MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING: The BJP has stripped the powers of the panchayats but locals continue to fight over the seats ernestly
By Rajan Narayan
AND a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when the Medium of Instruction (MoI) policy of the Government of Goa lapsed. For a Saturday following the week when for the first time reservations have been made for women, OBCs and STs in the panchayat election. For a Saturday following the week when Manohar Parrikar made himself the chairman of the Entertainment Society of Goa (ESG). For a Saturday following the week when the hearing on the disqualification of Vishwajit Rane was postponed. For a Saturday following the week when the BJP launched an attack on the opposition on the eve of the election to the post of president of India.
MOI LIMBO AGAIN
AND a few stray thoughts on fresh troubles for Parrikar following the lapsing of the MoI policy. In the wake of the opposition to extending grants to English medium primary schools run by the church, Parrikar had drafted an amendment to the Goa school education bill which was introduced in the assembly in 2014 just before Parrikar was shifted to Delhi as Raksha Mantri. The assembly referred the bill to a select committee headed by Parrikar as the Catholic MLAs raised strong objections and wanted grants to be extended to all English medium schools. The select committee did not meet at all as soon after Parrikar became the chairman of the committee he was hijacked by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Delhi to become Raksha Mantri.
The draft bill had proposed that grants would be given only to schools which have Marathi or Konkani as the MoI at the primary level, with English as a compulsory subject. The grants to minority schools was conditional on the use of bilingual books and they had to have Konkani or Marathi as a compulsory subject till class IV. Moreover the policy stipulated that primary and secondary schools where MoI is not Marathi or Konkani would have to teach Konkani and Marathi as compulsory subjects till class X. The government was also empowered to withdraw grants and recognition to schools which do not teach in the mother tongue.
The biggest headache to Parrikar will be caused by the provision which empowers governments to withdraw grants to schools which do not teach in the mother tongue. The Catholics schools which blackmailed both Digambar Kamat and Parrikar to extend grants even after shifting from the mother tongue to English will oppose any move to stop the grants. The church run catholic schools were forced to switch from the Devanagiri Konkani medium to English due to a huge dropout rate. This is happening not only to Catholic Konkani schools but also to government and private Marathi schools as every parent wants his children to be educated in the English medium. Even migrants prefer to put their children in English medium schools, paying huge fees if they do not get admission to the aided schools.
When a bill is placed before the Assembly it has to be passed during the tenure of the same Assembly. Since the bill was not passed during the tenure of the assembly from 2012 to 2017, it has lapsed. Meanwhile the opposition to the extension of grants to Catholic primary English medium schools has increased within the Sangh Parivar. It may be recalled that the RSS chief, Subhash Velingkar, split from both the RSS and the BJP on this issue, and contested the election. Though the Bharatiya Bhasha Suraksha Manch (BBSM)which had an alliance with both the MGP and the Shiv Sena did not win any seats on its own, it was responsible for the sharp reduction in the BJP score from 21 in 2012 to only 13 seats in 2017. Meanwhile, the forum for rights of children’s education (FORCE) has also submitted a memo with 2 lakh signatures demanding grants for all English medium schools. So Parrikar is in the position of Trishanku, as he cannot antagonize the church or even his own legislative party, as seven of the 13 BJP MLAs are Catholics. But if he extends grants to English medium schools, then Velingkar will again fight against him in the bye-elections. He’s damned if he does and doubly damned if he does not.
AND a few stray thoughts on the introduction of reservations for the first time in the panchayat election in Goa. The panchayat elections are expected to be held on June 12, with the Code of Conduct coming into a place on May 20. Unlike in the case of previous Panchayat elections, there will be reservations for women, other backward classes (OBCs), schedule tribes (STs) and schedule castes (SCs). So far there have been reservations only for SCs in Goa. Since Goa itself has no SCs and even among the migrants the SC population is very low, one seat is reserved by rotation for them in elections. Earlier it was Fatorda from where Babu Asgaonkar was elected. The reserve seats for SC was then shifted to Pernem which is why Babu also shifted and won the election from Pernem on the BJP ticket and promptly became the Tourism Minister.
It has been more a decade since the traditional people of Goa the Gawdas, the Kunbis, the Velips, and the Dhangars, have been demanding reservation. The Central government recognised the Gawdas, the Kunbis, and the Velips, and notified them as STs more than six years ago. But the Government of Goa did not reserve seats for them in elections with the excuse that no census of the tribals had been conducted. The state government claims that the tribal population is only 12 per cent which does not include those tribals who converted to Christianity. The total tribal population is estimated at over 20 per cent. The Central government has failed to notify the Dhangars as a notified tribe so far.
The biggest injustice done to the tribal population in Goa in the panchayat election is the fact that more seats are reserved for OBCs than for tribals. Unlike the tribals, who are genuinely economically and socially backward, the OBCs are both politically and economically very forward in Goa. The OBCs in Goa include the Bhandaris, who are the most influential community, and who have a more than proportionate representation in education, employment, and even politics. Both Ravi Naik the former chief minister and Shripad Naik the BJP North Goa MP are Bhandaris.
In the panchayat elections being held on June 12, out of the total of 1,522 wards spread over 186 panchayats, 490 have been reserved for women. Even within the women’s quota there is sub-reservation for OBC women and ST women. The number of seats reserved for OBCs are 357 which is much more than the socially and economically backward STs which is only 183. The largest number of seats for STs is in Salcete (39) while the largest number of seats for OBCs is in Bardez (85). The BJP has a big advantage as the ruling party and has done match fixing in the reservation of seats for women STs and OBCs.
I do not know why such a fuss is being made over the panchayat elections. Thanks to an amendment made by the BJP government, the panchayats in Goa have no power. All the powers are with the government, represented by the Director of Panchayats. If a builder does not get permission to build, or to occupy a building which he has built, he only has to keep quiet and wait. If the panchayat does not grant permission within ten days, the builder can approach the Director of Panchayats who will give him permission immediately depending on the bribe paid to the minister who at present is the most corrupt BJP minister Mauvin Godinho. Even the resolutions of the Gram sabha ares not binding on either the Sarpanch or the government.
ESG MOVING UP
AND a few stray thoughts on Parrikar appointing himself chairman of the ESG. This is not surprising as it was Parrikar who started the ESG to organise the international film festival when Goa was chosen as a permanent venue during the prime ministership of Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Parrikar was so anxious to organise IFFI in Goa in a very grand way, that he destroyed not only the Panjim market but also the Dayanand Bandodkar football ground to create infra-structure for IFFI. It is typical of Parrikar’s U turns and failure to fulfil promises that even after 14 years, Goa does not have a permanent venue for holding the film festival. There is talk of land being acquired in Dona Paula next to the International Centre to build a convention hall to hold the opening and closing ceremonies which are currently being held in the Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Stadium.
Vishnu Wagh was the chairman of the ESG till he got a massive heart attack which left him possibly crippled for life. Though Vishnu came back to Goa briefly after a major recovery, he is not fit to resume duty which is why the BJP chose his brother to contest the election in his place from St Andre. However, the seat was won by Babush’s candidate.
Subsequently Laxmikant Parsekar appointed Rajendra Talak as the vice-chairman of the ESG leaving the position of chairperson vacant. Now Parrikar has appointed himself the chairperson of the ESG.
CASHEW KING MLA
AMONG the MLAs who have been appointed to the new ESG panel is Pravin Zantye, whose family besides being the cashew kings of Goa, also own many theatres, including Ashok and Samrat in Panjim. Apart from Zantye and Patnekar, the two MLAs, several film makers have also been included. The film critic, Sachin Chatte, is among the members of the new committee. Versatile Konkani actress Minaxi Martins has also been invited to participate in the activities in the ESG. But the surprise inclusion is a don from Mumbai, closely connected with the film industry in Bolloywood, whose name had come up during the smuggling of gold by Churchill Alemao when he was chief minister of Goa in 1993. We suspect that he has been infiltrated into the committee by Vijai Sardesai due to pressure from his good friend Joaquim Alemao. The don is the godfather of Joaquim’s children. Vijai Sardesai was the chairman of Goa State Urban Development Authority when Joaquim Alemao was the Urban Development Minister.
And a few stray thoughts on the disqualification petition against Vishwajit Rane, the Minister for Health and Agriculture. Vishwajit resigned his seat as the elected Congress MLA from Valpoi after Parrikar hijacked the government although the BJP won only 13 of 40 seats. He was welcomed by Parrikar who wanted to reduce his dependence on Goa Forward (GF) and the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) which had both been blackmailing him. Vishwajit is important for the BJP as along with his father Pratap Singh Rane, they control the three seats in Satari Taluka and two seats in Bicholim. Which means that with Vishwajit in the BJP the saffron brigade can be assured of five seats.
VISHWAJIT IN TROUBLE
VISHWAJIT resigned from the membership of the Congress party. But when he resigned as an MLA he handed over his letter to the pro-tem speaker Sidharth Kuncalienker. The pro-tem speaker is appointed only to conduct the election of the speaker and cannot accept the resignation of MLAs. There is also a charge that Vishwajit resigned the membership of the Legislative Assembly before he left the Congress party. In other words he was still a member of the Congress party when he resigned his membership of the Legislative Assembly. Vishwajit has also been accused of disobeying the whip on the confidence vote and absenting himself. The rule is that any party MLA who defies the whip stands disqualified automatically. Perhaps due to the influence of senior Rane, who has been chief minister for seven terms, no notice was served on junior Rane for the hearing. With the BJP in power it is not likely that junior Rane will be disqualified for six years, which would prevent him from coming back to the Assembly on the BJP ticket.
And a few stray thoughts on the attacks launched on the opposition by the Modi government on the eve of the election to the post of president of India. On Tuesday the BJP government launched raids not only on PC Chidambaram, who was the Finance Minister in the Congress government, but also on his son, Karti. The Modi government also raided 12 individuals in 20 places linked to Lalu Prasad’s family property deals. Lalu is the main partner in the Bihar government run by Nitesh Kumar, who is considered the choice of the combined opposition for the prime minister’s post in the 2019 election.
The raid comes at a time when the opposition parties are trying to come together to defeat the BJP nominee in the presidential elections. The Trinamool Congress led by Mamta didi is in favour of a second term for fellow Bengali Pranab Mukerjee. Sonia is not keen on Pranab as he tried to prevent her from becoming Congress president. The other opposition parties like the CPM and the RJD, not to mention the Congress leaders, are in favour of Gopal Krishna Gandhi who is a grandson of Mahatma Gandhi. Though the BJP and Modi have a big majority in the Lok Sabha they are still in a minority in the Rajya Sabha. If the opposition comes together they can prevent the victory of the BJP candidate. This will be a major blow to Narendra Modi and Amit Shah. One of the reasons Parrikar is not resigning his Rajya Sabha seat is because every vote counts and he is waiting for the presidential polls to get over before contesting the election from Panjim to return to Goa’s Legislative Assembly.
PRATHEEK FOR IIT
AND a last stray thought for yet another Saturday. The best kept secret is that the academic champion of Goa, Pratheek, is the son of Dr Marisa and Dr Oscar Rebello — better known as an activist and a senior leader of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP). Pratheek has broken every record. He topped the IIT main exam among those who took part from Goa. He also topped the Indian Institute of Science entrance exams. and the national eligibility test (NET). Most recently he topped the GCET, where he got the highest number of aggregate marks setting a 12 year record. He topped the state in three of the four subjects—namely physics, chemistry and Maths. And even in biology he came second.
Prateek can now join any engineering college in Goa if he so chooses. He could have followed the example of his parents and join the medical fraternity. His mother is a pathologist and his father is a well known MD specialising in cardiac cases. He is an excellent physician and activist, though unfit to be a politician. However Prateek is not interested in studying medicine but is obsessed with joining the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) and will no doubt top that list and join the elite. One hopes that having fulfilled his ambition of joining IIT he will not aspire to become chief minister like Parrikar and Arvind Kejriwal who are both former IIT alumni. Pratheek’s parents insisted that the credit should go exclusively to their son as it was the fruit of his effort.