On Friday night, the State government's hypocrisy on Covid protocols was unmasked. Hours after the State administration directed all deputy collectors to actively create awareness within their sub-divisions about safety protocols in an attempt to arrest the recent spike, Chief Minister Pramod Sawant joined a battery of BJP leaders and thousands of people in a birthday celebration of Mandrem MLA Dayanand Sopte at Mandrem High School ground. Giving the CM and the birthday man company was BJP State President Sadanand Tanawade, MP Vinay Tendulkar, Shiroda MLA Subhash Shirodkar other BJP leaders, all without masks and distancing.
Surprisingly, the Pernem Deputy Collector permitted a gathering of 500 people for a birthday function amid such uncertain times, but what is frustrating is the fact that the very preachers of Covid discipline, who time and again have taken public platforms cautioning people on using masks and social distancing, were now literally enthused by the massive swell of crowds and violated rules themselves in full public view.
It is outrageous to hear the leadership hail the turnout of people and measure it with the popularity of Sopte. It largely sums up the duplicity and deception that Sawant is resorting to while dealing with a grim Covid situation. Leave alone the economics and the tourism that have been exempted from protocols, politics too, especially when it is to the advantage of the BJP, has turned the virus hazards and the risks to public life secondary. Tanawade went to the extent of announcing that a large gathering of people is a testimony of the sheer love of Sopte.
There were speeches, applauds and heaps of praise on the Mandrem MLA backed by a crowd of thousands. The skeletal police force present at the venue, probably to oversee the law and order situation because of the CM's visit, were helpless spectators as their political bosses were on the podium relishing the sight of crowds considering it to be a BJP show of strength.
Right through the pandemic, Goa has witnessed how fragile the protocol is when it comes to politicians and tourism. At the peak of lockdown, Goa witnessed rave parties during weekends. Even on a day when the government was busy tightening safety protocols on Friday, there was a rave party being scheduled on Sunday night without even obtaining the mandatory sound permissions. Rave parties continue to break the peace along the coastline. The local police, the otherwise vocal Waste Management Minister and Calangute MLA Michael Lobo and Tourism Minister Manohar Babu Ajgaonkar who propagates that "the show must go on" have all failed to hear the high-decibel parties. On the contrary, Lobo states that the tourism industry should run by taking all Covid precautions.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, while chairing a high-level meeting on Sunday stated that one of the main reasons behind the current nationwide spike is due to non-wearing of masks and violating social distancing. In Goa, our priorities are misplaced because politics and tourism come first.