Panaji: The dust raised by arguably Goa's worst building collapse till date could bring the Portuguese Commonwealth Games, scheduled to be held later this month, under cloud.
The Opposition has now trained its guns on Canacona legislator and Sports Minister Ramesh Tawadkar, who they suggest has backed the promoters of the ill-fated project, which is fraught with illegalities and have questioned his credentials as the head of the ministry which is deeply involved in creating infrastructure worth over Rs 200 crore for the Games.
Tawadkar's sports ministry is the main host of the Lusofonia Games 2014, for which sports infrastructure worth more than Rs 200 crore is being built in a hurry to meet the deadline -- 18 January.
Tawadkar has two flats in an already completed phase of the ill-fated project, which both, the Congress and the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), have demanded a judicial probe into.
On Saturday, Ruby Residency, a still under construction, five-storeyed building, came crashing killing at least 17 people. The state administration believes that 12 others who are believed to be still buried in the debris are dead. Officially the toll due to the crash could well be 29.
The Lusofonia Games, are the Portuguese equivalent of the British Commonwealth Games and will feature countries like Angola, Brazil, Cape Verde, East Timor, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea- Bissau, Goa (India), Macau (China), Mozambique, Portugal, Sao Tome and Principe and Sri Lanka.
Several hundred athletes from 12 nations will compete in nine different sporting disciplines - Athletics, Basketball, Beach Volleyball, Football, Judo, Table Tennis, Taekwondo, Volleyball and Wushu.
While some existing infrastructure such as the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium in Fatorda is beind upgraded, a synthetic 400 mts track and an indoor stadium are being built from scratch.
The hurried manner in which the infrastructure is being raised for the Games has been questioned by the Opposition in the past too.
But Tawadkar's alleged linkage to real estate promoters which was responsible for Goa's biggest building crash yet, has given the Opposition even more fodder.
"All the four stadiums and other infrastructure which has been built for the sports ministry ahead of the Lusofonia Games should be examined thoroughly by a panel of technical experts," National Congress Party Vice President Trajano D'Mello told Firstpost.
"What happened in Delhi during the Commonwealth Games should not be allowed to happen here. It is a shame for Goa. If these are the kind of real estate projects he promotes in his own constituency, we have doubts about the sports infrastructure he is raising by spending hundreds of crores," he said.
Goa Pradesh Congress Committee (GPCC) President John Fernandes demanded a judicial probe into how Tawadkar came to possess the flats, especially after local residents had repeatedly complained to the Canacona Municipal Council (CMC) about illegalities committed by the promoters of the project, Navi Mumbai based Bharat Developers and Realtors, who according to Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar are on the run and cannot be traced by the police.
"The building has been built in what was once a water body. A retaining wall was built to block the water. That is why the foundation was not strong enough and the accident happened. Local residents had complained about it, but no action was taken," Fernandes said.
Tawadkar a two-time BJP MLA worked as a physical education teacher at a local school before being elected as a Bharatiya Janata Party legislator in 2007.
Speaking to reporters Tawadkar has refuted the charge claiming that the flats had been purchased with his own "hard earned money".
"I have not received the flats in return for a favour. I have paid for it in full," Tawadkar said.
The minister however blames permission-granting authorities for the accident and said that he will "leave no stone unturned" to ensure that those who granted fraudulent permissions are punished.
Chief minister Manohar Parrikar also defended his minister accusing the media of turning the accident political.
"He (Tawadkar) told me that all his life savings were invested there... You are trying to politicise the issue unnecessarily," Parrikar said, refuting charges that Tawadkar had been backing the project despite irregularities.
The Goa government has meanwhile appointed a three-member panel headed by a retired Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer V K Jha to probe and pinpoint the reasons for the accident and fix responsibility for the same.
Calling the accident an "eye-opener" Parrikar also said that a new advisory related to construction of buildings in Goa would be formulated soon by the state government.
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Updated Date: Jan 06, 2014 22:20:29 IST