CHIEF Minister Manohar Parrikar has assured the ruling legislators that the government will sanction Rs 25 crore each for undertaking plan and non-plan works through the public works department (PWD) in their constituencies by March 2018. The decision is aimed at speeding up developmental works in their constituencies. Accordingly the ruling coalition legislators would be able to take up PWD works. The Chief Minister has also announced that the funds for undertaking works proposed by the legislators would be sanctioned by the government on priority. The first installment of Rs 15 crore would be sanctioned by December 2017 so that the ruling legislators can begin their works immediately. The remaining Rs 10 crore would be released by March 31, 2018. The legislators would be able to undertake major works such as that of roads and water supply in their constituencies. The move is perhaps aimed at satisfying the grievances of those supporting the government and soothing their ruffled feathers.
Whatever might have been the reasons for the Chief Minister to announce special package for the ruling camp legislators, critics may say his announcement, when Assembly session has been called, could invite privilege motion against him. The Assembly is scheduled to meet for the winter session from December 13. The decision appears to be discriminatory with the ruling side having been given preference and the opposition sidelined at least for the moment. Rather than being seen as ‘partisan’ to the ruling side, the government could have extended the benefit of the new principle initiated by it to speed up developmental works to the opposition side legislators also as they too are public representatives. The Chief Minister has plans to hold meeting with the opposition legislators to discuss the matter. The government is duty bound to ensure that development is carried out all over the state without discrimination. It remains to be seen how the Chief Minister manages to strike a balance without inviting criticism of partisanship. Had he chosen to take the opposition MLAs along in the first place, the allegations of discriminatory attitude would not have been levelled. Discussing the issue with opposition members would not have looked like an afterthought.
The state government had almost a decade back mooted the idea of a Member of Legislative Assembly Local Area Development Fund scheme but there is no sign of it seeing the light of the day anytime soon. Such schemes have been made in some states, but for some reasons the same has not been drawn up in Goa. The government should formulate a scheme and allot funds to legislators. It would be non-discriminatory as every legislator, regardless of whether he or she belongs to the ruling camp or opposition, gets the right to use their funds, rather than using the route of getting the works executed through tedious PWD process. The announcement made by the Chief Minister to release Rs 25 crore each to ruling camp legislators may sound exciting. However, the implementing agency (PWD) would have to follow the same old route of getting approvals and tendering process, which is time consuming and riddled with red tape. It would require extra efforts by legislators to not only get the timely approvals but also get the works proposed by them completed in time. It would have been another matter had the government created a special entity with designated powers to fast-track the works.
It has been a long-standing practice in the state to ensure development of the constituencies represented by the ruling camp legislators and neglecting those represented by the opposition benches. However, open declaration that ruling camp legislators would get ‘special’ funds amounting to Rs 25 crore was uncalled for. MLAs in opposition in every Assembly have made accusations against the government of the day about spending and doing less on development works in their constituencies. The government of the day has to send a message across to people in constituencies represented by the opposition that they are not discriminatory; it may help them increase support for the ruling camp. The Chief Minister must take the initiative to allay the fears that the constituencies that elected opposition MLAs would be denied development funds. The opposition MLAs would have sufficient ground to arouse the people of their constituencies against government discrimination. The government of the day, no matter which party runs it, should not be selective but be just and non-discriminatory to people of all areas as government is for the whole state.