Saturday 20 Jul 2024

Mixed feelings over court move on Smart City works

| MARCH 30, 2024, 01:23 AM IST

The decision of the judges of the Goa bench of the Bombay High Court to personally inspect the Smart City situation on the ground on April 1 sends out mixed feelings to the people of Panaji who have been battered by inconveniences of the worst kind for over two years. The Goa State Pollution Control Board has assured the installation of mobile pollution monitoring stations on the court’s directives. One of the petitions has sought permanent real-time Ambient Air Monitoring Stations at key locations in the city with a plea to make the data available to the public. The two public interest petitions have pointed to unsupervised and unplanned work that is causing a lot of inconvenience and pollution, and fears have been raised that the city may face large-scale flooding if the works are not completed before the onset of the monsoon.

People of Panaji and those who have been commuting through the city will certainly testify to the concerns raised by the petitioners because they are factual, genuine and carry a grave concern. It is heartening that the court has taken cognizance of the issue and has taken the decision of site inspection.

There are mixed feelings here because the PILs have come towards the fag end of the Smart City works. One cannot forget the horrors of rampant road digging, the mishaps, the loss of three innocent lives and the clouds of dust that have choked the people and business establishments of Panaji. The turmoil and hardships inflicted on people are immeasurable and those memories have scarred minds.

But, despite all of this, the people of Panaji have endured everything, even to the extent of shutting down businesses. The PILs, although welcome, give one a mixed feeling because it triggers a bell that court recourse was an option available earlier, where measures of air monitoring could have helped to a great extent.

Imagine Panaji Smart City Development Limited which oversees the works has given a May 31 deadline for completion, and in hindsight, it appears that any mechanisms at this stage will certainly not give the court an exact picture of a haunted city, because Panaji has moved on.

Secondly, the PILs once again, reflect an over-dependence on the courts. Sadly, the people of Panaji failed to rise to their feet and fight against a tragedy that unfolded right before their eyes, day in and day out for months and years. There is an abject failure of civil society to stand up for a just cause. While the high court is doing an exceptional job as the lone guardian of people’s rights, relying excessively on the judiciary is not a healthy sign.

Lastly, while the Court’s decision of a site visit comes as some soother to troubled Ponjekars, it leaves them with an after-taught -- wish the High Court took suo motto cognizance of the plight of Panaji that filled pages and television time of media for over two long years. Again, a reasonable wish, because the people of Goa, who are disenchanted and helpless in fighting the system, look upon the judiciary as their last resort.

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