Saturday, January 30, 2010

Sonsoddo - Goa parallel

You get those Eureka moments sometimes. Especially when you stand downwind of Sonsoddo. The ripe smell gets into your brain and circulates thoroughly. The ever growing hill of garbage is there for all to see, but everyone turns their face away, or closes their eyes in disgust. Or spits. It’s right there but we do anything we can not to look at it.

The odour is a different matter. That, we cannot escape. We cover our noses with our handkerchiefs, dupattas, some of us insert our noses into our T-shirt collars. Yet all of us have contributed our mite to the garbage that now disgusts us so much. And then the Eureka moment hits: Sonsoddo is not just typical of the Goa condition. Sonsoddo is Goa.

The garbage keeps piling up, small amounts from everyone everywhere, dumped daily, adding to the mountain. Now you will say that I am talking about the garbage situation all over Goa. You would be wrong. I’m talking of Goa and the huge problem it has become. Not just the garbage; it’s the state of the State.

Goa is exactly like Sonsoddo. Not a garbage heap as yet, but a huge problem. The problem does not go away or lessen. It just sits there, growing bigger and bigger by the day. The government shows much activity, buzzing here, buzzing there, setting up committees, ministers making grand promises to settle the problem in “tree munts time”. The High Court gets into the act, passing stern orders that no one pays any attention to. NGOs jump in and get the people to stand up and shout. More scurrying around, more promises and the problem sits there getting bigger and bigger every day.

They begin to scatter tender notices like confetti. Behind the scenes their energy and single-minded commitment to bargaining for the heftiest commission is truly admirable. Once a percentage has been agreed upon, hey presto, the contract is awarded to whoever gives all concerned parties the highest commission.

Of course the company selected just cannot do it in that amount, so they put in terms and conditions as the project crawls along. Of course the government is shocked and says nothing doing. Result: the work comes to a halt. The contract is terminated; large compensation is awarded to the company. The government and the company are happy. The problem continues to sit there and gets bigger. Nothing has happened. Only large amounts of cash have changed hands. And the exercise to “deal” with the problem begins all over again.

More scurrying, more committees, more tenders, more commissions. The bank balances of the interested parties grow in direct proportion to the growth of the problem. The tender notices scream from all the national and local publications. This has added a new avenue for making quick cash.

Imagine a tender notice published by the CCP (Corporation of the City of Panaji) asking for interested parties to submit their application for beautifying the garden. The tender notices alone cost the taxpayer Rs 2,76,000. A decent garden could have been done in half that amount, using regular shade-giving plants and grass. Instead consultants are roped in. They are paid massive sums for something as simple as designing an already existent garden.

The CCP garden has been tendered and re-tendered and has now been reduced to a pile of mud. It is the same with the River Princess. It is the same with Sonsoddo. It is the same with the Regional Plan. Money, our money which could be used to desilt rivers and lakes, to improve the infrastructure, to improve the water supply, to check wastage of power, to fix bunds and help our beaten farmers, goes straight into the pockets of our montris and their cronies. Money, our money, goes into buying them and their families the latest electronic gadgets, expensive cars, holidays abroad, five-star hotel parties for their relatives and real estate in the best locations.

Study your representative, his underlings and family closely. It will be a learning experience showing you just how generous you are.

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