As it turns 180 – young for a city – the Panjim which was raised to the status of a city on March 22, 1843, has little to be proud of. Currently, its streets have been dug up and hastily filled, leading to narrowed navigational space and dust balls blowing in the wind.
Its traffic is frequently jammed, and any respite appears to be a long way away.
Panjim, 180 years after it received the status of a city, clings to that description and nomenclature though the definition of a capital city can hardly be applied to it. If a capital city is defined as the seat of government and administrative centre, then Panjim can hardly claim this status.
Today, the seat of the government is in Porvorim; the legislative assembly complex is in Porvorim; the state secretariat is in Porvorim; even the high court is in Porvorim, all just across the River Mandovi, at a height overlooking the city of Panjim.
As it nestles on the south bank of the river, Panjim remains the capital of Goa more in theory than in reality.
There had been an attempt made to expand the jurisdiction of the Corporation of the City of Panaji.
That was when the Panjim Municipal Council was upgraded to a corporation. Residents of the new areas objected, and the move was hastily withdrawn.
Surely it is time to revisit the area that comprises the capital city. Panjim and Porvorim are closer now, with three parallel bridges, all within a kiss-blowing distance of each other, spanning the broad expanse of the waterbody that separates Tiswadi from Bardez.
Shouldn’t the Corporation of the City of Panaji expand its boundaries to bring within it the area of Bardez that houses the seat of government and administrative headquarters
The 'city' status is just one aspect of concern for Panjim which has been left to grow at its own pace. Panjim is a city that was created when the only interest that the Portuguese had in Goa was in not letting it slip out of their hands.
They had long surrendered their trading supremacy in Europe. The British Empire was expanding, and Goa was a dot that did not merit more than a frequent change in viceroys and governors.
The city, except for some colonial-style edifices that still draw admiration, bears few vestiges of a planned urban area. Today, single-storied heritage houses alongside multiple-storied concrete structures are a common sight on the streets of Panjim.
There could be hardly any street that does not offer this rather incongruous sight.
After liberation, not much changed in the realm of planning urban areas. Panjim, therefore, grew into a sprawling mess of an urban area, which in attempting to turn smart has fallen into the pits it has itself created.
Panjim as a city has drawn people to make their home there, for education and employment. Yet, there probably have been more dreams realised in the mining and tourism belts of Goa than in the capital city Panjim.
We’ve got to accept that Panjim will never be the city of dreams like Mumbai has been or as Bengaluru is now becoming, or perhaps has already become. Panjim has never attracted the dreamers, it has only brought in the cautious entrepreneurs.
Even its planners and administrators did not dream big; its elected representatives could not have been more myopic in their vision.
It is said that if you plan cities for cars and traffic, you will get cars and traffic. If you plan for people and places, you will get people and places. Panjim has got cars and traffic, so is that what was planned for?
Perhaps it was inadvertent, but even so, there has definitely been a flaw in the planning, and it requires correction. Today the shared spaces of Panjim are being targeted.
Where once people leaned over the balustrade on the banks of the River Mandovi and watched dolphins frolicking, now stand stern private security guards.
And instead of dolphins bobbing in the waters, there is a relay of boats taking and bringing back customers to the casino vessels.
Panjim’s charm is hanging by a thread. Any city grows. This one has metamorphosed. Sadly, the one status that Panjim can claim without challenge is that of being the casino capital of, not just Goa, but India.
Residents of the city are definitely neither happy with this nor would endorse it, but that’s the reality of Panjim.
The city that once charmed travellers, today only seduces the high-rollers and Instagrammers. It’s coming to a time when one has to do a soulful rendition of Adeus Korcho Vellu Pavlo for Panjim, with of course a change in lyrics – bidding goodbye to a city some of us once knew and that will never be the same.