DEMAND: The Bishop had forced Manohar Parrikar to legalize the grants to English medium primary schools run by the Church in return for support to the BJP
BY RAJAN NARAYAN
And a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when the Bishop of Goa apologized for the misuse of the Raia Church by Fr Conceição. For a Saturday following the week when the Church’s deal with the late Manohar Parrikar to permit grants to Church-run English medium primary schools may be headed for rough water. For a Saturday following the week when Girish Chodankar seems to be galloping ahead with the support of the MGP, including Sudin Dhavalikar. For a Saturday following the week when there was no joy among Catholics in Goa over the forthcoming Easter festival which is a completely dry day. For a Saturday following the week when the Supreme Court forced the Election Commission (EC) to take action against senior leaders who have made hate speeches.
And a few stray thoughts on the Bishop apologising to the EC for the hate speech of Fr Conceição from the pulpit of the Raia church. In his sermon last Sunday Fr Conceição is alleged to have told Catholics not to vote for the BJP. The Parish priest is also reported to have made inflammatory statements and defamatory remarks on Narendra Modi and Amit Shah. According to the EC guidelines no place of worship, whether mosque, temple or church, can be used for political purposes. What Fr Conceição did was even worse by openly canvassing for Congress candidate Francisco Sardinha and asking Catholics to boycott the BJP.
In the wake of complaints from the BJP the EC took up the matter with the priest concerned and the Bishop to whom he reports. Fr Conceição is reported to have rendered an unqualified apology to the EC and admitted that he should have not made the remarks from the church. The objection is to Fr Conceição seeking support for Sardinha from Catholics while in the uniform of the priest from the Church. If he had made the same remarks in plain clothes outside the church it may not have considered a crime.
Fr Conceição is a law unto himself and has actively participated in elections even in the past. In the 2012 election when Babush Monserrate and his wife contested, Fr Conceição as Parish priest of the Taleigao church, openly supported them.
He is not the only politically connected priest in Goa. Successive parish priests of the Navelim church were controlled by Luizinho Faleiro. In fact when one of the Parish priests defied Luizinho’s wife, she is reported to have slapped him.
When Fr Avinash Rebello was the Parish priest of St Cruz he used to invite notorious history-sheeter Rudolf Fernandes to be the chief guest for St Cruz School functions. This was particular dangerous as Avinash had been secretary of the Diocesan Centre for Education. When I protested I was told that Victoria and Rudolf had contributed large amounts to the church.
I recall our problem with Fr Diego, who was then the parish priest of the Colva church. His speciality was to break old churches and build commercial palaces in the extra spaces held by the church without the permission of the Church or the Confraria. I mentioned him in one issue and Fr Diego retaliated by sending three bus loads of his supporters to threaten and destroy our equipment in the Goan Observer.
Another priest, Fr Oscar Quadros, was openly living with a notorious lawyer practicing in Panjim involved in corruption. Unfortunately, the Bishop does not seem to have any control over his flock.
THE CHURCH & PARRIKAR
And a few stray thoughts on the Church striking a deal with the late Manohar Parrikar in return for his support to the BJP.
In the ‘90s, the late Sashikala Kakodkar was Education Minister in the Progressive Democratic Front government. Until then the State government used to give grants to all primary schools, irrespective of the medium of instruction. This included English medium schools run by any organisation in Goa. Sashikala amended the law stipulating that only vernacular medium schools would be given government grants, even at the primary levels. The issue does not arise at the secondary and higher secondary level because all schools received grants.
The result of Sashikala’s decision was that all schools run by Church organisations had to change their medium of instruction to Konkani in the Devanagari script. They had no choice because the majority of the students in the village Catholic schools were from the poorer sections of society and could not afford to pay the high fees that the schools would have to charge in the absence of grants. But the enrolment in the Church-run Konkani medium schools kept falling. The major problem was that the teachers at Church schools were mainly Catholics who only knew Romi Konkani. They obeyed the order but introduced ‘Konklish’, teaching even Konkani in English.
Just before the 2012 election the Diocesan schools struck a deal with then CM Digambar Kamat to shift to English medium unofficially. Digambar continued to give them grants. To compete with Digambar, Parrikar promised that if the BJP won the elections he would made the grants given to Catholic schools official. When Parrikar became the chief minister after the 2012 election he amended the rules so that schools run by Catholic organisations at the primary level would continue to get grants.
Parrikar himself was very popular with the Catholics of Miramar and La Campala colony and got re-elected to the Panjim Assembly constituency five times with their support. But now that Parrikar is no longer there the Bishop is worried whether the agreement with Parrikar will be honoured by new Chief Minister Pramod Sawant.
There have been protests from schools run by Hindu management like Mushtifund and Peoples High School because grants are not given to their English medium primary schools. In fact, if the grants given only to Catholic schools are challenged in court, the court will probably order the government to give grants to all English medium primary schools and not only schools run by the Church.
The deal between the Bishop and Parrikar was that in return for the grants the Church would support the BJP. With the encouragement of the Church, Parrikar even offered BJP tickets to Catholic candidates in South Goa who won. The church is now worried because they are not comfortable with the BJP led by Amit Shah and Narendra Modi.
Amit Shah has made it clear that the BJP will eventually force Catholics and Muslims to leave the country. Amit Shah believes that India should be a Hindu country where only followers of Hinduism can be citizens, like in Nepal. All the Catholics will have to become Hindu Catholics or Hindu Muslims if they want to stay in India going by his logic.
The Bishop has been encouraging priests to vote against the BJP. If the BJP gets re-elected the grants now given to primary Catholics schools will be withdrawn.
GIRISH GOING STRONG
And a few stray thoughts on the BJP suffering a major setback in North Goa. Historically North Goa has always been won by the BJP and the MGP. With the MGP deciding to part ways with the BJP and support the congress, Girish Chodankar has become stronger. In the Ponda Taluka the MGP dominates, and this can make a big difference in favour of Girish. Indeed, the president of the GPCC has persuaded the MGP to even support the Congress candidate in Mapusa.
Girish has reached out to the whole of North Goa even though he is a resident of Fatorda. Reports on the ground say that he is gaining rapidly on the snail Shripad Naik who has not done any work in his fourth term as Member of Parliament.
Girish is a young face and people trust him. Except that it is necessary to clarify that when Girish talks about every family getting
6,000 he is not talking about bribes. Girish is referring to the poverty allowance of6,000 per month or `72,000 per year which Rahul Gandhi has promised to the poorest 20% of the population. Girish is short of funds compared to Shripad Naik, as unlike the BJP, the Congress party at the Center is not getting funds from big businesses which prefer the BJP. This is because if you are close to Modi or Shah you can get any amount of loans, which you do not have to re-pay. Cases in point are Jet Airways, Anil Ambani of Reliance and even the Adanis and the others who have been shown special favours by the BJP.
All businessmen used to contribute to the election funds of all parties. The EC had introduced or encouraged parties to issue election bonds. This has been objected to by the EC which discovered that 90% of the bonds have been purchased by industrialists for the BJP. The EC has been trying to extend co-operation to prevent black money by offering tax rebate to companies which officially contribute to poll campaigns. But many companies prefer to make contribution in black out of fear that if the rival party comes to power they will get into trouble.
And a few stray thoughts on the Gujarat government delisting Good Friday as a holiday in the Union territories of Daman & Dui and Nagar Haveli.
These territories were also controlled by the Portuguese until they were liberated in 1954 by freedom fighters, not the army. Since they are in Gujarat, even though they are Union Territories directly under the Centre, they are also under the influence of big brother — the Gujarat chief minister.
It will be recalled that over a decade ago Manohar Parrikar as the chief minister had abolished the holiday on Good Friday. After protests from Catholics the holiday were restored. In the case of the former Portuguese territories in Gujarat, the holiday has been restored on the order of the Bombay High Court.
Although Good Friday might be a holiday, it is not going to be a Happy Easter — at least in Goa. This is because Easter is on April 21, 2019, which is 48 hours before the date of polling, April 23, 2019. Traditionally all liquor shops have to remain close for 72 hours before polling. Serving of daru even in 5-star hotels is banned during dry days.
Normally there used to be a number of dances and special lunches and dinners organised by hotels during Easter. This time most of them have been cancelled, excepting the Fortune, which has organised a special event with a four course dinner. The other dampening factor is that loud music can be played only up to 10 pm. The EC has agreed to make an exception of masses to be held on Saturday night which will start at midnight and go on till 2 or 3 am. Similarly traditional Hindu festivals have also been exempted from the limit on playing music.
HATE SPEECH & THE EC
And a last stray thought on the Supreme Court cracking down on hate speech and the belated action by the Election Commission (EC).
Although there have been many provocative speeches reported, the EC has been unwilling to take firm action. This has created or re-enforced doubts that like the CBI, and even the judiciary, the BJP has been trying to make the EC also a caged parrot. The suspicion is greater as most of the hate speeches are made by BJP leaders. One of the worst offenders is Yogi Adityanath who has been pouring venom on Muslims and Catholics. Even BJP party president Amit Shah has introduced the spectre of using religion to discriminate by threatening to selectively throw Muslims, Catholics and other non-Hindu/Buddhist refugees out of the country if the BJP is re-elected.
When asked why it was not taking action the EC claimed that it did not have powers. The Supreme Court intervened and told the EC that it can use its extraordinary powers and its lack of action would create divide between various communities. After the prodding from the Supreme Court the EC has begun to act and has barred Yogi Adityanath from campaigning for 72 hours. The EC has been equally strict with the other leaders like Chief Minister of West Bengal Mamta Banerjee who has been abusing the BJP. So if you hear anyone making a hate speech against any community please approach the office of the Chief EC (CEC) at Altinho in Goa.
The EC has published phone numbers of not only the joint EC but also the general and expenditure observers. The general observers check on the flow of money and daru and the bribing of voters. The expenditure observers are from the Income Tax Department and check the statements submitted by the candidates. This time around the EC has made it compulsory to present income tax returns of five years for all members of the family.
However, even this is not enough as the candidates declared the book value and not the market value as they are expected to do. Sardinha has shown the value of his bungalow worth
10 crore in Dona Paula as a mere20 lakhs. Similarly Babush has declared his mansion in Taleigao is worth `30 lakhs. Many forms have not been filled and none of the candidates fighting in the Lok Sabha elections or the by-elections in Mandrem, Mapusa and Shiroda have published their criminal records in three newspapers and on television channels three times as they are expected to. The EC in Goa is much too susegad and does not check the distribution of money, consumer goods and daru thoroughly.
Although drinking is banned 72 hours before the election the maximum amount of daru usually flows on the nights before and after the election. In some cases, even on election day, parties keep voters who might vote against them drunk rather than let them vote.
We hope all Goans make their vote count this time. Also, make use of the VVPAT feature and take a good look at the little slip that is generated when you vote. You will not be able to touch it of course, but it will be displayed for a moment so that you can see hard evidence that your vote went to the candidate that you voted for.
Interestingly, this time the EVMs will be stowed in the Polytechnic in Altinho and not in the Bal Bhavan, disturbing the summer classes of children.