THE inevitable was happening. More than governance, it is the debates on leadership, or rather replacement of it, that appeared to have taken over Goa for the last fortnight or so with the buzz of rumour mills of the social media at top decibels!
It is such a relief now that the captain of the ship, Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar has come back to the state. It is deeply heartening to note that he is doing fine – that is what we all prayed for!
However, there is no denying that governance has taken a hit.
Owing to ministers being sick, at least 14 major departments have seen hardships, some thankfully are over, some continue. Amongst them were the all-important departments of home, finance, personnel, general administration, education, PWD and transport, urban development, law and judiciary, power and social welfare. I am just speaking of a structure – nothing specific of an individual. I have, in my heart, all the respect and all best wishes for the sick for a fast get-well! But when a minister is away, the secretary cannot – in our democracy – take care of a portfolio; the elected executive (the cabinet) is responsible for policies and reporting and the bureaucracy is responsible for implementation and controls.
One shall not do the other’s job – that is not good governance. It is not also a healthy practice, of unwell leaders chairing official meetings on video – more than anything else it is unfair to the indisposed – I say – they must have rest for themselves for their recuperation! But the organisation has to move on, that is a sound practice!
Unfortunately, the plate happens to be full on the agenda of the state government. I will mention a few of these.
The first – the government was to come out with a casino policy by the “end of August” – so was the Vidhan Sabha assured in its last session. The “ides of march” came and went! No signs of the casino policy. Then, a certain “tourism master plan”, for which an international consortium of Dutch and Spanish consultants was engaged, and which was to be ready by May 2015, again is still to see the light of the day. Wait for another four months, we are told, which well means this season is as good as lost! There were great tourism opportunities from seaside-bound international tourists (harshly stated on selfish grounds) on the account of the recent floods in Kerala – Goa perhaps lost an opportunity!
My next point is the recent award from the Mahadayi (Mhadei) Water Disputes Tribunal. There are serious issues of controls to be embedded by the state through the proposed Mahadayi Water Management Authority. For example, the controls on the diversion of water from the basin for the Kalasa and Banduri projects and for farmlands, or the non-consumptive withdrawals for the hydel power are points needing stringent controls. And there has to be strategy and technology in place, as also a strategy on Supreme Court’s likely intervention at the behest of the Karnataka government. I am sure somebody is working on this – we are unaware of a progress however.
The next big-ticket agenda – where our performance for the last six years has been dismal – is the power ministry. Fifty-five per cent of the consumer complaints are perennially pending, Seventy per cent of the applications for connections are on shelves and more than Rs 200 crores of collections are in arrears, so state reports! We were to get Rs 1,700 crore from the Centre to put the house in order – wonder when the money is coming and who is working on these plans!
Panaji’s poor scores
The next point is Panaji’s poor scores in the ‘Ease of Living Index 2018’ of the Union ministry of housing and urban development. We stood at 90th position out of 111 cities in India – and we emerged extremely poor in areas like health, economy, employment, transport and mobility, land-use, housing, water supply and inclusiveness.
There has to be plans, time (and money) for this.
My next concern is the completion of the three expensive projects viz., the new Zuari bridge, the new Mandovi bridge and the two grade separators at the Dabolim airport – in all Rs 4,000 crore of taxpayers’ money in delay mode!
The last point in my list is about corrective actions due, following the CAG report on state government’s financial controls. The CAG reports leakages of Rs 550 crore of public funds in the lackadaisical implementation of social welfare schemes. If our costly funds suffer leakages of this magnitude, will not there arise serious questions on accountability, recovery and punishments as per law. (That year we borrowed Rs 1,500 crore afresh and paid Rs 1,200 crore on total interest.)
The CAG has also pointed out poor quality of MIS and financial reporting – a point I have been repeatedly highlighting through these columns – I wonder who in the government is setting things right! These are systemic failures and call for urgent attention.
I think our ministry needs adequate redesign (not increase in numbers), so that too much is not expected of a single person and too little of another. Now that home affairs, general administration, finance and education will be adequately attended to, alternative arrangements need to be made for urban development, power and social welfare. I presume we have built enough good leaders in our system by now to take the challenge up!