SWEEP: Unlike in 1917 when the BJP was in a minority with only 13 seats in the Legislative Assembly election, this time they have swept the ZP elections with 33 seats.
BY RAJAN NARAYAN
AND a few stray thoughts on for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when the BJP swept the Zilla Parishad elections. For a Saturday following the week when excuses are being invented for mismanagement of the Covid-19 vaccine programme. For a Saturday following the week when a cheque we deposited in Caranzalem branch of the State Bank of India in the favour of a party who had an account in the Panjim main branch of the same bank, had not been credited even after a fortnight. For a Saturday following the week when a data price war began between Reliance Jio and its main competitors Vodaphone /Idea and the Airtel.
ZP POLLS ONLY IN RURAL GOA
AND a few stray thoughts on why the BJP swept the Zilla Parishad 2020 election. It needs to be understood that the Zilla Parishad elections are limited to rural Goa where groups of villages constitute a ZP constituency. ZPs are relevant to large states where villages have populations of thousands if not several lakh and not to small states like Goa. This is clearly dramatized by the fact that as against the 40 seats in the Legislative Assembly there are only 50 ZP seats in the State. Moreover, in violation of the amendment to the Constitution of India, no powers have been delegated to Zilla Parishad. They only get a token grant for undertaking development works in villages which fall within their Constituency. There are no opportunities to make big money as a ZP member or even as the district president of the ZP. Which is why none of the big politicians bothered to contest the recently held ZP election.
Despite this the competition was stiff with the Opposition parties expecting to give the BJP a thrashing. The Opposition parties relied on the large crowds that the protests against the three mega environmental projects had drawn in the last few weeks. It may be recalled that in several South Goa villages, large groups of protestors had stopped work on the double tracking of the South Western Railway. There have also been protests against plans for expanding the existing highways and building a 420 megawatt power transmission station right in the middle of the Mollem forest sanctuary. Either agitations have no impact on the outcome of elections or the various opposing groups divided their votes. The Congress which had won 17 seats in the Legislative Assembly election held in 2017 could win only 4 seats in the ZP elections. There was a lot of expectation from the Aam Adami party which had taken the lead in the agitation against environmental projects. AAP managed to get only one seat but admittedly it scored an important victory as it captured the Benaulim seat which is the stronghold of Churchil Alemao. The MGP retained it share winning three seats which was the same number of seats it won in the 2017 Assembly elections. The main gainers were the independents who won seven seats coming second to the BJP which won 33 seats. Unlike in 1917 the BJP emerged as the largest single party and is bound to get its candidates appointed as president of the North Goa and South Goa Zilla Parishads.
The most significant aspect of the BJP campaign and victory in the ZP elections is that the party is back to the politics of polarisation. Unlike the late Manohar Parrikar, who gave tickets to a number of Catholics candidate in the 2012 and 2017 elections, the Pramod Sawant led party did not gave a single seats to a member of the catholic community for the ZP elections. Clearly the RSS whose organising secretary Satish Dhond is the most powerful figure in the BJP, believes that the party should get rid of the catholic MLAs imposed on it by Manohar Parrikar. Ironically the catholic MLAs who were given tickets by the late Manohar Parrikar not only won their seats but even accounted for the majority of the 13 seats that BJP won in the assembly election in 2017. The ground reality is that without the support of Manohar Parrikar the catholic candidates would probably not have been elected on the BJP ticket. The sweeping victory of the BJP could also be due to the demographic factor. The percentage of Catholics to the total population has come down from 28% in the last census to less than 20%. This is because of mass migration by Catholics taking advantage of the Portuguese visa that they continue to be eligible for. The Portuguese colonial regime controlled the Goan population and forced the rebels to leave Goa by denying them educational opportunities. The Pramod Sawant government is driving out not just the Catholic population but even the liberal Hindu population by denial of jobs. Covid-19 has only made the situation worse. IT is possible that the reduction in the proportion of the Catholic population over the last five years has changed the political equation in favour of the BJP. The worst victims are the Catholic MLAs who are unlikely to get a ticket in the assembly elections scheduled for 2022.
COVID-19 VACCINE SCAM
AND a few stray thoughts on the programme for providing vaccinations against Covid-19 to the Goan population. It has already been revealed that whichever Covid-19 vaccine that may be chosen has to be preserved in temperatures as low as 80 degree Celsius. This is much below even the temperature levels in the freezer compartment of the average fridge. But in Goa the Covid-19 vaccine is going to be carried to the vaccination centres in ice boxes of the kind that fisherwomen use to carry fish. So much so the effectiveness of the vaccine from the cold storage to the vaccination point may be compromised as they have not been preserved at the right temperature.
The state government has also decided that only hundred vaccines will be administered at any one centre. The person who is vaccinated will be asked to stay at the vaccination centre for a minimum of 20 minutes to see if there are any side effects. There are also plans to set up hospitals to deal with cases where there may be severe side reactions. There have been reports of at least two US citizens dying after being administered the Pfizer vaccine. There have also been instances of people given the vaccine suffering from cold, fever and body ache. Doctors have made it clear that taking the vaccine is no guarantee that you may not get infected again. There is the example of a minister in UP who had participated in the vaccine trails who tested positive for covid-19. The state government seems to already have been prepared excuses for failure of the vaccination programme.
In a press statement the Dean of the Goa Medical College who is the co-ordinator of the vaccination programme has asked people not to worry even if the vial containing the vaccine does not have the label or an expiry date. Without the label and the expiry date how can we be confident that we are not being injected with glucose or even plain water. The biggest challenge for the nationwide vaccination programme is to build a chain of cold storages for storing the vaccines in bulk. It is from the cold storages that two boxes each containing 24 vaccines will be carried to the vaccination centres. In Goa the government could perhaps use the services of outlets selling beef and chicken, many of whom have high quality cold storage units. The cold storage units are in any case very under-utilised now after the ban of export of beef from Karnataka to Goa.
AND a few stray thought on the unreliability of the digital infra-structure whether it is for e-learning or even for banking transactions. Never mind the stories and pictures we see of kids having to climb trees or go to the terrace to access the lesson because of range and network problems. What is very disturbing is that more than 50% of the times the bank servers are not working making it impossible to either deposit or withdraw money. Even worse the banks which are merged with larger banks even stopped the working of their debit and credit cards for data up-gradation. We have been recently the victims of the collapse of the server of the State Bank Caranzalem branch which is supposed to be the biggest bank in the country. Committed as we are to digital transactions we had deposited our rent cheque in the Caranzalem branch of the SBI in the confidence that it would be credited to be Panjim main branch account of our landlord. State Bank prides itself on anywhere banking which means that you can deposit or withdraw from any branch of the SBI anywhere in the world even though you may have your account in a specific branch of the SBI. In this case the recipient of the cheque had an international account being an NRI settled abroad. We deposited the rent cheque from our account in the OBC turned PNB branch at Miramar in the Caranzalem branch of SBI on the Friday 4 December 2020. Even as on 16 December 2020 the amount had not been credited in the account of our landlord.
When we made enquiries with the Caranzalem Branch of SBI we were told it was due to connectivity problem and it will be done immediately. We are still waiting for the message from our PNB branch informing us that our account has been debited. When my colleague went to the Caranzalem branch of the state bank on 15 December she was given a written Memo Report. The written memo report stated “Being unable to obtain payment of the enclosed cheque/draft for Rs 18,000 drawn on the Oriental Bank of Commerce, we return to you herewith for the reason below. The reason cited by the written memo report is connectivity failure”.
Though we had written our contact number behind the cheque we deposited as directed by the Caranzalem branch of the SBI to inform us of any problem, we did not get any messages or calls from the SBI. This is not an exceptional case and a couple of year ago Rs 75,000 worth cheques deposited in the drop box of the BOI branch disappeared. When the recipient went to update his passbook he found that the amounts have not credited even though we had counter foils showing we had deposited the cheques in the bank. If we cannot trust the largest bank in the country which is the banker of the government of India whom can we trust. We have no choice but to ask them to stop payment on the cheque which they have delayed more than 15 days as we do not know when their connectivity problem will be solved. We also demand that they should inform all their customers of the name of the contractor to whom they have given the connectivity assignment.
The government may be very keen that all bank customers should shift to digital banking. But considering the poor connectivity and failure of the servers no digital transaction is possible. We have to accept the fact that we are still in the bullock cart age of digital transaction and only and limit ourselves to physical transactions only. We should also insist that every branch of every bank should have a generator backup so that even if there is a server problem their customers will be able to deposit and withdraw cash. And talking of withdrawing cash from the public sector banks new rules have been introduced for cheques of over Rs 50,000 issued by you from your account.
Apparently because they have no confidence in their own digital network they are going to ask the customer to confirm an reveal confidential data like the details of whom the cheque has been issued to, the name and number of the party who issued the cheque and will probably at some stage even ask the purpose for which the cheque was issues.
VODO/IDEA TAKE ON JIO
AND a last stray thought in the war that has broken out between Reliance Jio and its main competitors Airtel and the Idea/Vodaphone combine. This is a case of the pot calling the kettle black. It is Jio which tried to destroy its competitors by permitting completely free calls. Earlier only incoming calls were free and the main revenue of telecom companies was the outgoing calls.
Companies like Airtel and Idea/ Vodaphone whose main source of income was voice calls suffered huge losses because of the unethical practice by Jio. Jio did not even give its competitors any notice about its plans to sink them. Jio could afford to do this as it chose to focus on data instead of calls as the main source of income. Never mind that the vast majority of people who bought data cards from Jio did not have Wifi connections and had to rely on the more money consuming and limited data packs.
In the meanwhile Vodaphone Idea and Airtel have caught up and decided to compete with Jio in the sale of data. Indeed in its latest offer vodaphone idea are offering unlimited data pack for just Rs 699 for 84 days providing 4gb per day as against Jio which only offer 2gb and 3gb for similar amounts. Jio is now complaining of unfair competition to the telecom authority which regulates tariffs for both calls and data. The government off course will try to punish vodaphone idea as they have always favoured Mukesh Ambani of Jio who is very close to the BJP government.