Wednesday, January 19, 2017

Will Madganvkars participate in the planning of their town?

By | 31 Dec, 2016, 07:08AM IST

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Margao has been the epicenter of many a worthy movement in the interest of Goa and its people. Right from 1890, when on 21st September, several people were killed during the infamous rigging of Municipal Elections, to the Lohia’s freedom movement  fifty-odd years later in 1946, to the various agitations, post-1961, for the preservation of our identity, culture and language, be it the Opinion Poll, the struggle for Konkani as official language, its inclusion in VIIIth Schedule of the Constitution and for Statehood, Margao and its surrounding villages played a very dominant and most effective role, which impacted the future of our State. Margao can boast of having been the cradle of people who achieved great heights and made Goa proud. But what is of utmost significance is that Margao was the seat of uneasiness with developments detrimental to Goans. 
Many of its citizens made a mark in Goa’s politico-social life. They were people who had the courage of their convictions and often refused to bow down to the dictates of erstwhile rulers. Their bold views were aired in Government Legislative or Administrative fora and in the Press, always in the interest of the welfare of the people of the State.  And to the surprise of many, the Portuguese, who could, at times, be ruthless, never cracked down on them, for they respected them for their character and integrity. In contrast, to-day this one-time cultural capital is in a state of upheaval and degradation. While social harmony among its communities sets an outstanding benchmark, the narrow-minded, corruption charged political meddling is the cornerstone upon which Margao and its environs, is meeting its waterloo – UNLESS WE MOVE NOW!!!
Margao is a town with a host of problems, the main ones being garbage, traffic and parking, with none of them being any close to a solution. It is disheartening that with a dynamic lady doctor at the helm of affairs, from whom much was expected, the city has hardly seen any improvement in these areas. The distasteful of sight of crawling traffic, two-wheelers being lifted, the elderly trying to hurriedly cross roads to avoid being hit by road rogues, will perhaps continue to be witnessed for many years to come, if the present inefficiency of the MMC is any indication.
At the moment, the Outline Development Plans (ODP) of Margao,  alongwith Ponda and Panjim, and many others are involved in controversy due to the haste in which they are proposed to be passed before the Code of Conduct comes into force, which is meant to curb the right to the Government to carry out major decisions meant to influence the voter in their favour and generating election funds. ODPs are literally meant to take a holistic view of the entire planning process of a city or a town. At the heart of the exercise, the people’s opinion has to be taken into account, their objections and suggestions sought, the opinion of the relevant Government entities, self governing bodies and municipal authorities elicited and so on. This requires significant deliberation, camaraderie and participation.  
Ashish Kamat & Avinash Tavares of United Goans Foundation need to be commended for obtaining a High Court stay on the haste and unscrupulous way in which the Margao and Ponda ODPs were sought to be approved and it is expected that some similar spirited citizens in Panjim and elsewhere will do likewise.
The entire Regional Plan of the State is flawed as the city ODPs have been deliberately kept out of its purview for no known sound reasons. Panchayati & Municipal Acts mandatory provision for preparation of Development Plan by the respective local bodies were mostly ignored. The TCP, which according to Parrikar, has mostly or only corrupt staff, and the PDAs have got used to bypassing elected bodies and acting as the sole authority to approve plans. In blatant contravention of Arts. 73 & 74 of the Constitution, which envisages people’s participation and without any consultation with local bodies, SGPDA prepared a Draft Plan.  
The Sub-Committee which is supposed to consist of technical and legal people but formed with hardly any such members was meant to hear only objections, (and not suggestions), as envisaged under the rules.  But eventually it accepted suggestions, which surely give rise to suspicions of underhand dealings with interested parties. The Plan, which was sought to be approved, was thus totally altered changed, with many settlement and commercial additions, increased FAR in an already highly congested city. Petrol pumps, which were sought to be shifted more than two decades ago, continue where they are also for very suspicious reasons though constituting a hazard and adding to congestion. No satellite markets are envisaged, except at Navelim, where incidentally foundation stone has been laid for a sports complex at the same site!!! While car parkings have been earmarked, the one behind MMC envisages a 10 m road to favor a builder, with grave reduction of parking space.  The proposed ODP is a total sham. The TCP Act clearly states that any changes in the plan must be in public interest. We cannot allow the ODP process to be reduced to a flipkart style flash sale of FAR while at the same time it is the duty of every citizen to participate in the planning exercise to ensure that this city develops while maintaining its cherished identity
The BJP supporters, who often accused, though rightly, Digambar Kamat of having done little or nothing for Margao as CM, have fallen silent. They have even forgotten Parrikar’s promise, soon after his election, to put Margao in order.   
God save Margao, if we citizens do not come together to deflate the evil designs of the Government and its henchmen.  
(The author is a retired Banker)