DOUBLE-CROSS: When Pramod Sawant was appointed as chief minister, ten of the 15 Congress MLAs and two of the MGP MLAs defected to the BJP.


AND a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when the protesting farmers were tricked by the Narendra Modi government on Republic Day. For a Saturday following the week when the ordinance issued against encroachment into the Mollem Wildlife Sanctuary was promptly withdrawn. For a Saturday following the week, when Speaker of the Legislative Assembly Rajesh Patnekar finally issued a show cause notice to 12 of the Congress and MGP members of the Legislative Assembly, who had defected to the BJP. For a Saturday following the week when the Pramod Sawant government decided to exclude orchard and agricultural land from the eco-sensitive zone II. For a Saturday following the week when globally there was concern about whether the Covid-19 variants would spark a fresh wave of coronavirus cases.


AND a few stray thoughts on the protesting farmers in Delhi being tricked by the Modi government. The farmers have been peacefully agitating outside the borders of national capital New Delhi, for over three months. The farmers have endured the biting cold of Delhi winter and several of them have died. They have expressed their determination not to go back to their villages till the three farm acts passed by the BJP-led Parliament are withdrawn. The Modi government has tried several tricks to manipulate the farmers. It even tried to get the Supreme Court to rescue it as it had done on previous occasions. At the instance of the Modi government the SC appointed a four-member panel to negotiate with the farmers. Except that all the four members of the committee have been on record that they supported the new farm acts!
The farmers, understandably, saw no point in talking to members of a committee who had already made up their mind. They also did not see the logic of talking to a committee, when they were having direct talks with the government in any case. The Modi government offered to hold in abeyance the three new acts for 18 months.
The farmers recognised it as a time wasting tactic and rejected it. The farmers sought permission to hold a tractor rally in the national capital after the Republic Day parade. Surprisingly, the Delhi police gave them permission to do so when the SC made it clear that it was for the Delhi police to decide whether to grant permission or not.
Unfortunately the tractor rally by the farmers went horribly wrong. We do not know whether the younger elements among the farmers lost their patience and decided to march to the Red Fort, where only hours before President Ramnath Kovind had unfurled the national flag. The farmers on their part claimed that anti-social elements had infiltrated the farmers tractor rally and hijacked it.
The “Punjab Tribune”, which is among the most respected newspapers, has claimed that a Khalistan activist had hijacked the rally and was responsible for diverting the farmers from the routes agreed on with the police and diverted them to the Red Fort. “The Tribune” has even given the names of the persons who had discredited the kisan rally. The farmers, themselves, are claiming that they had no role in the vandalism and hoisting of the Khalsa flag next to the Indian tricolour flag. It must be clarified that they did not touch the tiranga which has been unfurled by the president. There are Whatsapp rumours claiming that the farmers pulled down the national flag.
So once again the Modi government has succeeded in its goal which was to discredit the agitating farmers. All of us should ask ourselves why the farmers, who have been agitating peacefully for over three months, should suddenly resort to violence? It is of course possible that sections of the farmers felt that nothing would change unless they took to violence. It has been our experience whether outside Goa or in Goa that the only language the government understands is violence! It may be recalled that Punjab and Haryana agreed to reservations for the Jat community only after they blocked railway tracks several times. It may also be recalled that the Maharashtra government only agreed to extend reservations to Marathas after the agitation turned violent.
So it is unlikely that farmers will go back to their camps and wait for a decision by the government. The farmers have not only made their own arrangements for their food and accommodation in tents but even set up a library for younger farmers. The immediate next step planned by the farmers is to march to Parliament on Budget Day that is on Monday, February 1, 2021.


AND a few stray thoughts on the State government passing an ordinance banning any encroachment into the Mollem Sanctuary. However, in the light of protests from the local tribals, the ordinance was withdrawn as promptly as it was promulgated. We presume that the ordinance was linked to the proposal for building a 400 KV transmission line and widening of National Highway within the Mollem Wildlife Sanctuary.
The Central Electricity Authority had come to Goa to examine the complaints made by the locals against the three projects which would affect the environment of the state. The CEA travelled to Mollem and went on to Karnataka to check on the effect of the double tracking of the South Western Railway. It is clear from the statements made by the CEA chairperson that they are not very happy with the Mollem project. They have commented that it was unnecessary to cut so many trees. They have suggested tunnels and diversions to minimise the ecological damage.
But it looks as though the Central government is determined to go ahead with the Mollem mega electricity project. The justification is that the project is needed to meet the power requirements of Goa in the near future. Goa does not have any captive power generation units of its own. It depends for power on the national grid. The power that Goa gets is routed through Maharashtra and Karnataka. Being a tourist centre the demand for power is very high. Goa Power Minister Nilesh Cabral is committed to completing the 400 megawatt transmission station.


AND a few stray thoughts on the Goa government further undermining the environment in the state. The government has declared that orchards and agricultural land will be excluded from the eco-sensitive zone II where no construction is permitted. Several thousands of illegal structures have come up in the eco-sensitive zone, which is totally banned. The withdrawal of orchard and agricultural land from Zone II will enable the regularisation of all these illegal structures. In the process, no doubt, both the government and minister and officials will make a lot of money.
The government has also decided to permit construction in the no development zone of the Coastal Regulation Zone Act. Literally hundreds of illegal hotels have come up, particularly in the Morjim belt. The former chief minister, Laxmikant Parsekar, has admitted that the hotels which are right on the beach are illegal. However, he claims he did not take any action against them as it provided jobs for locals.
Now that there seems to be no sign of the revival of the mining industry and the tourism industry badly affected with the stoppage of charters, obviously the government is looking for other sources of revenue. Though these measures may bring revenue in the short term, they will be disastrous in the long term. The whole of Goa included the beach belt will be turned into another Taleigao and Caranzalem.
The destruction of trees will lead to a steep increase in temperature. The present government seems to be unconcerned as this kind of temperature rise will be felt literally by future generation.


AND a few stray thoughts on Speaker of the Legislative Assembly Rajesh Patnekar finally issuing show cause notices to the 12 MLAs who defected to join the BJP when Pramod Sawant was made the chief minister. During the last general election held in 2017 the Congress emerged as the largest single party with 17 seats as against the BJP which got only 13 seats. The government was hijacked by late Manohar Parrikar as the three members of the Goa Forward, the three MG MLAs and some Independents extended support for the formation of a BJP government under Manohar Parrikar. Both the Goa Forward and the MGP had made it clear that their support was to Manohar Parrikar as chief minister and not to the BJP. When Manohar Parrikar died on March 18, 2019 Goa Forward withdrew support. Subsequently, when Pramod Sawant was appointed as the chief minister, ten of the 156 members of the Congress Legislative party comprising 2/3rd of the strength of the legislative party defected to the BJP. Even earlier, one of the MLAs elected on the Congress ticket, Vishwajit Rane, had resigned and re-contested and won on the BJP ticket. Though the president of the MGP, Deepak Dhavalikar, and his brother Sudhin Dhavalikar, wanted to withdraw support, two of the three MGP MLAs could not resist the temptation of the kodel. Babu Ajgaonkar and Deepak Pawaskar promptly claimed that they had merged with the BJP.
Since they constituted more than 2/3rd of the three member MGP legislative party they were not disqualified. However, neither the Congress MLA or the MGP MLAs who defected had resigned from their respective parties before joining the BJP. The president of both the Congress party and the MGP filed an appeal for disqualification of the 12 MLAs comprising ten of the Congress and two of the MGP.
Under the pretence of Covid-19 for a long time Speaker Rajesh Patneker did not hold an assembly session. As it is compulsory to hold an assembly session every six months, token sessions of one day were held. The speaker had been postponing a decision on the disqualification petition against the ten Congress MLAs and the two MGP MLAs. The matter has come up repeatedly before the SC before which petitions were filed both by the Congress and the MGP against the delay in the speaker issuing his verdict on the disqualification notices.
Finally after more than a year, in view of the fact that the matter is coming up before the SC finally, the speaker has issued a show cause notice to the 12 MLAs in the on-going session of the assembly. It is only after the speaker receives the replies of the MLAs against whom disqualification petitions have been filed, can he take further decision. The MLAs facing disqualifications can delay the matter further by taking their own time to respond to the notice. The problem is that under the division of powers, the SC cannot issue any directives to the speaker as the legislature is an independent entity. The SC can act only after the speaker gives a decision to check on whether he has followed the rules laid down in the relevant act.
It may be recalled that in the 90s the then chief minister, Ravi Naik, was disqualified by the Goa Bench of the Mumbai High Court. But subsequently, on an appeal to the Supreme Court, Ravi Naik, was re-qualified. With the collusion of a friendly governor Bhanu Pratap Singh, Dr Wilfred D’Souza was sacked from the chief minister’s post and Ravi Naik was sworn in again as CM. But since the governor had not consulted the Congress High Command, Ravi Naik was sacked and Dr Wilfred D’Souza returned to the CM’s post.


AND a last stray thought on countries globally imposing fresh bans on travel. This is because many new variants of Covid-19 have been discovered. Besides the highly contagious variant in the UK which spreads very rapidly and attacks the young, a variation has been found in South Africa also. Similarly, variants have been found in Brazil and even California in the US. Most countries have become paranoid about a second wave of coronavirus from the new variant. So much so, the UK has stopped all flights from London to South Africa.
The US in turn has imposed the ban on entry into the US from other parts of the world even more strictly. President Joe Biden believes that the huge number of cases of over 40 million in the US is because of the lifting of the travel ban by Donald Trump. Former President Donald Trump did not enforce any of the World Health Organisation directives on wearing masks and maintaining physical distance. Trump never wore a mask himself and held parties in the White House where there was no physical distancing was maintained.
In sharp contrast his successor Joe Biden was sworn in as president of the USA wearing a mask!

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