The high-pitched campaign for Panjim has ended, and the residents of the State capital now have a period of quiet contemplation to decide who to vote for on Sunday.
After a long gap, Panjim resounded with the sound of election campaign vehicles trundling through the streets seeking votes for the candidates. There are six candidates, but four that matter, two of them former MLAs and two seeking to make their debut in the Legislative Assembly. The choice shouldn’t be too hard to make. Panjim needs a MLA who will work for and with the constituents making sure that the city gets a new look, a modern makeover that it has been lacking. This is the capital city of Goa, it has to look like one too.
Is Panjim going to forever wear the drab look of a bride jilted by her fiance and shorn of all her finery? Or will this quaint little city smile again when injected with fresh blood that will give it the boost that it requires most? A look at the manifestoes of the candidates is a stark reminder that Panjim has seen little improvement in the past. The candidates still talk of garbage management, footpath renovation, cleaning the St Inez and Ourem creeks, parking facilities, making the city open defecation free. Sadly, these are the priorities. In the year 2019, the aspirations of Panjim’s constituents should have been a lot different. Shouldn’t Panjimites have been looking for something that would enrich their lives, give them a cleaner and greener environment?
The city that completed 175 years recently, nestles on the banks of the River Mandovi, that uncomplainingly bears the weight of the casino vessels, river cruise boats, passing barges and ferries. Similarly, the city too silently absorbs the pressure of mushrooming edifices, numerous vehicles running on its roads with their exhaust fumes polluting the atmosphere, and a citizenry that awaits the day this will change. Panjim should have been hoping that it transforms into a better place by reducing the traffic on its streets, which can be achieved by improving the public transport system, and also a city for the senior citizens and those with special needs to walk in. But, these are issues that have never been on the planning board of the city planners.
Today, as Panjim debates the stationing of the offshore casinos in the River Mandovi, moving them out of the river is one of the promises made by three of the candidates, except the BJP nominee. Finding an aternative place for the casinos has been a task that this governemnt and the previous one have been incapable of achieving. As a result, the government has been extending the stay of the casinos in the river every six months. The current extension is valid till September 30 this year. Will the new MLA of Panjim, who will be elected on Sunday, be able to ensure that there is no further extension? If the offshore casinos are relocated, Panjim’s traffic flow will ease considerably.
Though there may be no study on the number of vehicles that enter Panjim due to the casinos, the two-wheelers and four-wheelers parked every night from the General Post Office to the Azad Maidan on MG Road, and from the ferry wharf to the new Patto bridges on DB Marg, are an indication of the congestion caused by the casino-related traffic. Do the residents of Panjim want this to continue?
When Panjimites leave their homes on Sunday and make their way to the polling booth, they will have to vote to save the city from the unmindful development it has witnessed in the past. It needs somebody who can plan for it with a vision for the future, where development includes world class education and a city to be proud of.