Highway to hell
The deteriorating condition of the highways in Goa is a cause for extreme concern, there is often no guarantee that if a man ventures out in the morning in his vehicle, he will return safely home in the evening. The government seems to have no control over the contracting agencies executing roadworks, and to make matters worse there is no accountability on part of the sarkari engineers overseeing these projects.
A report of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways highlighted the fact that in 2019, 3440 accidents were recorded in the State of which 1160 were due to bad roads resulting in 66 fatalities. Contractors have so much leeway in Goa that they don't even deign to respond to complaints or showcause notices issued by elected representatives.
Potholed roads which become swimming pools during the monsoons courtesy poor material used, badly designed highway curves and encroachments have become the bane of our existence and result in serious injuries or needless deaths of road users. The PWD and the contractors toss the ball in each other's courts to disclaim responsibility, sometimes even the stringent clauses of the defect liability period in the contract document are not invoked to bring the agencies to heel and make them repair substandard work.
It is an open secret that the contractors and the PWD are hand in glove, public safety be damned. Our roads are virtually 'Highways to Hell'.
Rekha Sarin, Benaulim
Covid deaths, disturbing figures
Goa has reported four Covid-19 deaths for the third consecutive day on Tuesday. With this, 19 deaths due to the virus have been reported in the State in the past five days. These are disturbing figures for a small State like Goa. It may be recalled that a few days back Mumbai had reported zero death in a day due to Covid-19. In Karnataka too the positivity rate is on the decline. However Goa’s weekly case positivity rate has been on the rise with 2.1 per cent in North Goa as compared to 1.4 in South Goa in the week gone by.
In Goa fatality has been reported even among young people. With the State having all facilities available to treat the Covid-19 in place including availability of oxygen, the death figures come as a surprise. Schools in Goa have reopened. However, it is learnt that a school in Bicholim was forced to shift its first term examination from offline mode to online mode after a class X student tested positive for Covid-19 infection. The exams for the remaining papers will now be conducted in online mode.
It is pertinent to note that a month back Kerala had seen a surge of Covid-19 positive cases. Experts had said that it could have been the third wave in that State. Hopefully Goa is not witnessing the start of the third wave. The government needs to find out the reason for the deaths occurring due to the virus and take necessary preventive measures.
Adelmo Fernandes, Vasco
National Highway Act 1956 (46 of 1956) is the law that governs toll tax in India. Accordingly, the National Highways Fee (Determination of Rates and Collection) Rules 2008 has explicit provisions on determining why, how, when, and who, has to pay the tolls at toll plazas spread across the country. People of the country are not loathe to pay sometimes high -- toll fees as long as the process of collection of payment is quick, transparent and smooth.
Often, the arrogance of workers manning the toll booths and hot headed vehicle owners alike have not helped matters by their temper. However, stubborn politicians and officers are complicating matters. Legislators are piqued about being asked to produce their identity cards at the booths. This provision prevents unscrupulous elements, masquerading as legislators, from hoodwinking the toll plaza workers. Many dignitaries are exempted from paying toll fees in India. Top constitutional functionaries like the President, Prime Minister, Governor, Chief Justice and Judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts, Chief Minister and ministers of the state, members of parliament and members of legislatures are some of the dignitaries.
They want special privileges, and they were assured by the state transport minister in the recently concluded legislative assembly that they will be permitted to use the lane earmarked for ambulances. If the demand is met in writing by the government, legislators may have to face the wrath of the common man who finds himself inordinately held-up at the tolls. The legislators who call themselves "servants of the people" should know that waiting at the booth is not humiliating.
Ganapathi Bhat, Akola
40% tickets for women in UP
Congress General Secretary Priyanka Gandhi Vadra announced that 40% of tickets will be reserved for women in the upcoming elections in Uttar Pradesh. This announcement is a much needed breather for the women in the most populous State of the country.
In reserving tickets to women, the party has sought to acknowledge and dispel the gender disparities that exist in the State. However, it would be great if other parties also follow the Grand Old Party's model of reserving a huge share of tickets for women. Only then will women feel strong and make great strides in public life.
Anish Esteves, Mumbai
Evasion of GST and Income Tax
There are reports that many banquet halls demand in cash for holding functions to evade GST and thus in turn Income Tax also. It should be made compulsory for each banquet-hall to submit complete details of functions held there to some authority to be especially set up for the purpose. Simultaneously all those conducting functions including marriage-celebrations should also file details of celebrations with the same authority.
Specially developed software can match the data, and catch hold of those filing false returns. This data by the suggested authority can be shared with Income Tax Department and GST authorities. Even marriage-cards should have print-number of cards and other details about marriage-celebrations as decided by the authority suggested where functions-details are to be filed.
Perhaps a single reasonable GST-slab of 10% replacing 3, 5, 12 and 18 per cent can curb tendency of tax-evasion. Provision of tax-evading Input-Tax-Credit then can be abolished from manufacturing and service sector thus resulting in increased ultimate tax-collection. However a higher slab of 30% can replace that of 28% for items to be used for long. Cess can also be in multiples of 30% for simplification.
Madhu Agrawal, Delhi
MLAs and debating issues in Assembly
For the current Goa MLAs it was their last session of the Legislative Assembly. We elect legislators to debate issues concerning the people and to enact good laws. The Assembly is the democratic forum where elected representatives must hold debates on matters that affect the people. It should afford an opportunity for discussion on intricacies of government policy and to enact good new legislations. Debates are designed to assist MLAs to reach an informed decision on a subject.
As any legislation that is enacted has far reaching effects on the State and its people, there must be thorough debate on the pros and cons of every law that is contemplated. Every session of the Legislative Assembly has to be fruitful in the interest of the State and not merely a cosmetic exercise. Over the last five years we have seen the ignoring of aspirations and best interests of the people.
Aires Rodrigues, Ribandar