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SOP shock: Basic safety precautions not undertaken at Cuncolim Industrial estate, say irked locals

SOP shock: Basic safety precautions not undertaken at Cuncolim Industrial estate, say irked locals

For years, the locals of Cuncolim have been calling on the authorities to check on the conditions at the Cuncolim Industrial Estate as they have repeatedly stated that they are suffering from the pollution coming from the industries. Now, with a number of cases emerging out of the estate, locals have slammed the authorities for failing to take precautionary measures or follow any Standard Operating Procedure, which they believe led to the spread of the infection in the constituency and surrounding areas. This despite the assurances given by the government to the High Court, that the same would be followed

VIJAY DESSAI


CUNCOLIM: Last week, the Advocate General of Goa gave assurances to the Goa Bench of the High Court that the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) governing COVID-19 cases in the Verna Industrial Estate will also be followed in all industrial estates.

Being satisfied with these statements, the High Court disposed of the petition, which had been filed by Cuncolim Municipal Councillor, Shashank Desai, who had appealed for declaring the Cuncolim Industrial Estate as a containment zone.

As per the SOP submitted to the Court, the guidelines include immediate closure of the total operations of the plant in case more positive cases are reported.

It is to be noted that the Court had said this SOP is required to be followed in case of all industries and all industrial estates in Goa. The State Chief Secretary, South Goa Collector and Cuncolim Municipal Council (CMC) were respondents in the case.

The court had also stated it cannot be said that the authorities have exercised their discretion in an unreasonable manner in not declaring the estate as a containment zone or that the respondents are not conscious of the existing guidelines/SOP.

Coming to this week, according to sources, there has been scant respect to the guidelines at the Cuncolim industrial estate and the authorities have failed to act on any such violation.

Moreover with the rising number of cases in Cuncolim and surrounding areas, locals have blamed the surge of cases in the estate to the spread of the infection.

In the past, locals have come on the street and there have been inspections too by government agencies due to the air and water pollution emerging from the estate.

The petitioner Shashank Desai has slammed the industries for not following the SOPs and the authorities for ignoring the same. “Nothing has been done by Cuncolim Industry Association to set up a COVID Care Centre. The local factories and production units are also not following the precautionary measures as mandated by the Court, “said Desai.

He added that one can see the same crowd (of workers) moving around without wearing masks or following social distancing norms. He alleged that it was a similar scenario inside the factory premises as well.

“It has been eight days now since the Court order but there has been no sign of change on the ground. Besides what I mentioned earlier, there are no checks on such violations and no one is keeping a vigil to see that the SOPs are followed. I am forced to plead with the High Court again and file a contempt of court case against the factory owners, Cuncolim industrial association and also against the government and municipal council,” Desai added.

A senior citizen from Cuncolim and retired teacher, Kamlaksh Prabhu Dessai was aghast that the estate is being negligent even after receiving directions from the High Court. “I appeal to the District Collector to act tough on those irresponsible factory owners,” he said.

“The Court had directed to close down those units having more than five COVID-19 cases. I am surprised how suddenly the number of active cases is nil. The authorities must check on this to see if this is the reality or if the actual numbers are being hidden,” he added.

His statements resonated with other locals given that public confidence is at an all-time low and their anxiety is at an all-time high. Locals continue to blame the estate for the spread of COVID-19.

Sources stated that there have been more than a hundred workers from the Cuncolim industrial estate who had tested positive for COVID-19.

These cases were spread out amongst the various units with a few of them reporting higher than five cases, with one unit touching 23 cases and another touching 55 cases.

However, according to officials representing the industries, they say that all their workers have recovered and have been discharged from their respective COVID Care Centers. They also claimed that since the last two weeks, there hasn’t been any worker who has been found positive.

It may be recalled that the Advocate General had informed the court that there were only 5 active cases as on August 12. The local municipal authorities are also claiming that there are no more active COVID cases at the Estate. However, these claims have not been fully accepted by the locals who are also wary of the information being put up by the government ever since it stopped sharing details of areas that have COVID cases and are only sticking to details from the respective Health Centers.

Nonetheless, locals have called for greater testing and checking at the industrial Estate and questioned why a COVID Care Centre has not yet been set up by the Cuncolim Industrial Association at the estate.

On its part, the association has asked the Cuncolim Industrial Estate field manager to provide a suitable place at the Goa Industrial Development Corporation (GIDC) Administrative building to set up for the Centre.

They added that they have asked permission for the same last month on July 28.

When the estate’s field manager was contacted, he said they have kept the administrative building’s hall ready and have also identified two more locals to set up the COVID Care Centre. He added that all of this has been conveyed to the association. However, employees at the local GIDC office have objected to this proposal. They have suggested that instead, there are two empty sheds at the estate, which can be used for setting up the COVID Care Centre.

It is nearly a month since the process started and work on setting up the place has not yet started as they are still deciding on the place itself. GIDC has also asked for rent from the association for using the infrastructure as a COVID Care Centre.

The association has also assured to provide the necessary beds for the Centre but this initiative has been dragging.

Locals, however, lamented the non-stop back and forth and feel the stakeholders are employing delaying tactics in this ensuing blame game but no one is taking responsibility or acting with urgency.

Efforts to contact the President of Cuncolim Industry Association proved futile.

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