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Cabinet Advisory Committee Is Groping In The Dark

Unwarranted statements by a few ministers and MLAs belonging to the ruling coalition have a tendency to create an impression among the public that all is not well with the governance during the absence of Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar. It is true that governance in the state is facing a situation without precedent, as the Chief Minister had never been away for such a long time. However, they have to appreciate that he is ill, and being ill is a very human condition: it can happen to anybody. He has gone abroad for treatment and is expected to be back next month. He has set up a mechanism of governance with a cabinet advisory committee comprising three ministers to discharge pending and emergent duties. The state government immediately faces the grim scenario of mining shutdown leading to loss of income to the businessmen and workers dependent on mining. What is the need for making so much fuss as to call it an emergency situation? The empowered ministers should deal with the challenge innovatively. They should have a plan ready to meet the crisis. However, the ruling coalition appears to be a disunited house with their legislators speaking in different tones and tenors to get better of each other.

The cabinet advisory committee has met only once since it was constituted, that too informally, and has not taken any decision, though it has been given powers to approve works costing up to Rs 5 crore. The first task of the committee should have been to decide on measures to minimize the adverse economic, political and social impact of mining shutdown. Rather than addressing the critical issue, members of the committee have been playing a game of one-upmanship. The MGP (Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party) declared that the party would remain a part of the government as long as Parrikar was the Chief Minister or if their leader PWD Minister Sudin Dhavlikar was made Chief Minister. There was also the bravado from the MGP that they were ready for elections any time. Goa Forward Party leader and Agriculture Minister Vijay Sardessai criticized the MGP statements. Bharatiya Janata Party MLA Michael Lobo made a statement that he wanted central ministers Nitin Gadkari and Narendra Singh Tomar to come to Goa to solve the mining issue. His fellow MLA Nilesh Cabral declared there was no governance in the state in the absence of Parrikar.

The members of the cabinet advisory committee are busy scoring political points against each other. What they are giving is mere rhetoric and no solution to the people who are facing the spectre of joblessness and no income from mining shutdown. The committee members would be gaining no public goodwill by suggesting that they cannot do anything for them because the Chief Minister is away. For, it is known that Parrikar is available for consultation and granting approvals in case the cabinet advisory committee needs it. The committee members can always approach Parrikar for a solution to the mining shutdown crisis. The committee has several options, but none of them seems effective. One, it could get an ordinance promulgated to get past the Supreme Court order on mining shutdown. The central government is not very keen on this option. Two, the state government could explore the possibility of filing a petition in the Supreme Court to at least seek extension of shutdown deadline till the end of the current mining season. So far, there is no sign of the state government mulling over this option. Three, the state government should make a considerable allocation for financially supporting mining dependants, as it did during the last long mining shutdown.

With the closure of mining looming large, all eyes are on the cabinet advisory committee. People expect them to find a solution. The committee has held no meeting. No agenda has been prepared for a meeting of the committee, even though many issues are pending decision.  The members of the committee should sink their differences and put aside their egos and sit down to draw up a rational and optimal strategy to meet the extraordinary situation arising out of the mining shutdown. They should put up their proposals to the Chief Minister for his advice. As leaders of parties in alliance swear loyalty to Parrikar, the best way to prove their loyalty to him would be to work unitedly and intervene quickly with his approval during his absence. After all, the special situation the governance in the state faces is expected to continue till Parrikar returns after treatment. The members of the cabinet advisory committee have an opportunity to prove their worth by thinking out of the box and implementing their proposals effectively with Parrikar’s approval during his absence.

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