AFTER allowing filth to gather on the beaches for weeks after the tourist season began, the state government has asked Drishti Lifesaving Private Limited to continue cleaning the beaches till March. Drishti had been given the contract for cleaning beaches which expired on November 12. The tourism department should have thought months earlier which company was going to clean the beaches after the Drishti contract ended, but it slept over it. It resulted in beaches being littered with garbage. The stench emanating from rotting garbage greeted our valued tourists!
The tourism department claimed to be busy ‘finalising’ a deal with some new company. There are allegations of tourism authorities tailoring the tender to suit particular interests. An atmosphere of uncertainty and urgency about beach cleaning was allegedly built up to create space for those particular interests to grab the contract. Meanwhile the tourism department allowed the beaches, the prime tourist attractions of the state, to pile up garbage. It was only when uncleanliness on the beaches turned horrible, the tourism department was told by the higher authorities to continue with Drishti till March 31, 2019 till they ‘finalised’ the contractual process to get a new company for the job. In the hurry and confusion, the tourism department has engaged the services of Drishti on the same terms and conditions, subject to further order as may be passed by the High Court of Bombay at Goa which is hearing a writ petition in this regard. Of course, the tourism department has asserted its authority by directing the agency that it procure and supply dustbins only upon specific request or approval of the department.
Now that the government has gained time it should ensure that the tender process for the selection of a beach cleaning contractor is completed well ahead of March 31, 2019. In order to ensure that the process is transparent and fair the government should make the tourism department refashion the tender. The tender should be framed in such a way that the tourism authorities do not have any room to push any undeserving bidder to win the contract. Beach cleaning has been a dirty affair, with some undeserving parties being given the responsibility in the past. They did not have proper and adequate equipment and manpower to carry out their responsibility. The tourism department must frame the tender so as to allow the Goa Solid Waste Management Corporation to participate in the bidding process. The Goa Solid Waste Management Corporation is a specialized agency engaged in the business of garbage management. It could be worthwhile to try it out for beach cleaning in limited areas. The Goa Seamen’s Association has also offered to take responsibility for beach cleaning. The tourism department can give them a trial on a pilot basis. They should give them a beach to show if they can do the job properly. The Goa Seamen’s Association wants to do it at half the cost of what the tourism department is paying the private agency. It could be worthwhile if the Seamen’s Association is given an opportunity. It could create job openings for retired seamen and youth of Goa.
It is worth recalling that Drishti was given the contract after the contract awarded to Ram Cleaners and Developers Pvt Ltd and Bhumika Cleartech Services to clean beaches in North Goa and South Goa, respectively was terminated on account of unsatisfactory performance. After that Drishti operated for nearly two years. The questionable process of selecting a beach cleaning contractor has to be curbed. The tourism department must stop messing up with the selection, which only results in the image of Goa being spoiled with dirty beaches. Contracts are often seen by politicians in power as openings for making easy money by getting a cut from the amount paid to the contractors. When commission becomes the criterion for awarding contractor, the quality of the work is bound to suffer. Public interest takes the back seat. Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar had to intervene to ask the tourism authorities to deal with the uncleanliness of beaches immediately. We hope the tourism authorities do not go back to their old ways to award contract to parties that carry out the work of beach cleaning unsatisfactorily. If terms do not work out with Drishti to continue after March 31, 2019, the tourism department should engage the Goa Solid Waste Management Corporation and the Goa Seamen’s Association in limited areas and see how