What do you say when the 2022 central government cleanliness survey tells you that Goa has slipped to 10th position, and Panaji is somewhere at the end of the list — 208th out of 304 cities?
What this really means is, all those dreams of being a model state just went up in smoke. It also means that other states and cities in the country are way ahead of Goa. Sadly, the only thing that Goa leads in is defections, converting farmland and making outlandish tourism plans, none of which can be implemented.
The BJP has been at the helm of affairs since 2012, and the blame for this loss of face and status lies squarely at its doorstep. Also, this fall from grace has come when the state is under the care of Chief Minister Pramod Sawant.
Why is it so difficult to keep the state clean?
Consider Indore, which has topped the list of clean cities six times in a row. What does this city have that we do not? Indore has a population of nearly 3.2 million. That is, twice the population of Goa. It is run by a municipal corporation with 85 seats, while Goa is governed by a state government with 40 MLAs, a string of municipalities, panchayats and two zilla panchayats. And we still cannot get it right.
In the case of Panaji, Babush Monserrate is the MLA, while his son is the mayor. So the Monserrates will have to jointly shoulder the blame for this disgrace. To know how they have both failed Panaji, one has to take a walk along Miramar beach which is littered with driftwood, bottles, plastic, cow dung and all types of waste one can think of.
At times, it appears Goa is completely disconnected from what is happening in the rest of India. When nine states get ahead of you and when leaders of 208 municipalities/corporations show that they are more efficient at keeping their cities clean, it is time to wake up and smell the garbage.
Instead, our state government has focused all its energies on dethroning the chairperson of the Margao municipal council. And to achieve this, it has gone to the extreme length of amending the law to enable it to take action against councillors who do not toe the party line.
Clearly, our government has lost direction and got its priorities all wrong. It is surprising that Narendra Modi is going the whole hog in fashioning a clean India, whereas his party government in Goa has embarked on the ship of indifference.
And should pressure mount to do something about the state’s cleanliness rating, the government will gather a team of MLAs and a few officers for a trip to Europe, when the solution lies in Indore. On their return, a report will be prepared, debated in a five-star hotel and then left to collect dust.
Politicians in Goa love to lament that people oppose anything and everything, but the truth is there is a huge disconnect between what people want and what politicians wish to do.
Goa needs a leader with vision. Someone who puts his head down and gets the work done. Someone who consistently pushes the target for cleanliness, like Narendra Modi at the Centre. Sadly, Pramod Sawant has shown that he is not that kind of leader.
Goa will have to wait.