A young civil servant has captured the minds and hearts of people in this south Goa town, so much so that civil society activists have threatened to protest if the official is transferred.
Posted as chief officer of the Margao Municipal Council (MMC) four months back, 2012 batch Indian Administrastive Service (IAS) officer Naveen S.L. took many steps to simplify government rules and mechanisms for the common citizen and taking on vested interests.
In a matter of a week, he inspired two protests: one demanding his transfer by 16 out of 20 councillors and another demanding that he stay put, by civil society and young political activists.
Those supporting Naveen, a trained computer engineer, said while the pro-public and transparent mechanisms initiated by the 33-year-old officer have irked the councillors, the real reason why they want him ousted was a notice Naveen issued on Monday, ordering demolition of an illegal construction belonging to Mayor Gonzaco Rebello.
Rajashri Nagarcekar, a Margao dweller, told IANS: "The councillors of Margao have been holding a protest against the officer on grounds that they cannot function under him and other issues.
"But we know that the main reason is because the chief officer has ordered the demolition of an illegal structure which belongs to the mayor."
She is one of the many dozen activists who held the 16 councillors, including Rebello, to siege on Friday, demanding Naveen should not be transferred.
As a quasi judicial officer, Naveen in his order on March 24 said: "The court feels that having considered all the arguments, the structure (in question) has indeed been gifted to MMC in 2013 and thus forms (a part of) municipal property."
"As such, Section 174 (of the Goa Municipalities Act) rightfully applies to this structure which, as per transgress report, belongs to one Julio Rebello, and is occupied by Gonzaco Rebello. As such, the court deems it fit to issue a demolition order without notice as per Section 174 of Goa Municipalities Act."
Mayor Rebello and the councillors, who are demanding the officer's ouster, however claimed that their demand has nothing to do with the demolition order.
"We cannot work with him that is all. He has lost our confidence," the mayor said, not preferring to comment on the demolition notice.
His aide Damodar Shirodkar, who along with his colleagues had staged a protest against Naveen on March 25, alleged that he has proof of corruption by the officer.
Shirodkar could however produce no evidence, after civil society activists demanded an explanation from him during their siege of the elected representatives on Friday.
"Margao will see an agitation if Naveen is transferred. We, as citizens instead want the council itself dissolved," says prominent city lawyer-activist Rajiv Gomes, who spearheaded the civil society agitation in favour of the officer.
The reasons for popular adulation of the officer are the series of public welfare and transparent systems initiated in his short four-month tenure as chief officer.
These include a toll-free helpline for municipality-related queries and civic grievances, an aggressive tax recovery drive, prompt action against illegalities and a single-window system for construction licences with minimum red tape, which keeps contact between the applicant and the MMC officials, councillors to the minimum.
"After years we have an honest officer, who is putting the city first. We want him to continue, despite what the councillors say," said another activist Dickson Vaz.
Margao, 35 km from Panaji, is known as the commercial capital of the small coastal state.