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Goa: A bridge delivered, but many BJP promises off-track
Thursday October 17, 2013 11:12 AM, Mayabhushan Nagvenkar, IANS

Metaphorically, it resembles an arched, steel tombstone over a watery grave that four schoolchildren and two adults slipped into last year.

Inaugurated Sunday on Dussehra, the story of the Calvim-Carona bridge has been in a way the story of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government: its rise to power and the nature of governance it has been able to deliver.

Rarely has the conception, construction and delivery of a bridge been followed so closely since the drowning of four students aged between 8 and 11 from St Thomas Girls High School and the two others at Aldona, a short distance from here and at the end of a picturesque 25 km riverside drive from Panaji.

The tragedy occurred in February 2012 when a bus parked on a slanted ferry ramp, rolled straight into the Mandovi river. Some passengers escaped the watery death but six died.

The incident occurred some weeks before the assembly elections. The Calvim drowning and shoddy relief was a catalyst, gelling together misrule, mining corruption, nepotism and scandals of the then Congress-led coalition government.

The party got the beating of its life in March 2012 and was reduced to a single digit - 9 - in the 40 member state assembly.

While in several parts of Goa, anti-incumbency-inspired factors did the Congress in, in the Catholic-dominated Aldona constituency, of which Calvim is a part, it was white-hot anger.

Against this backdrop, the Calvim-Carona bridge, a 120-metre single span steel and concrete arch bridge, a pre-election promise made by Manohar Parrikar's BJP, represented hope.

But as a posting on Goa+, a Facebook forum that more often than not dotes on Parrikar, noted: "It would be ideal and fitting and a tribute to get the bridge inaugurated at the hands of the parents who lost their little ones in the tragedy."

There were other poll promises too, like the refreshingly ingenuous one making petrol cheaper by Rs.11 by lopping off VAT.

But like many of its poll promises, which were either watered down, like the party's commitment to nail illegal mining companies or several of those commitments which have been conveniently put in cold storage by the Parrikar administration, like the clampdown on casinos and correction of the real estate sector, the promised bridge project too often stuttered.

It's ironic that after 19 months in power, a 120-metre bridge is being touted as a singular feat of a government led by of the BJP's finest administrators.

The bridge was first promised by Parrikar within eight months, when in reality it took eight months for the construction to begin. It took 19 months for the promise to turn into reality.
Such delay is emerging as a signature of Parrikar's style of governance, which first starts with an earnest promise, translates into delay and then sometimes simply evaporates and leaves a trail of disenchantment.

And that counts in the relatively small world of politics in Goa, where statements made by politicians are seen as personal, almost intimate assurances, rather than commitments from the state.

Lawyer-activist Aires Rodrigues claims that despite promising zero tolerance to corruption and rule of law, the government's delivery on these counts is shockingly short.

"While we need to congratulate Parrikar on being able to complete the first project initiated by his government, we need to remind him that the mere inauguration of the bridge will not bring solace to the parents of those four young kids who continue to be distraught over a very tainted police investigation into the accident that led to the death of their little children," Rodrigues said.

He claimed that the state administration has been unwilling to move against the minor son of a BJP leader who eye-witnesses said was at the wheel of the bus when the incident occurred.

"This government will have to face the wrath of those four angels now in heavenly abode and their grieving families who feel terribly let down," Rodrigues said.

Perhaps, now that the bridge is built, it's time the administration crosses over and nails down those responsible for the death of the six victims.

(Mayabhushan Nagvenkar can be contacted at mayabhushan.n@ians.in)



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