Friday 27 November 2020

News Analysed, Opinions Expressed

What’s Goa’s rank on the ‘Ease of Doing Corruption Index’?

 

Builders’ association CREDAI and the Indian Institute of Architects (Goa) say that bribes account for 5 to 8 per cent of the cost of real estate projects in the state



Are ministers and MLAs heading government agencies the main source of corruption that the industrialists and builders are complaining so bitterly about?

 

In the financial year 2019, Goa recorded the highest per capita income in India. It has consistently topped the country in terms of health care, education and literacy; always among the top three. So, why is it languishing at a lowly 24th place out of 29 states in the annual Ease of Doing Business ranking of states and Union territories by the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT)?

What is worse, the state slipped five places – from 19 to 24 – in the last one year. In stark contrast, UP jumped ten places up in the rankings, from 12th to 2nd, while Delhi’s position improved by 11 places, from 23rd to 12th.

Chief Minister Pramod Sawant admitted this. Speaking at the Sewa Saptah virtual rally organised to celebrate Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s birthday on Sunday 19 September, he promised to improve the ease of doing business and attract investment.

Earlier that month, he had promised that the state government would hold a meeting of industry stakeholders for this. He didn’t.

So he shouldn’t have been surprised when Goa State Industries Association (GSIA) President Damodar Kochkar accused his government of rampant corruption. “Under-the-table rates are being fixed for every routine service. The Goa Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC) has even fixed commission for allotment of new plots in various industrial estates,” Kochkar fumed.   

Mr Sawant did not take kindly to this criticism and lashed out. “People have the habit of criticising everything when they do not get benefits, and that is the new trend,” he said.

But it’s not just the GSIA. The two other industry associations in the state, the Goa Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GCCI), and the Goa chapter of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) have openly voiced deep concern about delays and corruption. They used more circumspect language, but there is no mistaking what they meant to say.

“At the end, every minister wants files to come to them. The dealing hand who receives the files has a job to do, but he sends every file to the minister, which takes a long time,” said CII-Goa Chairman Blaise Costabir. GCCI president Manoj Caculo was equally categorical. “We will seek immediate redressal because things are really getting out of hand for industry,” he said.

The builders’ association CREDAI and the Indian Institute of Architects (Goa) did not mince their words. CREDAI President Nilesh Salkar and IIA-Goa Chairman Mangesh Prabhugaonkar said that bribes account for 5 to 8 per cent of the cost of real estate projects in the state. They also decried the practice of all files being sent to the minister or chairman of the Planning and Development Authority (PDA).

The common factor in all these complaints seems to be the fact that ministers and MLAs heading government agencies want to personally see and decide on nearly every file, no matter how routine it may be. One is forced to ask whether that is the main source of the corruption that the industrialists and builders are complaining so bitterly about.

Corruption is everywhere in India, which ranks 80th out of 180 countries (down two places from 2018) in the 2019 Corruption Perceptions Index reported by Transparency International. Surprisingly, an ‘India Corruption Survey 2019’ conducted by an organisation called ‘Transparency India International’ places Goa among the least corrupt states in India, along with Delhi, Haryana, Gujarat, West Bengal, Kerala and Odisha. It says that only 20 per cent of Goans paid a bribe in the last one year, compared to 78 per cent of people in Rajasthan, the most corrupt state. However, Transparency India International has no connection with Transparency International, whose website clearly says that it doesn’t have a national chapter in India.

It does tend to stretch credibility to say that Goa is one of the least corrupt states in India when nearly all Goans – from the richest industrialists and builders to ordinary people on the street – complain about runaway corruption in the state. Delays aren’t inherent; this government can move really efficiently when it wants to. As CII-Goa Chairman Blaise Costabir pointed out, the 2.4 lakh sqm industrial plot of Meta Strips at Sancoale was transferred in just one day – illegally and while the election code of conduct was in force – to logistics firm Varama Sir India.

What slows things down is not inefficiency but corruption. Our ministers and MLAs need to be more interested in the progress of the state than in their personal progress. Otherwise, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s assurance of ‘Na Khaoonga; Na Khane Doonga’ will remain an empty promise. Where is the BJP that late Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar built? It is time for them to say: “Main bhi Chowkidar,” and step in to stop this. 

Disclaimer: Views expressed above are the author's own.



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Ashwin Tombat

Ashwin Tombat has been the Editor of Gomantak Times and Herald. Worked as an Associate Editor of national magazine Gentleman in Mumbai, before shifting to Goa. Loves sailing, also participates in Marathons. Has worked as an activist in students's union and trade unions in Maharashtra. Also an artist of Street Theatre during student days.

 

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