Monday, May 9, 2011

Three Years of Political Fire Fighting

Three Years of Political Fire Fighting


THE government led by the Chief Minister, Mr Digambar Kamat would complete three years tomorrow. Amazingly, these three years witnessed robust state GDP growth, buoyant revenue income and record spurt in bank deposits.
Many a times even good work of the government is masked when peoples’ simple, basic expectations are not fulfilled.
In evaluating any government’s performance, I would give top priority to the leaders’ vision, quality of cabinet team work, rule of law, prudent financial management, responsive, corruption free governance, innovative and people friendly legislative, policy and administrative reforms, willingness to decentralise and share powers and resources and the overall perception of the people about the government as either ‘caring’ or ‘hostile’.
Passing Marks
The government may publish its’ official report card highlighting its’ claims of excellent all round performance, but I would give it just passing marks. The government has failed to implement a large part of its’ promised 2007 assembly election manifesto. It has not cared to look at priorities of UPA government at centre. It has lagged behind in fundamental policy and legislative reforms.
One example is the lack of seriousness over the Lokayukta Bill and the much promised, long-pending Goa State Human Rights Commission. The term of the law commission may be over even before it manages to see a single good legislation passed in the assembly. The dynamics of politics and governance is radically changing in Goa and even if a new combination comes to power there is very little chance that it would be able to eliminate the termites which are devouring the state. My analysis shows that the forces from Goa’s parallel economy which patronise the major political parties have been influencing the decision making process of the state and the CM has been merely a spectator despite clear directions from central Home Minister, Mr Chidambaram after the attack on Mumbai. He had ordered the state chief ministers to crush the local mafias with a heavy hand. But as the incidents of past three years indicate the mafias have gained in strength. The Mumbai underworld has been allegedly making heavy benami investments in Goa. A police officer in uniform sworn in the name of the Constitution need not fear anyone in doing his duties. But what’s the image of Goa’s police force in the past three years?
The three years have been spent by the CM and his party in political fire fighting. There had been at least half a dozen attempts to change the leadership and destabilise the government. The CM has been totally let down by his cabinet colleagues on many counts. Not a month has passed without any controversy or a new scandal. The government has worked as if there are many chief ministers. The government spent Rs 40 crore on IT habitat on Dona Paula plateau and then the whole project is held at ransom as if the hurt ego of an individual is more important than the priorities of the state.
Non-Assertive Non-Entity
I could not understand why assets of the expensive new hospital at Mapusa should lie unutilised and why the most important casualty ward of Goa Medical College should take such a long time to be renovated. Mapusa is going to be a problem town soon, owing to its’ continued neglect and very haphazard growth. Recently I urged the CM to personally visit Mapusa and help in resurrection of the city, the economic heart of Bardez and north Goa. It is now quiet clear to me that officers around him are not up to the mark and the CM’s office itself has been reduced to a non-assertive non-entity. You really don’t know whom to put up a grievance or send a suggestion.
Suggestions and proposals made purely in public interest and sent by e-mail are not allowed to reach the CM. Those who do this are surely the planted agents of Goa’s parallel economy afraid to see any radical change. They surround the CM and the influential members of the cabinet and filter any independent idea or suggestion. They change loyalties overnight with every regime change. The special wing of home department needs to keep a discrete watch on the connections of all the extra constitutional persons frequenting the corridors of power and have access to official files and notings. Unfortunately when people have expectations they believe that the government would be clean, free and without any infiltrators. But this is not the case.
A Profitable Business
During the past three years politics has become a profitable business. All types of suspicious elements-from Russian mafia to Israeli drug dealers are buying political space and influence for sanctification. The cabinet has also failed to stand up solidly on issues of morality. The culture of gambling has been officially patronised. The CM has been spending disproportionate time in symbolic and ceremonial events where his presence is not really required. He needs to spend more time on high priority developmental issues.
During the two months of International film festival (IFFI) the entire administration slows down. Independent and objective studies would establish that the expenditure on IFFI has been totally unproductive. Goa would miss nothing if IFFI is not held at all. ESG can develop film culture on its’ own with small budget. But IFFI has been an income generator for politically well connected interests and that’s how public funds are siphoned liberally through such private conduits. What’s the future of this three year old government?
People are unhappy and angry. Government officers have become rude and insensitive. Next two years would see agitations by project affected people over Mopa airport and sports city. How government would handle these issues? It is a shame that in such a small state we need a ‘flying squad’ in the small non forest areas when the local talathi and police are mandated to do the required watchdog job. It is the corruption in the administration which has emboldened the violators of laws.
The CM had the opportunity, the mandate and the power but most of the time was spent in political firefighting. He had shown examples of good leadership when Canacona floods tested the administration. He personally commissioned and monitored the monumental anti flooding works at Bicholim and Sanquelim. The graph of his personal popularity may fluctuate but he still has the full support of the high command and UPA leadership. With such support it is possible to steer the state in the right direction in the next two years. A cabinet reshuffle and careful redistribution of portfolios is the need of the hour without which the government would not run efficiently. The CM’s office has to be prompt, efficient, and responsive and people friendly. People expect a positive, qualitative improvement in administration. They need to be heard and respected.

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