The earnest clamour of zero tolerance to corruption has long dimmed. Promises of efficient delivery and good governance are confronted with U-turns on key issues. And silence greets the raucous din of conservative right-wing elements slowly taking grip in Goa.
At the half-way mark of its five-year regime, Goa’s lacklustre Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led coalition government appears to be clinging on to a luminous buoy called Narendra Modi, in the hope that the prime minister’s novelty and chutzpah will keep its own credibility afloat.
After more than 900 days in power, the once impressive, no-nonsense visage of Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar has slipped, as the IIT-ian who briefly flirted with the ambition of being prime minister, saw his stock drop amongst the state’s intellectuals and civil society. Reason? His questionable handling of issues related to illegal mining, casinos, law and order and, more recently, his silence on the growing streaks of right-wing conservatism, both in his cabinet and outside of it.
In the present, one minister in the Goa cabinet, Ramesh Tawadkar (sports), has been charge-sheeted for rioting with arms, while Dilip Parulekar (tourism) is an accused in a land-grab and cheating case.
A legislative committee report had even indicted then state police chief (since transferred) Kishen Kumar calling him a police “kingpin” linked to Goa’s drug mafia. Interestingly, Parrikar has denied the very existence of a drug mafia, despite police raiding drug dealers and narcotics dens at least once every week for the last three years.
Three failed attempts to appoint commissioners to the State Information Commission have left aggrieved Goans without an immediate RTI appellate authority, causing a huge pendency in appeals. Leena Mehendale, the present RTI panel chief, has gone on record about the government’s apathy towards RTI. Goa has no Lokayukta (BJP’s poll manifesto promised a Lokayukta in 100 days) after a former Supreme Court judge appointed in March last year resigned some months back.
More such contradictions, including a U-turn on throwing offshore casinos out of Goa, have brought under cloud the government’s much avowed mantra of “zero tolerance” to corruption. Casinos, as an industry, have flourished under BJP rule, making the Goan electorate’s gamble to overwhelmingly vote for the party appear like a bad gamble.
Resumption and streamlining of Goa’s mining sector, banned due to a combination of corrupt policies of the Congress government and brinkmanship by the subsequent BJP regime, shows no signs of restarting.
Blatant efforts made by the Parrikar-led administration to bypass Narendra Modi’s poll manifesto’s promise to auction natural resources and instead renew mining leases to the same firms indicted for illegal mining worth billions of crore of rupees may further prolong the resumption of Goa’s multi-billion iron ore industry.
Tourism, a cash-rich sector which also lends profile to the state, has seen an increase in number of tourists, but has also seen a spate of high-profile controversies related to a series of tender allotments, inconsistencies in permissions to international dance music festivals and increasing social conflict between Russian tourists, the largest chunk of foreign visitors arriving in Goa, and locals.
Repeated assurances to rid Goa of garbage, an eyesore vis-a-vis tourism, within a year have come a cropper.
The one bright spot, partnering with Goa-oriented Bollywood film “Finding Fanny” to promote Goa Tourism, brought welcome relief in the recent times, which were otherwise dogged with criticism about foreign junkets worth Rs. 13 crore plus, since March 2012 and seemingly illogical calls for a ban on Goa’s pubs, bikinis and miniskirts by right-wing elements within the government and outside of it.
Efforts to rein in uncontrolled real estate development by bringing in the promised land-use plan have not even started, forcing public speculation in civil society as well as the opposition about a powerful real estate lobby at work.
Of course there were exceptions to the sloppy rule. Rape accused, former Tehelka editor-in-chief Tarun Tejpal, is testimony to that exception. The arrest of Tejpal was an all but brief illustration of how a government, if it wills, can make systems work.
The biggest pre-poll promise of slashing petrol price by Rs. 11 was an innovation which brought in the initial kudos, so were the many dole-oriented schemes for housewives and senior citizens. Counselling of students in schools in the face of increasing student suicides betrayed a brief glimpse of that vision which Parrikar had once promised to unleash.
There is no merit in writing an epitaph of a person or a government which has lived half and has a half more to live. But if one were to carefully track the footprints in the Goan sand for the 900 plus days gone by, it does paint a “grave” picture.
(The views expressed by the writer are personal)