GoaChronicle.com spoke with the vice-president and spokesperson of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and also NRI Commissioner in the government on the nine months of performance of the new regime, in his truthfulness he admits that corruption still continues…
GC: Post the release of the Shah Commission report BJP demanded that its government take to task those indicted and even file FIR against former chief ministers Pratapsingh Rane and Digambar Kamat, so far no action has been taken by the government?
WM: The state government has constituted the Khandeparkar Committee to analyze the findings of the Shah Commission report and suggest further action that would need to be taken against those perpetrators of the illegal mining scam. Any action on part of the government has been kept on hold since the matter is in the Supreme Court. To the best of my knowledge the Khandeparkar Committee has not yet started working fully on their brief.
GC: But what has the Khandeparkar Committee have to do with the Supreme Court case; since the NGO approached the apex court to stop mining and transportation of iron-ore. Shouldn’t the SC’s interim order be better for the government to act on the illegalities of the Shah Commission report?
WM: I do agree that the Shah Commission report has put the onus of taking action on the state government. But let us look at the example of Karnataka, where the matter was referred to the Supreme Court who then stepped in to stop the illegal mining. Since the matter is in court let’s wait for their decision on the issue. Through the case the SC could decide on those who have committed illegal mining.
GC: Then what is the role of the Khandeparkar Committee that the government has commissioned. And what has the Supreme Court got to do with those who have committed illegal mining, since the case was on stoppage of illegal mining and transportation of ore. Shah Commission already points the companies and officials in the illegal mining scam?
WM: (Quiet for sometime) I would need to get more information on the current status on this issue. But to the best of my knowledge the Khandeparkar Committee has not started working according to their brief. As far as the FIR is concerned, I agree that the Chief Minister did commit to a date, but we do not want to do anything in haste and want to present a water-tight case. Today, anyone can file an FIR and get the police investigate into it, but that may not be full-proof. If that’s what you want the government to do, then we can do it.
GC: Let me correct you there Dr Mesquitha, neither did GoaChronicle.com nor the people of Goa give the dates for the FIR it was the Chief Minister who announced the dates?
WM: I agree that the CM did. But isn’t strange in his previous tenure, he went after the corrupt ministers and the very same people termed him as a Hitler – playing vendetta politics. And today when he is taking time, people are insinuating that the government does not act on its commitments. So what if October 10 extends to November 10 or December 10, we are committed to booking the guilty and I am confident that our government will not disappoint the people on this issue.
GC: Zero-Corruption is the main mantra of the BJP and its government. But certain actions of the government are questioning that very same mantra?
WM: Zero-corruption is our mantra. But unfortunately here is a fact, corruption in the state still exists even though it is our government. It is entrenched into the system in the state, especially at the bureaucratic levels. Let me also add this point that it will be difficult to remove or eradicate corruption; and I personally feel that it will be an arduous task for the Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar to put in order and I don’t know how he plans to achieve it. Corruption and corrupt practice exists at all levels across departments, giving bribes and taking bribes still continues.
GC: You mean to say that so far corruption exists in the government offices and the government is aware?
WM: Of course it exist and the government is aware of it. And as much as it is the government duty to curb it, it is also the people duty to stop paying the bribes. In Goa the peculiar part is that it is the Goans who harass fellow-Goans for bribes. You must be surprised that I am accepting it. But it is important to accept the fact and go about correcting wrong that has been left on us by the erstwhile government.
GC: I am not denying that the Congress government gave corruption a new definition in the state. But isn’t it not cliche for a new government to put the blame of the corrupt practices on the erstwhile government?
WM: Corruption is a milder term to be used against the erstwhile government. They have betrayed the trust of the people of Goa with their irresponsible, unethical and completely personal driven motives that has seen a complete wastage of government funds and resources; that our government has to first clear our debts then start the anew. Let’s take the former PWD minister Churchill Alemao, through the RDA utilised funds like its was his personal donation kitty for some project or the other and today RDA has no funds to for the current government minister in charge to utilise. The erstwhile government has made a complete mess and it is going to take us time to make the correction, but we are committed to it.
GC: You say that you are committed to curbing corruption and taking to task perpetrators of illegal mining. Then why has the government not filed an FIR against its former MP Ramakant Angle, who the Shah Commission panel categorically states should be booked under Section 379 of IPC?
WM: Like I said the Khandeparkar Committee has been constituted for this purpose and whether a person is BJP or not, I am certain that my government will take them to task in a lawful manner.
GC: But the Khandeparkar Committee is currently not yet started working on its brief, right?
WM: You will have to allow me time to get more details on the Khandeparkar Committee, its way forward and government point of view on the question you have raised now also on our former MP, Angle.
GC: Staying with corruption, Dabolim Airport scam was raised by BJP, today it appears BJP is doing exactly what Congress was doing taking side of the real estate developer and not honoring its commitment to Ministry of Civil Aviation?
VM: (Quiet and adamant) On this issue I would not like to comment. You would need to raise the issue with the Chief Minister himself.
GC: What about the Mopa International Airport issue, your government has accepted the Amman & Whitney report which is based of erroneous assumptions and also on a single-airport model?
VM: The ICAO report states that dual airport model is the least preferred model. It does not say it not a model to be adopted.
GC: Yes it does say that but also adds ‘if political compulsions calls for state to opt for a dual-airport model it must be known that it is the least preferred model? And besides A&W report is for a single-airport?
VM: (Quiet for sometime) I think its best to raise the Mopa Airport issue with the Chief Minister. But what I would like to say is that we need to be sure of its viability before going ahead with the plans. And let me also state quiet frankly, what is a nutshell is the issue around Mopa, since I was present in person at a meeting between Goa Chief Minister Francisco Sardinha and the then Minister for Civil Aviation Sharad Yadav, I remember the Union Minister categorically stating that, ‘whether the people of Goa want it or not Mopa will come up, the neighboring state wants it’. You can infer whatever you want from that statement.
In my opinion we need to ensure that we are prepared with the infrastructure like six-way expressways, but most importantly assess it benefits for the people in the whole of Goa. It is nice to know through some of these reports that we can do 20 million passengers mostly tourists, but does Goa have the capacity to cater to that in-flow, when we are only 1.5 million in total population. We would need to consider many factors.
GC: Recently as the NRI Commissioner you visited Portugal along with some business representatives? How was the response from the business community there to investment opportunities. And since you’ve become NRI Commissioner has there been investment interest in Goa?
VM: The visit to Portugal was appreciated by the many of the Goans there; but I do not expect any investment to come into Goa from Portugal. In fact I can so far we have received no interest whatsoever for investment into Goa from the Goan diaspora. I can also that right now outside the Goan diaspora we have also not received any Expression of Interest from foreign companies. This is simply because the investment climate in Goa over the last seven years has been seriously questioned due to massive corruption and many have stayed away. We need to work towards regaining the faith of the Goan business diaspora and foreign investors into the investment opportunities in the state. We must focus on Green Sectors – tourism, education and health-care. It is important for the government to set-up the Tourism Planning Board and Investment Board, to facilitate investment into the state.
GC: Moving towards serious politics. GC had an opportunity to see a letter sent to the Congress President Sonia Gandhi, naming two BJP ministers and five more MLAs who evinced interest in leaving the BJP for better opportunities? And post the mining crisis the number is now standing at 9 BJP members? Do you have a comment on this?
VM: Because it is coming from someone as you (GoaChronicle.com), I will answer the question, otherwise, I would pass it off as a rumor. You see in such times, opposition lives in hope and dies in despair. Of course there will be some attempt to topple the government, and that must be accepted, but it should not and does not burden us knowing that such attempts are being done; simply because, for anyone to walk-out and contest the election on a Congress banner at this time will be a foolish thing to do. People will reject them. Neither will the Congress be able to assure them about their tickets or winnability, so it will be taking quite a risk and I don’t think the usual suspects are in the position to take such steps.
GC: But why are they even talking to the Opposition on such matters?
VM: Everyone likes to consider greener pastures. However it is often difficult to take that step from a familiar surroundings, which why it has not happened so far. The issue is not with the functioning of the government or the Chief Minister, we want to give people good governance and also spend judiciously in each constituency. Every MLA wants money for work to be done in his or her constituency, so when the funds are not flowing they start getting demanding and sometimes disappointed. But as a government we need to not waste the public funds. I am sure as on today, none of the BJP MLAs will move to Congress, it is just not sensible.
GC: BJP President is under a cloud over corruption allegations? Do you think he should resign?
VM: Central government has all the investigative agencies at their disposal. If they can find that Nitin Gadkari is guilty of fraud and whatever else he has been accused off, then let law take its own course. It is not up to the BJP to ask him resign on mere allegations.
GC: GoaChronicle.com has learnt through senior BJP sources in Delhi that Manohar Parrikar is being considered for the BJP-President post at the Centre?
VM: That’s news to me. But I don’t think the people in Goa will let Parrikar go to the Centre so soon, since there is work to do here in Goa.