VOTER ID AND BIRYANI!

By Rajan Narayan

ELECTION time is a celebration time for migrant labor. Particularly for casual and contract labor. Particularly contract laborers who get paid on a daily basis. No work, no pay. For them breakfast, lunch and dinner offered by political parties and candidates are a welcome break from the grimness of their daily lives. They can afford to skip work if they get free food.
Whether it was at the Narendra Modi rally of Margao or Sancoale, biryani packets were distributed to all the people attending the meeting. Which meant an average of 40,000-50,000 biryani packets were distributed.
Niyaz has emerged as the favorite supplier of biryani packets. Niyaz’s first big order came on the 80th birthday of Pratapsingh Raoji Rane where 30,000 invitees were served biryani and cake.
There were huge queues at both the Narendra Modi public rally at Margao and the second more recent rally at Sancoale. As Times of India reporters have revealed breakfast, lunch and dinner are being offered at even street corner meetings of candidates for south Goa. The migrant labor as well as the niz goenkar are offered bus rides to the venue of all public meetings.
During the Lok Sabha elections voters may look forward to gifts like refrigerators and even washing machines to key contacts in the constituency. The key contacts are the heads of large Catholic and Muslim families. Air conditioners are very much in demand by middle-class families given the rising temperature in Goa. The key contacts are like influencers on social media. The key persons have large followings. Election time is also when maulana and parish priests are in great demand. Parish priests have always played a very important role in elections in Goa. Irrespective of whether it is a parliamentary or assembly or even panchayat election.

TALEIGAO PANCHAYAT ELECTION
DURING the run-up to the Taleigao panchayat election Babush Monserrate had an understanding with all the bars. Anyone could drink as much as wanted and the bill would be taken care of by the generous Panaji MLA Babush Monserrate. Through very clever use of money and muscle power, Babush has ensured total control of the Taleigao and Panaji assembly constituency. In addition, his son Rohit Monserrate controls the Corporation of the City of Panaji. During assembly elections, bikes are distributed to young people. Only the first instalment and the down payments are made and the rest of the EMIs are given only if the Monserrate family gets re-elected.
We understand from the opposition group in the Taleigao panchayat that enrolment for admissions in the St Michael’s School owned by the Monserrate family is freely available before the panchayat election. The advantage is that St Michael’s is willing to accept students with low marks from other schools.
For instance, we know students in Don Bosco school who did not get admission to the 5th standard because of their poor marks, are shifted to St Michael’s school. Mind you St Michael’s has a very good infrastructure. It is an excellent classroom with smart boards. It has also very good teachers. Reportedly, Babush Monserrate insists that teachers should hold extra classes to ensure that poor children should pass. Children of migrants cannot afford tuition.

WELCOME GIFTS FOR MIGRANTS
MIGRANTS who arrive in Goa during election season promptly get ration cards as a welcome gift. The ration cards are issued by the Minister for Revenue Babush Monserrate, who controls the offices of the collector. It is the mamladars in the office of the collector who issue ration cards. Ration cards may be used to get voters’ registration cards.
A recent migrant, a woman from Andhra Pradesh, who arrived just a week ago, confessed to a reporter that she had been promised a voter ID card soon. Niz goenkars may have to wait for a long time to get ration cards and voter ID cards. Migrants who make for grateful voters can get them very quickly. MLAs like Babush Monserrate, Digambar Kamat, Mauvin Godinho and Vishwajit Rane have teams of workers to help migrants, especially the Muslim migrant community gets instant Adhaar, ration card and voter ID card.
It is mandated that those who get ration cards and voter ID cards in Goa are required to surrender their card from back in their home state. You cannot vote or have a ration card in two locations. However, the electoral office and the mamladar office do not ask for proof of cancellation of home state ration cards or anything else from their native places.
The Goa government declared a holiday on the day of voting in the neighboring states of Karnataka and Maharashtra. This seems to indicate that there may be several voters from outside the state of Goa who have dual votes. Like the dual citizenship that Goans are demanding. On the eve of the parliamentary elections, Narendra Modi announced that those who registered their birth in Portugal would be given an Indian overseas card.
In the offices of MLAs who have large migrant and minority vote banks, all documents are provided on a single window basis. You can even get Adhaar cards done. This is besides a variety of other permissions and licenses. The patronage of the local boss is very important at the panchayat level. At the panchayat level, both the bhatkar and ordinary migrant or minority residents may have a range of problems.

MUTUAL SCRATCHING OF BACKS
FROM small issues like water supply and power connection, registration of property or getting an occupancy certificate. A friend was requested to contest on the Congress ticket in the recently concluded panchayat election. His wife told him to stay out. She practically pointed out that the present panchayat member was part of the Monserrate panel and do all the work.
The relationship between candidates and voters is transactional. Candidates and MLAs who do the jobs of their voters get elected again and again. The average voter is not concerned about whether what he is asking for is legal or illegal. More often than not the favors asked for are legal. But going through normal channels means wasting a lot of time and money.
Once upon a time I remember being asked for a bribe even though I was the editor of the “OHeraldo” then in the 1980s and 90s. When I had to make my first ration card in Goa. Similarly, I was asked for a bribe when I sought a permit for a gas cylinder. If you want to get a duplicate birth certificate the procedure is very complicated. Getting a domicile certificate and income certificate takes time and some bribes. You need an income certificate to avail of the Ladli Laxmi scheme, the Grah Adhaar scheme and other government welfare programs.
This is a mutually beneficial relationship between political parties, candidates and voters. The understanding is that the politician should do the work of the voter. This includes getting all the documents needed to benefit from government schemes, in return the party of the candidate ensures all documents and looks after the welfare of the voters.
A Muslim migrant from Chimbel has been brought to Goa by her daughter. She is quite clear that she will vote for any candidate who offers her family the necessities. The reason why so many migrants flock to Goa is the wide range of facilities in Goa. Few other states offer free medical facilities and educational facilities like the state of Goa. Moreover, salaries for casual and contract labour are much higher, than the Rs400 promised by Rahul Gandhi in the Congress election manifesto.

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