PANJIM: The gloves are off with the infighting between BJP leaders reached the cabinet.
Heated arguments were witnessed between Deputy Chief Minister Babu Ajgaonkar and Ports Minister Michael Lobo over the proposal to hand over the redeveloped Aguada Central Jail to M/s Drishti Lifesavings Private Limited for its management, operation, and maintenance. In the process, the proposal was deferred for the next cabinet meeting.
Lobo took strong objection to the proposal of the Department of Tourism to hand over the Aguada Central Jail for management, operation, and maintenance for an annual fee of Rs 1.20 crore.
However, Ajgaonkar strongly defended the proposal stating that all the legal requirements have been adhered to before finalising the proposal.
After the cabinet meeting, Lobo fired a salvo at Ajgaonkar stating that he smells a rat in the proposal which can eventually lead to the historic monument going into the hands of a private party. He said that the annual fee of Rs 1.2 crore that the government will earn from the transaction is extremely low compared to the potential at this historic monument that was renovated and redeveloped by the Central government by spending Rs 35 crore.
“Aguada Jail cannot be given out lock, stock, and barrel to Drishti. Only cleaning, maintaining, and light and sound show can be given out and not ticketing,” he said.
Lobo also questioned the paltry annual revenue of Rs 1.20 crore from the Drishti, saying he would give this money for a month.
Ajgaonkar refuted that there was any wrongdoing in the contract and that the government will cancel the contract if any fraud was noticed. He said that M/s Drishti Lifesaving Private Limited was the highest bidder and the tender was only for its management, operation, and maintenance of only the lower fort where Central jail was located and not for the management of the upper fort. They (Drishti) cannot print tickets as they like or make money as they like, he said while allaying the fears expressed by Lobo.
According to Lobo, Chief Minister Pramod Sawant and Deputy Chief Minister Babu Kavalekar were convinced by his fears with regard to the proposal and decided to defer the proposal to select the agency