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SEZ scam accused Rane, Luizinho, Babu to go scot free after “dealing” with our land

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Team Spotlight

1)    From March 2003 to March 2008 the GIDC had allocated 1709.48 acres of land of which 949.13 acres were allocated to the SEZs.

2)    55 per cent of the land which had been allotted over 5 years by the GIDC was allotted to seven SEZs in just five months.

Panjim: After the Parrikar led government came to power, in 2012. Messers Luizinho Faleiro, the smug former Congress chief with a holier than thou dispensation and his comrade in arms Pratap Singh Rane aka Senior Rane who prides himself as a pedigreed Congressman, (whose prodigal son, Junior Vishwajeet P. Rane ditched his own party) were summoned by the Anti-Corruption Bureau for their sordid role in the SEZ scam, which makes all other assorted scams look like a teddy bears picnic

But last week the BJP-led alliance government of Mr Parrikar have decided to drop cases against the former Congress ministers and current MLAs accused in the SEZ scam – Pratapsingh Rane, Luizinho Faleiro, Chandrakant Kavlekar and former MLA Alexio Sequeira.

Goans need to be reminded of this scam and the nature of this loot and ask if these Congressmen who were booted out of power in 2012 because people perceived them as a bunch of corrupt , greedy politicians who thrived on money and family raj, should have been let off  the hook. The facts are startling

Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar had himself vehemently fought against the illegality and corruption of the SEZ scam, he made this scam and many more scam his election tool during the 2012 election campaign.

Even though the State did not have an SEZ policy at the time, that the areas requested were sizeable, and some of the applicants were companies that were un-registered, under-formation or new, the GIDC Board was nonetheless expeditious in processing the applications of the developers. Resolutions were passed, to allocate land to the SEZ developers, by the Board of Directors within days of receiving the applications: just one day in the case of Meditab Specialities and Peninsula Pharma. One week in case of K. Raheja, Paradigm Logistics, Planetview Mercantile and Inox Mercantile, and twelve days in case of Maxgrow Finlease.

On the issue of the land that was allotted to the SEZ developers, Meditab Specialities and Peninsula Pharma got lands that were entirely contiguous properties whereas land allotted to K. Raheja, Paradigm Logistics, Planetview Mercantile, Inox Mercantile and Maxgrow Finlease comprised of plots within Phase IV of the Verna Industrial Estate. Surprising though on the Verna Industrial Estate case; it is interesting to note that the Verna Industrial Estate was developed under the Inclusive Growth Centre Scheme (IGC) of the Union Government which intended to promote industries in backward areas by allotting land to small and medium scale units. Thus the decision to allocate land to five SEZs in the industrial estate was a deviation from the purpose for which land was originally acquired.

When considering the amount of land normally allocated by the GIDC the allocations made to the seven SEZs were sizable. From March 2003 to March 2008 the GIDC had allocated 1709.48 acres of land of which 949.13 acres were allocated to the SEZs. In other words, 55 per cent of the land which had been allotted over 5 years by the GIDC was allotted to seven SEZs in just five months.

An 86.65 Crore Fraud

In effect on account of the suspicious working of the GIDC in some cases on the instructions of the ministers in question namely the then Chief Minister of Goa Pratapsingh Rane and Minister for Industries Luizinho Faleiro including Alexio Sequeira who was the Minister for Power and a director on the GIDC Board; the Government of Goa suffered a deliberate loss Rs 86.65 crores.
In all seven cases where land was allotted to the SEZs land it was leased initially for a period of 30 years, renewable up to 95 years.

Two months prior to receiving the applications from the five SEZ developers who were allotted land in the Verna Industrial Estate the GIDC Board decided on 7th February 2006 to revise the premium rates of plots in all its 21 Industrial Estates ‘since there was tremendous increase in maintenance costs…’. Before this, the premium for plots in Phase IV of the Verna Industrial Estate was tentatively priced at Rs 600 per square meter. The agenda of the board meeting listed Phase IV for the said revision. The Board thereafter resolved to increase the premium rates in 18 of the 21 Industrial Estates citing that ‘…there is constraint of land and the rates in the vicinity of the estates are also quite competitive…’ However the Board did not change the premium in Phase IV of the Verna Industrial Estate. This could be construed as an irregularity when considering that the GIDC increased the premiums of all other Phases of the Verna Industrial Estate and given that Phase IV comprised of 94 per cent of the available land in the Industrial Estate. Further, after 69 per cent of the land in Phase IV had been allotted to the five SEZs, the GIDC in August 2006 revised the premium in Phase IV to Rs 750 per square meter. Incidentally the GIDC did not even state in the lease agreement that the premium of Rs 600 sqmts was tentative and open to review. The GIDC stated that given the lack of infrastructure in Phase IV the SEZ developers would have to themselves bear expenses to develop the same and therefore a lower rate should be charged.

According to the Comptroller Auditor General (CAG), the failure of the GIDC to charge the five SEZs a premium of Rs 750 per sqmts resulted in a loss of Rs 36.89 crore to the GIDC.
In case of the premiums charged to Meditab Specialities and Peninsula Pharma for land in Keri and Sancoale respectively, since these were not Industrial Estates, the GIDC used an approved formula for calculating the premiums. Using these premium rates for properties in Keri and Sancoale worked out to Rs 95.50 per sqmts and Rs 934.20 per sqmts respectively. However when executing the lease deeds in March/April 2006 the GIDC charged Meditab Specialities and Peninsula Pharma premiums of Rs 80 per sq.mts. and Rs 270 per sqmts. Once again the lack of infrastructure and ‘sloppy nature’ of the land in case of Peninsula were cited as reasons for charging lower premiums.

According to the CAG report the differential between premiums calculated using the approved formula and the premium actually charged by the GIDC to the two SEZs resulted in a loss of Rs 15.44 crore.

More importantly land in addition to that amount resolved by the GIDC Board was allotted to the five SEZ developers in Phase IV of the Verna Industrial Estate at the time the lease deeds were executed. This was done by adding open spaces and roads to the allotments. In effect 5, 38,685 sqmts of land was given away free to the four SEZs. Following the protests against the SEZs it was almost a year later in May/July 2007 that rectification lease deeds were signed whereby a premium of Rs 100 per sqmts was charged.

According to the CAG since entire contiguous areas was allotted to the four SEZs the same should have been charged Rs 750 per sqmts. The discounted rate at which 5, 38,685 sqmts of land was allotted to the SEZs resulted in a loss of Rs 34.32 crore to the GIDC.

The GIDC levies an Annual Lease Rent (ALR) from all establishments that it leases out its plots/properties to. Since 2003 the GIDC has including relevant clauses in the lease agreement which allow it to revise the ALR as and when the premium rates of the plots/properties are revised. However in case of seven SEZs this clause was not included. The result being the ALR that was fixed at the time of the agreement would not be open to revision for the entire 30 year period for which the land was leased to the SEZs. The ALR charged from the SEZs is negligible vis-à-vis the land allotted to them, and it would these rates that would remain fixed for over 30 years. The failure to include this clause would result in recurring annual losses to the GIDC.
Here is the lease per year each developer would have to pay for the next 30 years;

No. SEZ Developer ALR (in Rs)
1. Meditab Specialities 4,92,800
2. Peninsula Pharma 2,74,928
3. K. Raheja 23,75,196
4. Paradigm Logistics 7,93,257
5. Planetview Mercantile 3,96,000
6. Inox Mercantile 14,54,496
Total 57,86,677

The Truth Behind SEZ Policy

The most important feature of the Goa SEZ Policy, 2006 is the fact that it was adopted after the State began the process of allocating and acquiring land for SEZs. Even the text of the land lease agreements contained clauses which reflected SEZ ‘principles’. The Congress-led Government, which came to power in the State in June 2005, notified the Goa SEZ Policy, 2006 on 13th July 2006 (Government of Goa Official Gazette 13th July 2006). There are no records listing the Goa SEZ Policy, 2006 for discussion in the Legislative Assembly. The policy was instead formulated and resolved upon by the State Cabinet during its 21st meeting held on the 5th June 2006. While the opposition did not get an opportunity to deliberate upon the SEZ policy the larger public were never informed that the state had adopted an SEZ policy.

The state Directorate of Industries, Trade and Commerce (DITC) received altogether 19 applications for setting up SEZs in the state. While one of the applicants, Meditab, submitted its SEZ application prior to the notification of the SEZ Policy, the remaining submitted it after the state formulated the SEZ policy – these included those whose requests for land were already being processed.

While it was up to the State to make recommendations to the Board of Approval (BoA) regarding the SEZs it wanted in the state, there was no selection criteria used by the government to assess the suitability of an SEZ application for the state. Instead, through a notice dated 3rd August 2006 the DITC ordered:

“where the applicant is in possession of land as per the requirement of SEZ Rules, 2006 and the land use is for “industrial purpose” and where the application has been made in the prescribed form and the applicant broadly fulfils the requirement of the said Rules, the state Government shall recommend all such cases to the Central Government for their consideration and approval”.
It was mandatory for the applicants to submit details regarding the type of industry, the employment potential, and the water and electricity requirements. None of these details, which were later furnished, were used to analyze the applications and only thereafter forward recommendations to the BoA. Instead it seems that the State specifically instructed its staff to forward all the applications so long as they were duly completed and that they fulfilled the requirements laid down by the SEZ, Rules 2006.

50 Per Cent Area for Malls, Multiplexes and Residential Buildings

According to the Goa SEZ Policy, 2006 SEZs were sought to be declared as industrial townships. By virtue of this the land use would automatically be changed to industrial – which is permitted a build-able area of 100 per cent Floor Area Ration (FAR). To add to this the SEZ Rules, 2006 permits that 50 per cent of the land could be used for the ‘Non-Processing Area’ in other words to be transferred for residential, leisure, entertainment, educational, business or hospital purpose. Thus by getting SEZ status the zoning of a particular property would automatically be changed to industrial wherein half of the land was permitted to be transferred for carrying out constructions in the ‘Non-Processing Area’.

After the process of allotting plots in the IT-Habitat had begun and after the notification of the SEZ policy the Government of Goa (GoG) modified the Town and Country Planning by-laws pertaining to IT/ITES and biotech buildings by increasing the permissible FAR from 100 per cent to 150 per cent.

This was done after the GIDC, in referring to a previous discussion, requested the Goa Town & Country Planning Department (TCP) to increasing the FAR to 150 per cent and also requesting ‘minimum setbacks’ for IT and biotech buildings. The TCP then replied stating that the GoG approved the same and recommended adopting the Model Building By-laws, Nov 2004 prepared by the Town & Country Planning Organization (TCPO), GoI, New Delhi through which the FAR was increased to 150 per cent and the setbacks reduced to 5 meters for IT and Biotech buildings.
Notice that most of the SEZs were proposed for IT/ITES and biotech and these would stand to benefit from the modified building by-laws. Many of the SEZs proposed to build malls, multiplexes and residential buildings in the non-processing areas of their SEZs.

What SEZ status meant was that these private owners would be able to convert the land use of their properties automatically to ‘industrial use’ and thereafter divert half of it for non-industrial constructions. In other words land which may have been designated as private forest, or agricultural/orchard could by virtue of being designated a SEZ converted to industrial, settlement and commercial purposes.

The SEZ policy also envisaged that the SEZs would be outside the jurisdiction of the bodies of local government bodies, the Village Panchayats and Municipalities. The GoG had also begun initiatives to put in place a bureaucratic structure for SEZs which was placed under the command of the Development Commissioner (DC) and thereby outside the purview of the state government.

Here is what transpired from April 12, 2006 to April 19th 2006

On April 12, 2006

Applications for 18, 77,723 sqmts of GIDC land in Verna were accepted. All applications were received without any inward stamps or company seals. The applicant companies are as follows; K Raheja Corporation, Paradigm Logistics and Distribution Pvt Ltd, Inox Mercantile Pvt Ltd, Planetview Mercantile Pvt Ltd, Peninsula Pharma Research Centre and Max Grow Finlease Pvt Ltd.(who had already received a go ahead for the Bio-Tech Park in Sancoale). Interestingly, while Ravi Raheja and Neel Raheja (promoters/directors) of the K Raheja Corporation are also (promoters/directors) of the Paradigm Logistics and Distribution Pvt Ltd. On the similar veins Jaydev Mody and Rajiv Piramal (promoters/directors) of the Peninsula Pharma Research Centre Pvt Ltd are also the (promoters/directors) of Inox Mercantile Pvt Ltd and Planetview Mercantile Pvt Ltd. Incidentally, Plantview Mercantile Pvt Ltd was not even a registered company during the time of putting its application papers and as per regulations stipulated by GIDC; it is not to entertain unregistered companies for government land allocation.

On April 19th 2006

April 13th was Maundy Thursday – a half day for government employees. April 14th was Good FridayApril 15th and April 16thwere Saturday –Sunday holidays. Leaving GIDC three and half working days to approve of the applicants on April 19th 2006 without providing sufficient time to study any feasibility reports from the competent authorities or receiving mandatory Project Report from the applicant companies. So in effect it took less than seven days for the GIDC to approve the applicants.

Interestingly though, according to the SEZ Act, “As per the SEZ Act, companies have first to identify land to set up the SEZ unit, after which they must approach the Central Board for approval. After obtaining approval, they may apply for allotment of land.” However in this case, the applicant companies have first got the land allotted in their names and then subsequently approached the Central Board for approval, in total violation of the SEZ Act.
The GIDC Board has also exceeded its jurisdiction, going beyond the scope of its powers, by waiving off Transfer Fees, sub-lease fees in the Board Meeting held on April 19, 2006, without even a request for the said waiver from the applicants.

Furthermore, an additional 5, 00,000 lakh sqmts of land were given by GIDC to the SEZ developers to construct internal roads and open space; free of cost, initially, and then subsequently at Board Meeting 295 imposing a rate of Rs 100 per sqmts to be changed and used as per the master plan and for their exclusive use. This even though SEZ are contiguous land and all roads and open spaces become part of the SEZ and therefore there was no question of allotting land for these purposes separately and that too at price far below the set price of GIDC.

Although the Board passed a resolution at its 285th meeting in February 2006, fixing the minimum rate for the industrial plots to be allotted at Rs 750 per sqmts for phase I, IA, II, IIA, and III of the Verna Industrial estate, interestingly they did not fix a rate for Phase 4 (which was acquired much after the above phases) which was allotted to the SEZ developers at an inexplicable rate of just Rs 600/- per square meter, much lower than the rate fixed for land acquired in earlier years. No Board resolution on these changes was ever passed.

Interestingly, the Agenda Note for the said 285th meeting clearly indicates that at the time pertaining to revision of land prices, for Verna Phase IV the rate proposed was Rs. 750 per metre but in the minutes of the same meeting, the figure ‘IV’ has been omitted. Whether this was done deliberately or inadvertently is anybody’s guess as the minutes are silent on the price for the land in Phase IV of Verna which was acquired much later and at a higher price than the earlier phases.

More importantly of the twelve Board of Directors of GIDC only four were present at the April 19th 2006 Board meeting when 18.77 lakh sqmts of land allotment was being finalized. Those present on the April 19th 2006 meeting where Chandrakant Kavlekar, Chairman, Goa IDC, Alexio Sequeira, director, Goa IDC, (also Minister for Power) A V Parlekar, managing director, Goa IDC and Nitin Kunkolienkar, Director, Goa IDC. This is in contravention to the procedure laid down under the Rules and Regulations framed under the Goa Industrial Development Corporation Act 1965 wherein it is specifically mentioned that though four members form the quorum for the meeting, one of the member has to necessarily be one appointed under Section 4(1)(d) of the Act, which translates to being an Officer of the Government of Secretary rank.

Neither was the government land auctioned nor was a tender floated to invite bids for the SEZ plots as is the laid down rule while dealing with any transfer or sale of government land.

The Government of Goa’s actual commitment to the interest of the ‘Aam Aadmi’ can be seen from the fact that while the ‘aam aadmi’ is permitted a Floor Area Ratio of just 80 per cent in rural areas, a Floor Area Ration of 150 per cent has been granted to SEZ for all sectors, including residential areas by mischievously extending this facility granted by the TCP to IT and Biotech companies to SEZ. Incidentally, it might be relevant to note that K Raheja Corp Pvt Ltd, which is purely real estate developer, were circulating a brochure all over the country, promoting the Verna SEZ as a real estate project. It is therefore apparent that the SEZ policy is Goa was being used merely as a ploy to sell off large chunks of land to real estate lobbies.

 

Goa Forward attacks Cong but sends message to BJP for letting SEZ scam accused get off the hook

Have the grounds of corruption charges against Luizinho & Rane changed, or have the goalposts simply shifted

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A govt run from hospitals, but surviving all right

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Rupesh Samant/ Team Spotlight

GOA: As we are getting ready to wind up with the year 2018, Goa will remember these 365 days as the one calendar year without the State getting Manohar Parrikar touch. The Chief Minister has been ailing, seriously, since February this year, slowing down the pace of governance in this BJP and alliance parties ruled State.

The year was marked with the politicking of alliance partners and opposition Congress party. While Congress has been trying to create a wedge in the alliance, BJP’s partners have remained firm despite passing out from the honeymoon period.

Since the year 1994, when Parrikar emerged on State’s political scene, this was the first time that we saw him “being there but not there” due to his health conditions.

Here we bring to you a crisp and quick round up of the political year in Goa that we are readying to say good bye.

Alliance kept government on notice

Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party led other alliance partners in its impatient behaviour during the year. MGP President Dipak Dhavalikar gave several deadlines to the State government warning of a stringent action but none of their demands were fulfilled. MGP’s primary demand was to hand over the Chief Minister’s responsibilities to Sudin Dhavalikar owing to the ill-health of Parrikar. Dhavalikar was supporting his elder brother as he the senior most amongst others in the cabinet.

Goa Forward Party’s strategic moves is the main reason why Dhavalikar despite coming close to the chair could not get it. The events on the budget day in February signified how BJP and its CM Parrikar were decisive on maintaining a distance between Dhavalikar and CM’s post. On the budget day, Parrikar who was admitted in Lilavati Hospital of Mumbai rushed to present the budget statement on the floor of the House.

Since February till December 15, the MGP has been giving deadlines, the recent one being related to resumption of mining activity. But they never dared to walk out.

GFP also showed their impatience, during certain time, over the slowing down of the Administration. GFP President Vijai Sardesai was occasionally vocal on the issue but was quick enough to add in the same breath that people “needed to understand that CM is unwell.”

Vijai Sardesai has been one of the most loyal politicians to BJP even compared to their own MLAs, something which has earned him the respect if the

Independents like Rohan Khaunte and Prasad Gaonkar too raised the flags of rebellion, but not with much seriousness. Gaonkar resigned as Chairman of Goa Forest Development Corporation, but post that, he had made no attempts to redress his grievances.

Rumblings within BJP

BJP was at its worst during the year with internal fighting becoming order of the day. Michael Lobo and Francis D’Souza were furious at the party organization on various occasions for different reasons. D’Souza was sacked from the cabinet along with Pandurang Madkaikar. D’Souza minced no words in criticizing the BJP.

Another big ticket fight was between a former Chief Minister and state party president Laxmikant Parsekar and current state president Vinay Tendulkar. Parsekar was upset after the Congress MLA from his constituency Mandrem, (against whom he lost) Dayanand Sopte was inducted in the BJP and would be given a BP ticket to contest the by-elections, as a result of his resignation

Similar was reaction from former Industries minister Mahadev Naik when Subhash Shirodkar became a BJP leader in Shiroda

By the end of year, BJP had their RSS troubleshooter General Secretary Satish Dhond back in Goa. After his arrival some of BKJP’s defeated leaders like Dilip Parulekar, Damodar Naik, Kiran Kandolkar, Rajan Naik has once against started climbing up the stairs of Navelcar Arcade, where the Goa BJP’s headquarters are located in Panjim

Mining crisis dented BJP’s image

The crisis hovering on the Iron Ore mining industry was one of the major highlights of the year. The Supreme Court delivered a judgment on February 7 quashing 88 mining leases. The order came into force from midnight of March 15.

The closure is estimated to have affected two lakh mining dependents. But those who are impacted in a big way are around 20,000 people. BJP could not salvage the industry from crisis. In the absence of CM Parrikar, none from the party or the government were able to provide the solution. The party agreed to suggestions of Goa Mining People’s Front to amend the Mining Law in the Parliament giving a new lease of life to mining till 2037.

Auctioning or forming State run Corporation were two other ways that were being thought about to restart mining. But those solutions also stand discarded, at least till now.

The shadow of mining crisis, will hover over the next elections, as the BJP had won majority seats in the iron ore rich belt in the year 2012 and retained their monopoly till 2017.

Major decisions remained on hold in the absence of CM

Major decisions like Tourism Master plan (final), the Casino Policy (final) and others being kept on hold as CM remained hospitalized for most of the year. Tourism Policy is yet to see the light of the day. So also, the off shore casinos are getting extensions after extensions to stay put at River Mandovi, causing angst amongst the NGOs and anti-gambling lobbies.

The State had assured to create an Entertainment Zone near proposed Mopa Airport so that they can be shifted on land. The policy is yet to take shape. There is no word coming from the State government on this issue.

TCP Amendment and the Opposition

TCP Minister Vijai Sardesai faced a lot of opposition during the year. First it was the formation of Greater Panaji Planning and Development Authority and later amendment to the TCP Act, the minister continues to be on the target of NGOs and civil society activists. Ironically the minister, responding to the people had actually scrapped most of the panchayat areas, hitherto included under the Greater Panjim PDA

But when it came to case-to-case basis conversion of land from Orchard to Settlement, he faced flak. The minister has said that the case to case basis was to help those people whose lands were suddenly transported into orchard from settlement during drafting of RP 2021. As the process of conversion is going on, the opposition seems to be dying down. He explained that the move was to see that those who made investments as per the land categorization prevalent then and then suffered as the categorization changed.

IT Park at Chimbel sparked Rohan versus Rudolf war

IT Minister Rohan Khaunte’s ambitious plan to have Information Technology and ITES park at Chimbel caused an altercation with former minister Victoria Fernandes and her son Rudolf.

Khaunte went on the record to abuse Rudolf as “goonda” and “extortionist” while latter continued shooting from the shoulders of social activists and locals from Chimbel.

The opposition for IT Park has continued though the State government has already appointed a consultant for the project. The year 2019 will see more events and clashes related to the IT park.

Looking at 2019, the BJP led government has to take decision making forward and in quick time especially when it comes to finances, jobs, tourism and land issues while going on working on the ongoing issues like garbage disposal and errant taxi drivers. Most importantly, Goa needs to emerge as a decision making, and not a decision dragging state.

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Forensic head of GMC faces serious charges for wrong disposal of Januz Gonsalves’ body

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CCP officials may not face charges since they weren’t tasked with identifying bodies

Short summary

-Aldona boy Januz Gonsalves’ dead body was disposed off with a set of unclaimed bodies by a mistake

-GMC morgue officials made this tragic and shocking goof up

-Charges of criminal neglect among others likely tp be slapped on former head of Forensics, Dr E J Rodrigues, junior technician Machindranath Jalmi and post mortem attendant Prakash Narvekar,

TEAM GOASPOTLIGHT

GOA (PANJIM) There is no replacement to the loss of a loved one and Januz Gonsalves’ family would understand better than most. All hopes that the bereaved family would find justice are pinned on the investigation that is in final stages.

But there’s already a surprise in store. The Crime Branch may not press charges who were asked to dispose off three unclaimed bodies and they picked Januz’ body by “mistake” and disposed off it even before his family members arrived to claim it. Corporation of the City of Panaji (CCP) staff may be given relief since they were not tasked with identifying bodies before their disposal. “Identification of the bodies lying in the GMC morgue is the responsibility of the hospital authorities and not the CCP. The forensic team handed over the body to the CCP staff without verification and therefore the hospital authorities will face the charges of criminal negligence,” a government official said wishing anonymity.

But serious charges against suspended Forensic Head of the Goa Medical College Dr E J Rodrigues, junior technician Machindranath Jalmi and post mortem attendant Prakash Narvekar, are in store

Gross human error and malfunctioning of the morgue cabinets led to the forensic department hand over wrong body to the CCP, which ultimately deprived Januz’s family give him a decent burial.

The CB claims to have gathered clinching evidence against the errant GMC officials.The five-year-old state-of-the-art mortuary is infamous for repeated breakdowns. The blunder in the case of Januz was a result of this same technical error.

The blunder also gave rise to wild speculations on the possibility of organ harvesting. Whether or not the accused were anywhere involved in organ trafficking is expected to be covered in the investigation, although, highly placed sources have said there is no proof so far.

The GMC has seconded the findings of the Crime Branch on the organ trafficking angle with Dean Dr Pradeep Naik denying any such illegal trade in the hospital. “There is no organ trafficking activity in the hospital,” he told this reporter.

The sinister leadership in the GMC morgue affairs however continues to haunt the hospital. While immediate suspension was one way of rectifying the blunder, the GMC has taken a step further and terminated the extension to the then head of forensics GMC, Dr Edmundo J Rodrigues, The Dean said that the Forensic HoD, who was on an extension till mid-2019, not associated with the hospital anymore. “His extension of one year, from mid-2018 to mid-2019 is terminated,” Dr Naik said.

Dr Edmundo had the responsibility for granting approval for handing over the bodies for disposal. The Crime Branch is investigating whether the bodies are actually checked before handing them over to the CCP for disposal.

The Crime Branch is also investigating the overwriting and scribbling on the department’s register that raised suspicion over the exchange of dead bodies in the cabinets. The investigation team has found that while the entry timing of other bodies was made in blue ball pen, entry in one column of an unclaimed body was in red pen. The age in another column is also re-written indicating foul play. The Superintendant of Police of the Crime Branch, Kartik Kashyap, while refusing to discuss the details, has only stated that the handwriting has been sent for forensic examination. “The report is awaited, otherwise the probe is complete. Once the report arrives and we get government sanction to charge-sheet the government servants, we will file a charge-sheet. It should be done in about two months,” he said.

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Each rape of a tourist is a new nail in Goa’s tourism coffin

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Team Spotlight

GOA (CANACONA) The arrest of the supposed rapist of the 48 year old British woman in Canacona within a day, might give the Goa police some breathing space, as criticism mounts over the safety of foreign tourists in Goa. However, the rape in Canacona, where such violent incidents have happened before is yet another nail in the coffin of Goa’s tourism.

In the latest case of the 48 year old British woman, the Margao police have picked up a robber on the run who was arrested in Pernem after stealing about Rs 31 lakhs, and found that he had the ATM card of the British woman who was raped. This was a sheer stroke of luck and perhaps luck is all that the Goa police needs and has, to get out of the spiral of unsolved rape and murder cases of foreign tourists.

What has made Goa unsafe in the perception of foreign tourists, tour operators and sections of the government- especially in Britain- is that many criminals roam free and escape the arm of the law. To a large extent this is true.

The accused in the latest Canacona rape case was identified as Ramchandran Y ( 31) from Thanjavur in Tamil Nadu.  Similarly, in other cases, like the gang rape of a Goan woman in Betalbatim, the perpetrators were from outside Goa.  Goa is increasingly becoming a hunting ground for rapists from other states, whose acts deliver a blow to the prospects of Goa as a safe destination for tourists and even locals.

 The latest Canacona rape in December follows an open letter written In November 2018, by Sanna Pirhonen Cutter and Minna Pirhonen aunt and mother of the deceased Finnisbh tourist Felix Dahl, to the Goa government on behalf of families who have lost their loved ones, in Goa, each of whom have died under mysterious circumstances

In 2015, Dahl was found dead on the streets of Agonda.

The letter reported by most of the local dailies of Goa, was written in the backdrop of the draft tourism policy of Goa released around that time. The letter sated “As usual, the most important aspect has been left out completely, which is the tourist itself. Tourists make the tourism in Goa. Because today there is no safety, law or order to protect the tourists, they choose a safer destination at the moment. Due to the unsolved murders and death cases, Goa today seems a very risky and dangerous destination”

The letter went on to add “The unsolved murders should be investigated  rapidly to have the guilty Goans or any other nationals prosecuted and convicted. Crimes happen elsewhere too, but there is an attempt to catch the killers, but that is not the case in Goa…When the local authorities clean the destinations from the dangerous elements, they can be recommended to tourists as safe destinations. Tourists should be warned about those localities where unsolved crimes still exists.

The cases are piling up. And when you have murders and/ or rapes of international tourists annually, it’s enough to scare even the most ardent Goa loving foreign tourist.

Importantly, the number of rapes and murders/ mysterious deaths of foreign tourists in Goa’s southern most taluka, Canacona is something that both the foreign press and families of victims are contending with and there is ring of solidarity around them.

And this group, for all the right reasons, continuously raise red flags in social media and elsewhere, not letting the focus on these cases as well as the level of policing and investigation in new cases, to cease.

Danielle McLaughlin was killed in March 2017 in Canacona, the same village where the latest gruesome rape happened. But here the trial is going on in court and the alleged killer has been identified.

Going back to Dahl’s death, In 2015, Finnish student Felix Dahl, was found killed, in suspicious circumstances and his body was found in Patnem in Canacona with skull fractures and brain haemorrhage. In 2016 the Goa police closed the case which was then handed over to the CBI on the orders of the High Court.

And the High Court’s observations about the shoddy investigation, is a clear indictment of not this case alone but a pattern of the manner in which these cases are dealt with. Commenting on the nature of police investigations in the case filed to get the Felix Dahl investigations done by a seemingly more competent agency, the bench of Justices Prithviraj K Chavan and NM Jamdar observed “In the entire investigation papers, there is no indication at all that angle of homicide is considered. Why not is the moot question,” it said.

The bench further noted, “The skull is one of the hardest bone in the human body. For the skull to have five life-threatening fractures with haemorrhage, it was likely to be a result of a violent force. What we find surprising is that this theory was not even considered as possible”.

But  there was another line in the observation which was the most damning because here the bench indicated that there was actually a motive behind the police steering away from the homicide angle and it wasn’t just professional incompetence, mentioning that the police “chose” to avoid investigating this as a murder case. It stated “The local police have CHOSEN to steer the investigation clear of the angle of homicide, even though it was one of the strong hypothesis,”

And in North Goa, we woke up to the death of Denyse Sweeney in 2012, after her visit to a night club a case still mired in mystery. And of course, the drowning ( a case of potential murder though the judgment in the trial court did not conclude as such) of British teenager Scarlett Keeling, was one of the most covered and watched cases in the world, through the first two years since Scarlett died in 2008.

The latest rape of a British tourist in the week leading up to Christmas has once again brought Goa back in the national and international media glare as an unsafe tourism destination, and we are entering the high tourist season.

There have been many such cases that have seen no closure. It could, in the long run, lead to a closure of the tourism industry in Goa.

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