The beaches may be clean today, but the process of awarding the contract to clear the beaches of garbage appears to be not all that unsoiled. There was in the past an allegation of a beach cleaning scam that is yet to be cleared, and we are now looking at what could possibly be the beginning of another scam. We have here in Goa a situation that could possibly get an entry into Ripley’s Believe It Or Not compilation. The tender for the beach cleaning contract that was floated in November 2018 was worth Rs 55 crore, an eye-popping figure that defies logic, as it is three and a half times more the amount that was paid out in the previous contract.
This is an amount that has been questioned by the opposition MLAs, and even by legislators belonging to the ruling coalition. It leads to a number of questions – How was the figure arrived at? Where are the checks and balances in the process? Hasn’t the government learnt from one alleged scam that it has to be extra cautious with the other tender?
Tourism is now the economic mainstay of the State, and cleanliness of the beaches is imperative for its future growth. But this is coming at a massive cost of Rs 55 crore a year that is being paid for by the people of the State, many of who don’t even visit the beaches. Goa’s bitter experience of dirty beaches and spending in crores of rupees annually to clean the sands has to be relooked at. The State cannot and should not be paying out that much to clean up after the tourists. We keep being told that Goa will be garbage free by a certain date and that the laws required to make the State garbage free will notified, but that doesn’t happen. All that happens is that the deadlines just keep getting postponed.
The messy manner in which the government has gone about in this issue is visible on how, a month into the current tourism season, the beach cleaning services being undertaken by a temporary agency were stopped, before being taken up again after government intervention. Ironically, the temporary agency that was roped in to undertake the beach cleaning in December 2016 is still doing it, even over two years later, which indicates the seriousness with which the government has taken this service. The seriousness appears to be only in the amounts to be paid to the contractor and not in the service rendered.
When Drishti, that is currently cleaning the beaches, had stopped services in November last, the government had promised a permanent solution to the issue at the earliest. Three months later that solution is still not visible, as the financial bids of the tender that was floated are yet to be opened. This is the third season with a temporary arrangement, as the promised permanent solution isn’t yet visible. Ironically, the temporary arrangement itself had required some ‘interim arrangements’ when Drishti had stopped clearing up the beaches, due to a delay in the government extending their contract. There really appears to be a lot of cleaning up required at the government level, before the beaches can be kept clean.
Such laxity on the part of the government leads one to wonder how the State chugs along, when even very simple decisions as appointing a contractor to clean the beaches can take years to come. When they are eventually taken, there are questions raised over the process that further delays and derails it, as is happening with the current tender. It is unlikely that the new beach cleaning contractor will commence services before the end of the current tourism season, which means that the elusive permanent solution will still evade Goa.