The people of Goa have long been concerned about the construction boom in the state. Wealthy folks from all over India, particularly the big metros of Mumbai, Pune, Delhi and Bangalore, with huge incomes have bought into the ‘tourist paradise’ glitz and glamour and have been over the last decade or so been mopping up apartment block after block. These flats remain closed all year except for a few days in the summer or during Christmas.
With row upon row of locked residential apartments, the government has escaped with no planning on infrastructure. Tiny pipes still bring water inadequate if the entire block had actually been occupied. Poor power supply continues to persist, the telephone lines are bad, and so is the mobile phone signal. Garbage collection and disposal is pathetic. And yet, if you wish to buy a flat in Goa, expect to pay fairly inflated rates.
The collapse of the building under construction in Canacona in early January 2014 is symptomatic of this rot that has been plaguing the construction industry in the state for years. Feeding on the crazy demand for holiday homes, builders like vultures have come in from neighboring states. Their marketing infrastructure is easily able to pull the wool over the eyes of potential buyers with money to dispose but ill-informed about the quality of the construction being undertaken. These builders in turn know that they are not there to stay but rake in the profits. The result, 25 dead, a number of injured and people still trapped and unaccounted for as a five story building caves in like a pack of cards. The adjoining building has also developed huge cracks and the government plans to immediately demolish it.
The construction workers killed on the project are mostly poor migrant daily wage workers. Insurance would be unheard off; they had come to Goa with the hope of a better life. Now they have lost their lives. The construction industry in Goa has long functioned not without political patronage. Every builder pays lakhs to convert the land, get permissions from the electricity and water department; they pay more money to get occupancy certificates. So while builders fill their coffers by cutting corners on construction material, politicians fill their coffers with bribes. The consumers are fooled into parting with their hard earned money, and the poor construction workers pay with their lives.
It is a sad path we in Goa have chosen to walk down. A path where our villages have turned into concrete piles, where people with no commitment and love for the village flood in like rampaging locust, where suddenly there is a water and power shortage, and garbage everywhere.
The reality of this disastrous situation hit me a couple of years back when I tried to buy a small flat in Goa. Better known builders had flat starting from 60 lakhs and above and when I told their sales people my budget was half of that, they slammed the phone on me. I then turned to a couple of brokers. The brochures they sent out offered rates even more fabulous than the builders. “But I work in India I protested, I earn in rupees, every one of which is taxed, isn’t there any place for me in my own state?” the brokers immediately removed me from their mailing lists. When I asked the sales folks of these builders’ questions that any buyer should ask, I was told, “There are customers who send over the down payment without seeing the site”. “Oh really,” I had to remind the marketing folks, “I am handing over to you the last few years of my earning, and committing to you the next few years of it as well, why then should I not quiz you to my heart content.” I was deeply frustrated and disappointed with the response.
Later, I did manage to buy a flat at a reasonable rate, the only reason I can pay the EMI on the loan is because I work outside Goa. I still feel purchasing housing in Goa is beyond the reach of most peoples income in Goa. Why? Because some druggie believes Goa is ‘happening’, some party animal believes Goa is ‘Yo’, because someone with unaccounted money believes he can account for it if it becomes brick and mortar in Goa. In the process, housing construction comes to a halt and fancy holiday homes with swimming pools and gyms, gated condominiums are all you can buy. And what about the Goans, trying to find a home in his state?
I find the ‘hype’ around Goa honestly absurd. It’s a hot, humid coastal state. There are better beaches in other parts of India and I have seen them in Kerala and Karnataka as well. The weather is unpleasant expect from October to Mid-Jan, I hate coming down to the state in summer. So cut through the crass marketing hype, and the Goa sold in the expensive brochures is the proverbial Shangri-La – keep searching. The only reason I continue to love Goa is mind sizzling heat & humidity and its dank, moldy rains is because there is nowhere else I feel like I belong.
It’s about time the world got to know this puffed up, fluffed out state they see in tourist brochures. Learn that this beautiful state has been barbarically pillaged for its sun, surf and sand and the greed that hides behind it all. This greed has been the bane of peace loving, caring, cultured Goans.
Man behind Goa collapse finished 5-flr Ulwe tower in 6 months flat (Mid-Day.com)