In Manohar Parrikar's demise, Goa lost a son of the soil whose deeds and achievements made his birth place known throughout the world. He was a true leader with the most uncommon common sense.
By P K Mukherjee
It’s often said that only a few live their entire lives for the country and Late Manohar Parrikar was one who epitomised this saying. A man who served the nation till his last breath, Parrikar is and will remain the tallest leader from the small but beautiful state of Goa at the national stage. He always placed the interest of Goa and Goans at the heart of his activities.
A person blessed with immense will power and multi-tasking abilities, he belonged to an elite group of politicians who didn’t have to rely upon bureaucracy to smoothly run the administration. In fact, it is often the bureaucracy who were mostly on their toes under his leadership.
An alumnus of Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Bombay in the field of Metallurgical Engineering, he was the first IIT alumnus to serve as an MLA in India in the year 1994. Sworn in as chief minister for the first time on 24 October, 2000, Manohar Parrikar ushered in a phase of progress and development in the state.
His leadership and administrative qualities towered above all others and various fast paced infrastructural changes which took place in the state during his tenures as the chief minister can be attributed to his out-of-the-box thinking with an extremely common sensical approach. It was such out of box thinking coupled with determination that ensured that Goa became permanent venue for International Film Festival of India (IFFI).
The era of development and infrastructural projects ushered by him was unprecedented in the state of Goa, whether it was the first cable bridge at the network of highways across the state or completing the third Mandovi Bridge aptly named Atal Setu in record time or the under construction Zuari Bridge which connects North to South Goa – Parrikar was aptly given the title of “Vikas Purush” of the Goa. Incidentally, my own suggestion to name the 3rd Mandovi Bridge as ‘Manohar Setu’, while he was still alive not found appropriate and hopefully it would be considered seriously for new Zuari Bridge.
Mining being a key pillar of the Goan Economy, Parrikar always gave special emphasis on ensuring that the Goan mining industry was run in a sustainable manner with maximum benefits accruing to the local stakeholders. His foresight enabled him to work towards developing dedicated mining corridors in the state to ensure that there remained minimum conflict between civilian and mining traffic. He also keenly emphasised on improving the present mining transportation system by engagement of lesser polluting higher capacity trucks, implementing key pollution control measures such as Wheel wash at mines exit amongst others.
While he was gregariously following up on the infrastructural needs of the state, he did not let other sectors lag behind. Whether it was his drive to modernise the government schools in Goa or getting best in class national institutes like National Institute of Technology (NIT) or Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), his commitment to raising the level of education and competitiveness of Goan youth remained unparelled.
An avid football lover, Manohar Parrikar did all he could to promote the sport in the state. Whether it was conceptualising and launching the nursery of football – better known as Goa Football Development Corporation (GFDC) or launching the first ever women’s league in the state, he was at the forefront of promoting sports as a means for improving physical well-being of people in the state.
During his third term as Chief Minister from 2012 onwards, Parrikar faced the greatest challenge in the form of mining stoppage which at that stage contributed almost 25% to the state’s GDP. The abrupt stoppage much like in 2018 wrecked havoc on the state’s socio economic fabric, but it was Manohar Parrikar’s tactful handling of the situation that ensured that the state’s economy did not collapse and the state could continue to provide services for its citizens despite staring at economic abyss.
It was due to his sincere and dedicated efforts that mining could finally resume. The government also streamlined processes which were to be followed to regulate the mining industry to ensure end to end control and utmost transparency which was the hallmark of his administrative regime.
His exceptional performance as Goa’s Chief Minister was enough to convince Prime Minister Narendra Modi to ask him to take over the mantle of Raksha Mantri from November 2014. As Raksha Mantri, Manohar Parrikar oversaw the historic surgical strikes which made the whole world take notice of India’s determination and capability.
Despite his remarkable performance as Raksha Mantri, Manohar Parrikar always longed for simple living in Goa and its fish curry-rice. The saying that “Home is where the Heart is” came true and he returned to assume the mantle of Chief Minister of Goa on 14 March, 2017.
In the month of February 2018, Goa faced dual setbacks. First on 7 February, 2018, when the Supreme Court of India ordered cancellation of all mining leases in the state, thereby throwing the mining industry into an existential crisis. The fate of 3,00,000 Goans who were dependent on the industry were also left hanging by a thin thread of hope. The state was shocked for a second time when Manohar Parrikar was diagnosed with Advanced Pancreatic Cancer, however it was due to sheer will power that he persevered and continued to serve the state he loved.
Despite his ill health, Manohar Parrikar continued to strive to ensure that livelihood of 3,00,000 Goans is protected and as such left no stone unturned to ensure that mining operations resume at the earliest in the state. Whether it is personally visiting and pleading Goa’s case before the Prime Minister and empowered group of Ministers or writing multiple letters seeking appropriate legislative solution to the issue. He did it all. Despite his falling health graph, he continued to persevere and his efforts to resume mining in the state were acknowledged by all. However, I am sure that had he continued with normal health, the mining contour in Goa would have been different today.
It was due to his persistence that the Union Mines Ministry filed an early hearing application, seeking an early judicial cure to the long pending challenge to Goa Abolition Act. Just when the mining dependents in the state were expecting a strong stand by the state of Goa in the Supreme Court under the leadership of Manohar Parrikar to protect their livelihood, fate had other plans and Manohar Parrikar left the earth for the heavenly abode on 17 March, 2019.
There remain many unfulfilled dreams of Manohar Parrikar while the burden to fullfill those falls upon the incumbent Chief Minister and Manohar Parrikar’s political protégé Dr. Pramod Sawant. The primary among them remains the restart of mining activities in the state through appropriate measures. The completion of Zuari Bridge and Mopa Airport are only a couple of Manohar Parrikar’s unfulfilled dreams.
The demise of Manohar Parrikar leaves us all poor; we have lost an able administrator and honest politician and a national leader. But Goa has lost a son of the soil whose deeds and achievements have made his birth place known throughout the world. He was a true leader with the most uncommon common sense.
The author is the Chairman of Mining Committee of Goa Chamber of Commerce & Industry and Former MD of erstwhile Sesa Goa.
The views expressed are personal.