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With Goa reeling under debt, Oppn slams 'study tours' by MLAs at govt expense
Goan lawmakers have planned a junket to Madhya Pradesh to learn about 'Good Governance' and 'Smart City Practices.'
Goa opposition parties have objected to the study tours for MLAs in which the lawmakers visit other states to learn about 'Good Governance' and 'Smart City Practices', calling it wasteful expenditure on junkets, when the state is reeling under debt.
As on March 31, 2022, the state's total debt was pegged at Rs 23,270.6 crore.
Situation of state finance is such that the government in its reply in the Legislative Assembly said it has no money to pay Social Welfare Beneficiaries. Hence, the opposition parties have expressed surprise over the tours being organised for MLAs.
The BJP government invited wrath from the opposition over the study tours, which according to them are unwanted.
Leader of opposition Yuri Alemao was invited to a tour arranged for MLAs and Bureaucrats to Madhya Pradesh to learn 'Smart City practices', while Goa Forward Party MLA Vijai Sardesai was invited to Gujarat to study 'Good Governance' practices. Both of them have rejected the invitation claiming it is wastage of expenditure.
According to opposition, when capital city Panaji where 'smart city' project is being implemented at a snail's pace and causing inconvenience to people moving in the city, government should first put its energy in completing work and not in study tours.
Reacting sharply to a circular issued by Goa Legislature Department about a tour of 11 MLA's to Madhya Pradesh from February 22 to 24, for exposure visit and to learn the best practices adopted by the Madhya Pradesh government in various components of 'Smart City', Yuri Alemao said that the tour would be of wasteful expenditure.
"I am committed to the people of Goa and will not be part of any such extravaganza in the future too. I appeal to all my colleagues not to be part of such fancy junkets organised with public money," Alemao, who is also invited for the tour, said.
He said that citizens of capital city Panaji and those visiting here, have been put to complete inconvenience with the total mess of Smart City Works, even after spending almost Rs 600 crore on it.
"Goa Legislature Department wants Ministers, MLAs and bureaucrats to become 'Smart' in just a day by visiting Madhya Pradesh. Stop such Junkets from Public Money," he said.
"I have got replies to the Legislative Assembly Question stating that the Government has no money to pay Social Welfare Beneficiaries. However, the government has funds for wasteful expenditure," he pointed out.
Another Opposition MLA of Goa, Vijai Sardesai has also refused to be part of a study tour to Gujarat from February 19 to 21 to learn 'good governance' stating he will not be part of such pleasure trips at the expense of the public exchequer.
The second circular issued by the Goa Legislature Department states that a tour to learn the best practices of good governance adopted by Gujarat government has been organised, wherein Sardesai has been invited along with Minister for Art and Culture Govind Gaude and other seven MLAs.
Sardesai, reacting to this particular circular, asked the government to strike off his name from the list.
"Nothing more ridiculous than this junket to study best practices in good governance when Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant and his cabinet are hell-bent on following only 'Shah Jahan's practices in the state. I refuse to be party to such pleasure trips at the expense of the public exchequer," Sardesai said.
Earlier during the monsoon assembly session held in July 2022, Art and Culture Minister Govind Gaude defending the state government's move to nominate a contractor for the renovation work of Kala Academy without floating a tender, had said that "even Shah Jahan did not invite quotations before building the Taj Mahal".
"Taj Mahal was built between 1632 and 1653. Do you know why it is still so beautiful and everlasting? Because Shah Jahan never invited quotations to build it. That is why the Taj Mahal is intact even after 400 years," Gaude had said.
Sardesai had raked up the issue of Kala Academy in the Assembly, alleging that no tender was floated for the restoration work worth around Rs 49 crore, which is against the CPWD manual. He had demanded a probe into the restoration of Kala Academy, which was designed by legendary architect Charles Correa.
Since then Sardesai has on many occasions sarcastically said that the Goa government is using "Shah Jahan's practices", which means allotting work without floating tenders.
Congress party has alleged that the ruling party is looting the state's exchequer while carrying out work of 'Smart City' Project.
Congress leader Elvis Gomes alleged that 'Smart City' project is nothing but a scam of Rs 1,000 crore. "The BJP is smartly looting money out of the smart city project," Gomes said.