Monday, November 24, 2008

Gram Sabha’s- The buzzword of the Goan fightback

Since the time the opposition to the regional plan took firm ground, a new forum seems to have awakened Goans much to their delight. Although Gram Sabhas were in existence in Goa since the panchayati Raj was, their utility was restricted to solving petty village quarrels such as encroachments and small injustices at the ward levels.

Moreover Gram sabhas , although have a specific time and frequency of meeting, were often scheduled at the whims and fancies of the Sarpanch of that particular village of Goa, with little or no protest from the villagers. Some Panchayats in Goa had a gram sabha only in name and the sabha actually did not even meet up leave alone disGoa gram sabha meetingcussed any issue. It was largely a manipulative exercise in many villages of Goa, as the discussions were inconsequential and were only a platform to seek embarrassment of rivals and had little or no bearing on the actions arising out of its convening.

To my disbelief I had painfully discovered another political gimmick the gram sabha was mired in. Gram sabhas were often a cruel joke played by the councilors , as their cronies filled the gram sabha meetings in full numbers to stifle all murmurs of protests and to silence the questions with foul verbatim. When I attended a couple of them in my village I observed familiar faces consistently supporting the cause of the cornered councilor without any valid reason. It was as if some of these people were paid to ensure that their masters, the councillors were bailed out from the predicament of their wicked actions being highlighted in the open.

However now the Gram sabhas in Goa are with a new armour. The frequency of the gram sabha, its date , time etc is being sought vociferously. The charm of the sarpanch and his boys is declining. The clout of the Panchayat Minister is waning and the new citizen is on the rise. Questioning, demanding, seeking to know. Suddenly the right of the citizen in the gram sabha is stinging the establishment like a slap following them in every scheduled meeting. The threat of the Gram sabha and the questionnaire awaiting the panchas, has begun to give them the necessary sleepess nights.

Unable to bear this onslaught the Panchayat bodies are burning midnight oil to find out how to scuttle the movement of the Goan who wants a fight through the gram sabha. Some of them including the minister of panchayats have gone on record saying that the citizens rights under the gram sabha are limited. They have however failed to specify the clauses under which such rights are denied to the citizen.

So finally the Goan villager has woken up to the reality of fighting a battle to save his village from the evil designs of a handful of villagers with vested interests and whose general intention is to make a quick buck when the going is good. At our expense and at the expense of the future of our children.

May they be condemned for shattering our confidence in them. May the gram sabhas live longer than they think. And may the fight translate into concrete actions. We owe it to ourselves.

Long live the Goan!

Xittuk Goencar

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