Thursday 18 Apr 2024

Court is watching, don't play bluff on smart city works

| APRIL 02, 2024, 10:46 PM IST

The High Court judges walked around the streets of Panaji moving past dug-up roads, rubble, open trenches and footpaths while taking stock of the smart city works on Monday accompanied by officials and a few citizens who were eager to highlight the plight of people and the state of affairs. CEO of Imagine Panaji Smart City Development Ltd Sanjit Rodrigues gave a guided walk-through to the judges and had a lot of explaining to do as the questions piled on.

The first impression that one gets is that both Justice Mahesh Sonak and Justice Valmiki Menezes were well aware of the situation at hand because they sought answers to questions that were very obvious. For example, the idea of footpaths going lower than the elevation of the road, a situation that could drastically increase the chances of flooding during monsoon.

Interestingly, while Rodrigues tried to win the confidence of the visitors, his argument of watering the roads to contain dust pollution was defeated when the judges pointed to dusty ceiling areas of structures, and the dust settled on trees. While so much effort went into watering the roads and dusty dug-up portions on the eve of the visit by judges, probably officials didn’t pay attention to these finer details that eventually exposed the hollowness of their claims.

The CEO appeared visibly agitated through his reactions because the smart city works are indeed haunting at the fag end of the project. However, venting out the fury over people’s reactions was unwarranted, especially after what citizens have undergone for over two years. The piecemeal cover-up ops undertaken to escape the censure of courts does not change the grim reality that people faced all this, and it would be a colossal lie to project “all has been good with Panaji”.

In trying to salvage the situation by putting in place clean-up measures, the authorities have only tried to pull the wool over the eyes of the visiting judges and mislead them into thinking that the situation is under control. To be fair, the situation never appeared to be under control — from haphazard works, repeated digging, unplanned excavations, delays, poor quality of works and a flagrant breach of laid down protocols.

Panaji was struggling to cover the dug-up roads and drains ahead of the last monsoon, and the city is staring at a similar situation this time around. There is fear and anxiety in the minds of people because the history of works undertaken does not exude any confidence. It would be most unfortunate if the judges, who took this remarkable decision of inspecting the city, derived a sense of security and well-being for the common man after assessing what they saw.

While it would be criminal to defend the state of affairs in Panaji, it would have been prudent for Rodrigues to accept failures, be open about what went wrong and take responsibility for ensuring that the road ahead straightens out, even if it is late. At the end of the day, everybody wants better roads and facilities, but nobody wants a smart city at such a price.

The bluff of projecting “all is well with Panaji” must stop immediately. Remember, the court is watching.



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