Goa beach cleaning tender triggers spat between ruling alliance members

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Panaji, Nov 19 (IANS) Uncollected garbage strewn on Goa’s beaches, and a tender to appoint an agency to clean them, triggered a row in the ruling BJP-led coalition government on Monday.

Tourism Minister Manohar Ajgaonkar slammed Bharatiya Janata Party MLA and Deputy Speaker Michael Lobo, who alleged a scam in a new tender floated to appoint an agency to keep the state’s beaches clean.

In a statement issued on Monday, Ajgaonkar, a Minister from the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party, a part of the ruling alliance, asked Lobo not to interfere with the functioning of the Tourism department and insisted that the tendering process was transparent and foolproof.

“The Tourism Department has enough expertise, manpower and ability to handle the beach cleaning work and I don’t want others to interfere and try to influence the working of the department,” Ajgaonkar said, adding that the department will not bow to “any pressure and threats”.

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“The beach cleaning tenders have been floated by Goa Tourism after proper study and the Department will strictly follow all guidelines and procedures in appointing a new agency. The tendering process will be transparent and foolproof and the Goa Tourism will ensure that the eligible and best agency is appointed and no injustice will be done to anyone,” Ajgaonkar said.

Goa’s beaches and its nightlife attract nearly eight million tourists annually. However, a pile-up of garbage in recent years has been a cause for concern, leading to the appointment of a private agency to keep Goa’s beaches clean.

The lapse of the contract last month has resulted in Goa’s beaches once again being strewn with garbage, even as the tourism season is poised to reach its peak, with no agency in place to collect it.

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In the past, the previous BJP-led coalition government was forced to scrap beach cleaning tenders, after the Opposition as well as civil society groups alleged a scam in the tendering process.

Earlier on Monday, Deputy Speaker of the Goa Legislative Assembly and ruling BJP MLA Michael Lobo alleged a scam in the current tendering process for cleaning up of beaches.

“The Tourism Department needs to take a relook at the tendering process… The past Tourism Minister who was also from the BJP did not go to jail for scam in the tendering of beach cleaning contracts, only because he was from the BJP. It should not happen this time. That is why I am requesting the Minister to relook the tender,” Lobo said.

–IANS

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