Surendra Furtado is an angry man, a man betrayed. The former Mayor of Panjim still can’t believe that the Government of India plans to build a Multimodal Logistics Park (MMLP) in Panjim and his own Corporation has no knowledge of it. “We had no land to sort and clean our own garbage. We kept on begging to the current Panjim MLA during his tenure as Defence Minister to free defence land in Panjim for building multilevel parking within the city but he wouldn’t do that. Panjim doesn’t have or get land enough to have its own infrastructure, why are we building this ridiculous gigantic facility when Panjim itself won’t be in this business and some outsiders will run their logistics business activities?” he wonders aloud. Furtado’s shock and loathing is a growing trend that may soon be shared by a growing number of Ponjekars/Panjimites when the truth about yet another highfalutin infrastructure (the MMLP) rears its ugly head over the already creaking city.
Multilevel parking that isn’t utilised whereas the city becomes a battleground for parking. River jetties meant for the common man that became the parking lots for casino giants. The list of infrastructure that was meant for someone else but was sold to Panjimites as their own, grows every day. Whatever happened to the Smart City?
In 2004 when the then Chief Minister and local MLA of Panjim brought the International Film Festival of India to Goa’s capital as its permanent venue, none of their residents knew how their city would transform and get impacted. Those were the days when the offshore casinos had not swamped the city’s parking spaces and the city could yet breathe safely. Fifteen years later, the city is anything but smart. Caught in the political cross wires of a BJP Supremo and a UGDP turned BJP turned Congress turned Goa Forward one, the city couldn’t have been dumber as there seems no resistance to mindless projects. What the MMLP has brought to the fore is that the development of Panjim happens at the whims and fancies of a man or few men and there is no role for the city’s citizens and other stakeholders.
The website of India’s Smart Cities Mission lists under the process of selection of smart cities, the fact that “The Smart City Proposal (SCP) will also outline the consultations held with the city residents and other stakeholders, how the aspirations are matched with the vision contained in the SCP”. Forget how many of an average citizen of Panjim participated in the fate of their city, the Smart City Movement in Panaji obsessed with high-tech gadgetry (smart cards, CCTV, GPS et-all) and facile makeup (beautification drives of footpaths with no application of mind to stormwater disposal), seems to have missed the basics. No one told the Ponjekars how the wooden bridge in mangroves will create environmental awareness and a tourist spot when adjoining mangroves are cut or land is reclaimed on both sides of Panjim-Merces road? How a Rs 189 crore CCTV project is going to benefit citizens in parking (when there are inadequate parking slots), traffic movement (when roads are narrow with both side parking), utilisation of parking lot (with less than 10% utilisation in last 1 year)?
The dictionary meaning of smart for a place is ‘upmarket and fashionable’. However, colloquially smart would mean to us “having or showing a quick-witted intelligence”. Panjim shuttles between both. The Smart City managers are bent on making it look upmarket and fashionable but the developments lack intelligence. Though the CCP and Imagine Panaji Smart City Development Limited wouldn’t admit this, the fact remains that all the stakeholders in the development of Smart City Panjim have not been consulted. The local PWD including its roads and sewerage section, the local Electricity Department, BSNL, Fire Services, the local branch of Transport Department, the local Member of Parliament, even the various Corporators of Panjim and most importantly its residents have found a place in the plans for the city’s future.
Call it lackadaisical interest in the city affairs or most likely a hush-hush job to deny its citizens the right to know what is cooking for his city, the fact remains that the champions of Panjim are lying and hiding plans from their citizens. The Multimodal Logistics Park is just another new menace that has just been hauled upon them.