DISREGARDING the demand of the shopkeepers at the Panaji municipal market to shift the waste treatment plant located there, the Corporation of City of Panaji (CCP) has extended the contract of the party maintaining the plant till July. The contract expired on December 31, 2017 and it is mysterious why it was renewed for another seven months long after the expiry date. The shopkeepers wanted the facility to be shifted as they allege that some shopkeepers have died due to complications caused by the diseases due to the unhygienic conditions prevalent there. The shopkeepers had called upon the CCP authorities to close down the facility in seven days, failing which they would shut down their shops and stage a dharna. According to the shopkeepers, the mayor and the CCP market committee chief agreed with them that the facility was a health hazard and gave them an assurance to shift it elsewhere. However, the only concrete action the CCP took following the shopkeepers’ representation was to extend the contract of the party to whom the work of maintaining the facility is outsourced.
One of the main grievances of the market association is that because of the nauseating stench and unhygienic conditions prevalent due to the waste treatment facility, the number of customers who used to patronize the shops located near the waste treatment facility is falling. The market is infested with flies, mosquitoes and rats. Pestilence is a health hazard for customers who buy the stuffs that are lying at the stalls unprotected. Why only shopkeepers, the pestilence is a matter of concern to the people at large. It is not just the waste treatment plant and the vicinity that is filthy, unhygienic and breeder of pest. Practically the whole market is happy home to rats, mosquitoes and flies as the upkeep of the market is inadequate. The corridors and the walls of the market bear the testimony! Though boards have been displayed warning of action against those who litter, anyone can see waste thrown here and there. If stocktaking of the success of the Swachh Bharat campaign in Panaji has to begin, it should begin from the municipal market, where all the ‘healthy’ food the residents of the capital consume – vegetables, fruits, fish, etc – might in the final lab analysis be not so healthy after all.
But if you trust the (lack of) health consciousness of CCP commissioner Ajit Roy, the waste management facility cannot be moved as “bulk waste is required to be treated at the site of its generation”! Roy should be requested to go stand for an hour near the facility one morning and then narrate his experience to all of us. The sickening stench emanating from the facility has been as old as the facility, and yet no commissioner’s nose ever felt it! Roy also claims that the facility was working fine and complaints have ceased! According to him, government guidelines require waste treatment facility to be located at the site of generation of waste. Do the guidelines have nothing to say on how to successfully control the leachate, the stench and other pollutants and the pests? Inquiries by this newspaper found that the facility was not following the instructions of the Goa State Pollution Control Board. Should a bureaucrat consider his duty over once the guideline about the location of the plant is followed? What about the protection of the shopkeepers, the customers and the foodstuffs being sold there? Are there no guidelines about them? What has the CCP done to force the party maintaining the facility to adhere to the directives of the Goa State Pollution Control Board? Why do not bureaucrats ever think of how to make selling at and visiting the market a pleasant experience? Do bureaucrats not know that even foreign tourists come to the market? What image they will carry of Goa? That it is beautiful and fragrant?
The CCP authorities swear by the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan but they do not seem to have any true commitment. The Panaji market is unclean India in microcosm. And Panaji, we are told, is a Smart City! The CCP failure to keep the market clean and free from disease-causing risks goes to show that the authorities would go on just making loud claims of having ‘cleaned’ the city and having made it ‘smart’, but never really doing anything to bring about any fundamental difference. If the mayor, the commissioner and the market committee head of the CCP were really desirous of an applause for cleanliness, they should transform the market in such a way that if they kept a visitors’ book at its entrance, visitors would feel obliged to write well of them.