Wed, 26 Jun, 2019

Panaji, the princess of Mandovi

While Panaji continues to stare helplessly at garbage crisis, water woes and a host of other maladies, the clamour over Smart City project is scaling a deafening pitch

Story: PACHU | MENON | 10th June 2019, 03:56 Hrs

PACHU MENON

A look at the landscape of the capital city finds Panaji splashed in divergent hues that brings to fore the naked truth that Ponjekars as a term to describe the native dwellers is a misnomer. The proliferation of migrants occupying every available nook and corner of the city, which again has its own political connotations, is something that one can’t reconcile with so easily.  In little less than 60 years, a city that once wore a rich heritage of Portuguese colonial era is today, as one of India’s most relaxed state capitals, a contorted commercial vista that subscribes to no particular style.    

While Panaji has been more about heritage buildings; the cobble-stoned streets lined with colourful villas not long back are now making way for multi-storied residential apartments and shopping malls that are a tribute to the urbanization brilliance of the new corps of realtors who should be credited with the concretization of the natural setting to match the craze of the modern times.  

Even the waters have not been spared the agonies of modernization! As the lifeline of Goa, River Mandovi has had different roles to essay in the economic pursuits of the state. But today it wears a forlorn look despite the large armada that occupies its waters. With advertising signs casting neon reflections, the serene Mandovi River now plays host to an assortment of cruise boats and floating casinos. 

With the commissioning of the new LA at Porvorim, the Adil Shah Palace on the Panaji waterfront which was the seat of Goa’s legislative assembly from 1963-2005 stands in mute testimony of some of the greatest political manoeuvres which shaped the history of the state.  

GMC shifting to Bambolim with an eye on expanding the city may have been a great achievement! But a part of the city’s identity was lost with this shifting. IFFI and such other events now glamorize the cultural arcade. Located at the confluence of Mandovi River and Arabian Sea, Miramar beach has apparently lost its charm. 

With the whole city virtually cramped for space; Altinho, as a legacy of Portuguese grandeur, is bursting at the seams. The same can be said for its suburbs.

While a walk down the memory lane would have one clinging on to nostalgic recollections of the past; apart from a few iconic structures, the new Panaji stands shorn of its earlier magnificence. With nothing much to differentiate it from a modern metropolis, it could well be said that in the haste to promote it as a wonder destination, Panaji is today a pale shadow of its old self. 

The Military Hospital area nestling between beautiful Portuguese-style villas as an iconic landmark of the unspoiled blueprint is today eclipsed by a number of high-rise buildings. Predicting how long the tree-lined boulevard here will survive the rapid urbanization is an equally tough proposition!  

Located opposite Police headquarters on MG Road, Azad Maidan has lost its importance as a martyrs’ monument. Other than a few state functions, the maidan lays in abject neglect.  

Monsoons have become a dreaded season for Panjimites. Inundations of the low-lying areas, flooding of roads, overflowing nullahs - the city literally drowns in its own miseries with the onset of the wet-spell. If it is the city-fathers who are to be held responsible for the improper planning of the city, it implies that the politics being played out has definitely left its dirty imprints on the region. 

While Panaji continues to stare helplessly at the ever-growing garbage crisis, its water woes and a host of other maladies, the clamour over the Smart City project is scaling a deafening pitch.  

Designating Imagine Panaji Smart City Development Ltd as the State Mission Directorate for AMRUT and state level nodal agency and the state mission management unit for Smart Cities Mission, the government envisaged IPSCDL to bring about development of smart urban infrastructe for Panaji. Since it kicked off in 2016, however, IPSCDL is accused of pursuing one wildly ridiculous idea after another allegedly resulting in squandering of public money. The conviction that Smart City is a scam is gaining credence with every passing day.   

However, for a city that saw incessant modernization to be showcased as a unique example of what capital cities should be, it is shocking that Panaji languishes at a lowly 337th in the latest edition of Swachh Survekshan survey.  It is averred that the destiny of a land and its people is inevitably tied to the type of government it gets.  So while Panaji should have been an example of a balanced growth blessed with leaders capable of bringing about a fusion of the ancient and the recent in every aspect of development undertaken, the city continues to weep over haphazard planning.  

Politically, Panaji, as the capital of Goa, has always been in the news for varied reasons. More so after BJP’s emphatic sweep over the state which timed so well with Narendra Modi’s rise to power across the country.  Yet, Parrikar’s temporary hiatus from state politics when he proceeded to Delhi to take over as the Defence Minister of the country could well be described as the beginning of the end of the undisputed 25-year-old Saffron-hold over the city.  

And now, the ultimate demise of the iconic CM has put paid to any grand aspirations the BJP may have had for extending its undisputed hold over the capital city.  Hence the hopes and aspirations of Panaji will now rest with the flamboyant Atanasio ‘Babush’ Monserrate. With his writ already running large over the Corporation of the City of Panaji, ‘Babush’ has made his working-style very evident from the outset. 

The city once called the ‘Princess of Mandovi’ is in need of immediate resurrection! 

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