Sixth March 2012 will go down as the day the Goan electorate said enough is enough – you can’t fool all the people all the time. It was the day even sitting ministers lost the elections and scores of contenders lost their deposits. Even the victorious were stunned by the margin of their victory. Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar could hardly believe that his dream had come true. The people of Goa had given his party a clear mandate. As the dust and noise of celebrations dies down, so will the euphoria that follows this resounding, thumping, mixed blessing.
Parrikar may well say “It is not poverty that I suffer from but an embarrassment of riches.” To begin with, he has only 13 loaves and fishes to feed 26 hungry followers. The metallurgist must become a magician. Given the inner contradictions and differences of those sitting in the treasury benches, Parrikar has his work cut-out.
First are his tall financial promises. Rs 11 per litre off the price of petro by foregoing the state-imposed VAT, Rs. 1,000 to housewives per month to fight inflation. Increase in the dole from Rs. 1,000 to 2,000 for senior citizens. Rs. 300 crore per annum for tribal welfare. Filling of 2,500 backlog of vacancies. Rs. 3,000 to 4,500 per month under the minimum employment scheme. Rs. 250 crore per year for developing tourism. Rs. 400 crore per year for urban revitalisation plan. Upward revision of pension to artists and state awardees. Minimum support prices for paddy (Rs. 17), for milk (Rs. 30), for cashew (Rs. 90), for areca nut (Rs. 170), for sugarcane (Rs. 2,400). Chief Minister Rojgar Yojana to include owner-driven tourist taxis, distressed truck-operators, auto-rickshaws and mini-bus operators. Rs. 50 lakhs for self-help groups. Rs.100,000 for new brides over 18 years of age.
Parrikar is faced with a near-empty treasury, besides the loss of revenue from foregoing VAT of Rs. 11 per litre on petrol and a drastic slowdown in mining turnover. The government will have to raise revenues for financing 11 new bridges, including 6-lane new Zuari bridge, sewage solutions for entire Goa in 6 months and solving the garbage problems in 18 months using latest technologies.
Of course, we can resort to the well-tried and proven techniques of relying on short public memories. Our bureau-rats and techno-rats are confident that by the time you read this politically incorrect article, your copy of the ‘Highlights of the Election Manifesto’ is well and truly buried in some landfill or is burning at some garbage dump.
What happens when Parrikar reads his PAC report in conjunction with the Justice Shah report on mining in Goa and the Madhav Gadgil report on the ecological degradation of the Western Ghats? Given the crash in prices and in demand for Goan iron-ore, Parrikar is caught between a rock and a hard place. Especially when one sees the kind of revenue his government needs to raise in order to meet the demands of fulfilling his election manifesto promises.
Parrikar surely can’t look to his high-command for advice on this issue. Especially given the situation in MP and Karnataka where the ruling BJP leadership and the mining mafia are brothers in arms. Besides the liquor mafia, land mafia and stone mafia. Surely he may be forced to feed the Goan electorate on Yeddyurappa’s initials – B. S.
But Parrikar is resourceful. While we think he may be down in the dumps, he is on top of all the old ‘reject’ dumps. A billion tonnes awaiting shipment to China.
At Cuncolim industrial estate we have over a dozen ferroalloy smelting units. They use electrical furnaces of 7.5 to 15 M.W. capacity to produce products that do not have a market in Goa. Goa does not have the raw material. All the labour is out-of-state slum-dwellers. Goa imports 95 per cent of its electrical energy. These ferroalloy plants use it as the main input while stealing some of it. In the process they pollute our land, air and water. In the eco-sensitive midlands of Goa we have similar metallurgical units that melt scrap-metal to produce manhole-covers for European countries. In a tourist state of ‘Incredible India’, how do we reconcile this kind of ‘industrial development’? Maybe our B.Tech. I.I.T. metallurgical engineer of a CM knows the answer.
Tourism in Goa, Chief Minister needs your attention. When did ‘off-shore’ casinos become floating casinos so they can leave the sea and enter our rivers? What about the unwanted baggage of prostitutes, pimps, paedophiles, pick-pockets, drug-peddlers and child-pornographers? Is this local entrepreneurship or imported mafias or both? What about the extraterritoriality on some beaches usurped by Israeli and Russian Mafiosi-run enterprises? Make sure you don’t grant them MFN status. Their patrons are powerful including the criminals in uniform who re-circulate counterfeit currency and who re-cycle confiscated drugs.
Dear Mr. CM, we can already see the adverse impact of your decision to lower the price of petrol by Rs. 11 per litre. The consumption of petrol has shot-up in Goa and in neighbouring states which are being subsidised by your government. At whose cost? Air pollution has gone up and so has the number of road accidents. Petrol is being misused and the financial cost to Goa will exceed Rs. 200 crore per year. We could have used this amount for road-repair.
For your sake and ours, please stop running the state like a one-man-band. You are only supposed to be the conductor. Instead, you are beating the drums and clashing the cymbals. For how long can you handle the strings, wind, percussion... and conduct the music?
You can ride pillion on someone’s scooter and walk on the scaffolding of incomplete bridges only for so long. Get your other ministers involved and watch out for your cadres. At present you are in danger of suffering from a blurred image brought-on by over-exposure to the cameras of our ubiquitous, overzealous media-persons.
I hope you can control the lunatic fringes of the Sangh Pariwar. Keep down the ugly head of the Ram Sene, RSS, VHP, Bajrang Dal... They will wear you down and you, sir, will be faced, as CM, with the existential dilemma of the Prince of Denmark – ‘To be or not to be’.