PANCHAYAT ELECTIONS: The High Court has directed the State of Goa to fix dates for Panchayat polls by Friday, July 1, 2022 but the date is already over.
BY RAJAN NARAYAN
AND a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when the gruesome seeds of Partition with Pakistan seems to be returning to haunt this country. For a Saturday following the week when we were convinced that members of a family are probably involved in the massive land frauds that are taking place. For a Saturday following the week when the Goa Bench of the Bombay High Court blasted the State government for seeking to postpone the Panchayat elections scheduled to be held by mid-June. And for a Saturday following the week when Chief Minister Dr Pramod Sawant’s government scrapped the recruitment of 80 junior engineers in the Public Works Department in what is considered Rs80 crore scam.
AND a few stray thoughts on the gruesome seeds of Partition with Pakistan which seem to be returning to haunt the country. In a horrifying incident, two assailants pretending to be customers entered a shop in Udaipur in Rajasthan, and ruthlessly beheaded a tailor for a social media post supporting ex-BJP spokesperson Nupur Sharma for her remarks on Prophet Muhamad.
The video which depicts the dying moments of tailor Kanhaiya Lal, has gone viral with another video posting of the killers with their butcher’s knives in hand owning responsibility for the gruesome killing. Even more shockingly they threatened to behead Narendra Modi in the video! The suspects, namely Mohammad Riyaz Akhtari and Gaus Mohammad, are suspected to be from Rajasthan and have yet to be caught.
This gruesome incident has created panic not only in Rajasthan but in the country as a whole. Never since Partition have we seen such open signs of hostility and retaliatory violence between minority and majority. Such a horrifying incident has not only taken place was permitted to go viral over social media.
In the wake of the clean chit given to Prime Minister Narendra Modi by the Supreme Court, the police investigating the case now claim that the assassins were indeed, Muslims. This is further confirmed by the fact that despite their faces being on video the cops have not been able to trace them. The fear is that this incident may provoke retaliation by Hindu groups in BJP-ruled states in particular. If not nipped in bud this could turn out to be an action replay of what happened post-Partition of India and Pakistan after Independence. Riots broke out on both sides of the border with Hindus and Sikhs being slaughtered in Pakistan and Muslims meeting the same fate in India, particularly in the states of Punjab and Bengal.
What is now Pakistan was part of Punjab and is now known as East Punjab. Similarly, what is known as Bangladesh was originally East Bengal. The two states were divided as the areas chosen to be part of Pakistan was decided on the basis of the population of Hindus and Muslims in particular districts. Muslims were in a majority in East Punjab and East Bengal.
It took an indefinite fast which almost claimed Mahatma Gandhi’s life for the Muslims to stop the rioting and killing in Calcutta. It is even possible that the killing of the Udaipur tailor was staged by the BJP to fuel hatred against Muslims. In response to the horrifying incident, mobile/internet services have been suspended in Rajasthan. Section 144 which prevents the assembly of more than four people has been imposed across the State.
Rajasthan Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot of the Congress-ruled state has urged people not to share videos of the crime. Rajasthan is one of the most popular tourism destinations in the country with Jaipur and Udaipur competing with Goa as a destination wedding venue. It is feared that tourism will be very badly affected in Rajasthan. We understand that even the State of Goa has been put on very high alert to ensure that similar incidents do not repeat in Goa which is considered the most secular democratic state in the country. This incident may also provide an excuse to the Modi government to dismiss the Congress government in Rajasthan and declare President’s Rule.
FAMILY LAND FRAUDS
AND a few stray thoughts on when we are convinced that members of the family are probably involved in the massive land frauds which have been taking place in Goa. And for a Saturday following the week when the Goa Bench of the Bombay High Court blasted the State government for seeking to postpone the Panchayat elections which were scheduled to be held by mid-June.
The State BJP government is conscious of the fact that it is losing its credibility due to the warring between Mauvin Godinho and Vishwajit Rane. The deterioration in the law and order situation with several murders being reported on a routine basis and a large number of land frauds, has further undermined the popularity of the Dr Pramod Sawant government. The government was expected to hold the Panchayat elections by June 15.
According to the Constitution of India, Municipal and Panchayat elections have to be held mandatorily every five years. Even the State Election Commission which has the responsibility of conducting local elections like Municipal and Panchayat elections, has told the CM that the Panchayat polls cannot be postponed. Initially the State government claimed it wanted to postpone the Panchayat elections as reservations for Other Backward Classes had not been finalized.
Besides the reservesations for women and the 12% reservation for Scheduled Tribes like Gaudis, Velips and Kunbis, communities like the Bhandari Samaj have also started demanding reservations. Advocate General Devidas Pangam has informed the CM that the Supreme Court has made it clear that there cannot be a postponement in Panchayat elections. Panchayat Minister Mauvin Godinho then offered the absurd excuse that the polls had to be postponed because of the heavy rains. It had to be pointed out to him that if primary school students can attend classes in heavy rains, surely adults could participate in Panchayat elections.
The state government went ahead and postponed the elections to the 186 panchayats till after the monsoon. It also appointed administrators who are government officials to substitute for the respective sarpanch. But the Goa Bench of the Bombay High Court has totally rejected the State government’s decision to postpone the Panchayat polls, merely because there may have been some flash floods or cyclones in the past. The monsoon cannot be used as an excuse for defying the Constitution.
The High Court has ridiculed the claim of the State government that because of the rains, the ballot papers and the ink used in the elections process may get spoiled. The CM and the Panchayat Minister tried to pass the buck on to the State Election Commission which is an independent Constitutional body. The State government has now been ordered to fix the date for the Panchayat elections by Friday, July 1 and finish the entire process within 45 days.
AND a few stray thought on the Goa Bench of the Bombay High Court scrapped the recruitment of 80 junior engineers by the BJP government in the Public Works Department. This follows allegations of large-scale corruption in the recruitment of the engineers in what is claimed to be a Rs80 crore scam.
Historically, it is routine for Goans to bribe ministers and their agents for government jobs. I have known of cases where people have borrowed money to pay the bribes. The amount of the bribe is directly related to the profitability of the government job post they have applied for. Apparently, the junior engineers who applied for the 350 odd jobs in the PWD were required to pay between Rs50 and Rs80 lakh for their government jobs with the Public Works Department. There were perhaps voluntarily willing to pay as the PWD is a very profitable department.
The engineers of the PWD right from the chief engineers to junior engineers and even the cashiers make huge amounts of money from contractors given the job of constructing government buildings, roads and bridges. Contractors responsible for mushrooming potholes are forced to pay a huge commission to repair potholes! The biggest chor is the favorite contractor of the government, Venkata Rao, also responsible for destroying the late Manohar Parrikar’s dream swan song bridge Atal Setu over the Mandovi river. Larsen & Toubro are one of the leading engineering companies in the world but they were forced to sub-contract the job to Venkata Rao, a relative of Vice- President of India Venkaiah Naidu. This is why no action may be taken against him for the sub-contractor’s shoddy jobs including the Atal Setu bridge which reportedly has more potholes than on any other road.
In the case of the new Zuari bridge, Facebook posts describe it as Goa’s newly formed Dudhsagar waterfalls, as part of the bridge gets so flooded that the people get to see instant waterfalls.
The State government, aware that the Goa Bench of the Bombay High Court would direct it to dismiss the 80 junior engineers it had recruited, itself told the High Court that it has scrapped the selection list. Interestingly, the allegation of the Rs70 crore recruitment scam was made by present Panjim MLA and Revenue Minister Babush Monserrate against the former PWD Minister Deepak Pawaskar who was a BJP MLA.