently the licences revoked. But there seems to be more here than meets the eyeSEZ owners have acquired land by fraud and the SEZ virodhi Manch is fighting tooth and nail to ensure that they do not gain a back door entry.
The mega projects are something which hits the common man the hardest. And all advocators of mega projects are crying foul. What does a mega project do to the village or the area? Does it enrich the area or does it destroy it? How are the residents affected? Whose duty is it to ensure that the environment does not get affected with these projects? While giving licences for such projects what are the guidelines framed to sustain the development? Are these guidelines in tune with Goa today or have they become redundant and need drastic changes? Why do people dread a mega project which will bring in hundreds of strangers in a land which is currently occupied by a few hundreds? All the answers in the next post.
Love you Goa!

Garbage woes - Unending

Goa Garbage disposal
Goa garbage problems

Goa has earned the distinction of being the hottest tourist spot of the country. We are thankfully also endowed with a culture and a social security which cannot be compared to the rest of India. So the tourists from the west tend to identify with Goa better then they do in other parts of India.

Goa has also got the best of roads and its villages are still green. The concrete jungles are still a threat but Goa and Goans are fighting their way through this. Hopefully we will win.

However it seems that Goa has a perennial problem of garbage disposal. There seems to be little or no effort from the government to improve upon its garbage collection and disposal system and till date old methods of disposal are being followed. Interestingly you will find that some ministers, officials and bureaucrats go on foreign trips every year in search of solutions for garbage disposal and management. But it seems that they only have the objective of a great holiday in mind and return as clueless as when they had left Goa. Probably they never even had the honesty of even visiting the topic abroad.

Surely a toothless and corrupt system is slowly but surely eroding Goa's resources and its capacity to deal with situations. Our politicians it seems are only interested in fillling their own coffers and bother the least about the welfare of Goa.

Some years back a company called " Hyquip" was given the task of garbage management and lakhs of rupees have been spent on them but till date they have done nothing and the money is still not returned. There seems to be no concrete will on the part of the government to deal with the garbage problem. There is however a will to enter into contracts with anybody and everybody when it involves money.

Who will take account of our leaders who do as they wish and spend public money without giving the public the benefit? These aare the very attitudes which give rise to organisations and protests. One of the prime reasons that mega projects are being opposed is because of the garbage problems. Without resolving the existing garbage woes the government is thrusting more residents on an already overburdened state.

So dont be surprised about mega projects being opposed. Such callousness on the part of the government needs to be opposed tooth and nail untill the government takes notice and acts.

Today technology has reached such levels that we can get the benefit of methods and systems to control, dispose and utilise garbage for a profit. But our leaders need to wake up from their slumber and show the will.

It seems that without their will we will have to enjoy the garbage! The fight in the meanwhile is on.

Love you Goa

Bandhs - An Useless expression of protest

Its another day. The 20th of October.Another incident. Another Bandh.. Another abuse of civil liberties. Another useless expression!

Have Bandhs served any purpose ever? Has anybody ever benefitted from a bandh? What is this thing called bandh really? Is it a democratic protest? Or is it a feudal injection into a democratic state? Is it sanity or insanity? Is it a silent protest or is it a surrender of innocents to the might of a handful ? How are bandhs allowed by an elected government? Or are they a governments' clandestine helplessness? Is the government machinery so weak to allow such abuse ? What does the common man have to do with a bandh? How will it serve the purpose for which it was called for?

The questions are many. The answers few or none. To my mind a bandh is the most useless yet violent and forceful protest by a handful of individuals who want to project an image of their might. How can a protest be made in a way that the common man suffers?

The people who proclaim these bandhs have never been arrested and charged. The question is why? How are they different from thieves and robbers and murderers? Which section of the constitution dont they trample upon? Which person can claim that they never suffered from a bandh? Yet a bandh and the people who call for a bandh go unpunished. Every time.

This is a blatant violation of the constitution right under the governments nose and the government does nothing about it.

The latest reason for a bandh in Goa on the 20th of October 2008, is due to the desecration of religious places. While the desecration needs to be condemned strongly, the citizens instead of asking for bandhs should form vigilant committees to keep a strong vigil all over Goa at odd hours at religious places. This would finally fructify in catching those culprits who are still at bay. Some time back the desecration was done to catholic crosses and now it is being done to Hindu temples. Certainly there seems to be an agenda of instilling hatred between communities by some very organized elements who are doing this quite methodically and need to be apprehended and served the punishment due.

However calling for a bandh is playing straight into the hands of these rogues whose only aim is to destabilize the country. How do they get affected with a bandh? Bandhs only destabilize the state and its resources putting the common man to hardship.

Those who get affected are the common people who miss out on their daily work, sick people who fail to get medical attention, people whose functions and occasions get disrupted, students whose schedules get disturbed, people whose appointments are cancelled, persons who had to leave abroad but fail due to the bandh… the list of the aggrieved is endless.

All these affected people will only voice their curses against the bandh callers. That is their reward.It is high time the common man adds the “bandh” into his list of protests just as the protests against the mega projects, garbage woes , regional plan, corruption etc.

Goa does not need a bandh to stage a protest. What it needs is a good vigilant system of lay common men
Love you Goa!
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