Monday, August 18, 2008

PRESS NOTE - TBA Condemns sabotage of Gram Sabha of Taleigao Village

17th August 2008
The Taleigao Bachao Abhiyan on behalf of the citizens of Taleigao expresses its shock and moral outrage at the manner in which the Sarpanch of the Village Panchayat of Taleigao made a mockery of the Gram Sabha of Taleigao and did not allow genuine concerns of the villagers to be raised.

The TBA points out that the Gram Sabha held on the 17th of August was in fact required by law to be conducted in the month of July. The TBA brought this lapse to the attention of the BDO, subsequent to which the Panchayat was directed to comply with the law by the BDO. This conforms to a pattern where for at least the past three trimesters the Gram Sabha has not been held as per schedule, but only after the direction by the BDO.

In light of experiences of citizens at the earlier Gram Sabha, that was marked by verbal assault and intimidation, the TBA requested that the Panchayat make provisions for police presence to enable peaceful conduct of the Gram Sabha. However, the Sarpanch, indicated in his opening remarks at the Gram Sabha, that he did not feel the need for the same. He was almost immediately proved wrong, by the presence of the same group of unruly elements that have continuously heckled and disrupted the proceedings in earlier Gram Sabhas. Owing to the absence of police, the Sarpanch was unable to control these elements and used these disruptions as an excuse to dissolve the meeting.

The TBA also points out that items submitted for discussion at the gram sabha four working days prior to the same in conformity with the rules of the Goa Panchayat Raj Act were not specifically included in the agenda for the meeting as required by law. Instead, they were raised as per the arbitrary discretion of the Sarpanch. The items submitted included the discussion on action taken on the Gram Sabha’s resolution to denotify the IT Park, issues regarding the ODP, formation of ward committees in the village as per directives from the Directorate of Panchayats, information regarding road projects to be undertaken by the Panchayat. The Sarpanch’s discretionary conduct ensured that he did not allow valid points to be raised and dismissed these without hearing. Discussion, for instance, on action taken regarding the Gram Sabha’s demand for denotification on the IT Park was summarily dismissed by him stating without substantiation that the issue was sub-judice.

The Gram Sabha was eventually disrupted when a resolution seeking the repeal of the amendments Section 16 and 16 A to the TCP Act were sought to be passed. Given that there was no unanimity on the issue, it was demanded that it be put to vote. At this point, the Sarpanch began what can only be described as a complete mockery of regular voting procedures. Engaging in a partisan counting exercise, the Sarpanch counted only those in favour of the resolution opposing the amendments. Their numbers were also misrepresented. He then proceeded to indicate that all those within the hall who had not voted for, and those outside of the hall, were ‘logically’ against the resolution. When points of order were sought to be raised, the unruly elements stepped up their commotion, giving opportunity to the Sarpanch to dissolve the meeting. Rather than reconvene the meeting subsequent to calming down the situation with police assistance, as should have been done, the Sarpanch remained adamant about dissolving the meeting. He, along with the rest of the Panchas, left the premises after locking up the Panchayat office within ten minutes of this occurrence. This left members of the Gram Sabha in a vulnerable position where their lives and property were threatened by the same unruly elements. In face of all the evidence, the TBA asserts that this action of the Sarpanch and the unruly elements were part of a pre-meditated strategy to sabotage the Gram Sabha and suppress the genuine concerns regarding developments in the village. This suppression of genuine concerns, the TBA points out, will only leave scope for vested interests to hold the interests of the people of Taleigao to ransom.

The TBA condemns these pre-meditated attempts by the Panchayat to saboatage the democratic processes of the Gram Sabha. It calls upon the Director of Panchayats and the Government to take note of this murder of the democratic process and initiate appropriate action forthwith.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

First Press Statement

The recently constituted Taleigao Bachao Abhiyan (TBA) today held a press conference to intimate the public and press about the reasons for its constitution and its proposed agenda. Speaking at the press conference also attended by supporters of the TBA, the Convenor Mr. Jason Keith Fernandes stated that the TBA was formed to address the just needs of the people of Taleigao. Elaborating, he pointed to the increasing destruction of the environment and livelihood bases of the people of Taleigao. Hi-rise mega housing projects are mushrooming all over Taleigao, in orchards and fields, and these are having a deleterious impact on natural drainage of the village, laying the ground for flooding and malaria. This rapid transformation of the village geography is having an impact not only on the farming community, but is also destroying the possibility of agriculture as a professional option for the future. Further in the absence of adequate provision of such basic facilities such as water and electricity supply being provided for existing developments in the village, the creation of resource-guzzling development is inviting a collapse of village infrastructure. More importantly, the absence of a sewage system will ensure that the proposed developments will result in contamination of groundwater reserves of the village.

Most crucially however, it was pointed out, that all of these developments are happening without the consent of the people. The TBA pointed out that current development is being carried out on the basis of a planning model that was discredited when the incumbent Government scrapped the Regional Plan 2011. The TBA echoes the demands of the people of Goa, that land-use planning must be subsequent to rigorous socio-economic mapping and planning. As such, the TBA demands that the present ODP in force in the village be scrapped. Rather, there is a need for a Village Development Plan (VDP). This Village Development Planning should begin from the ward level, and map both existing land uses and demands, so that any inevitable change in land use may be adequately rehabilitated. The failure of such mapping and rehabilitation measures will result in an impoverishment of the village community, which is the very opposite of development.

The TBA also drew attention to recent statements by such persons as Dr. Pai Panandikar, regarding the setting up of Knowledge SEZ in the State. The TBA expresses its outright rejection of the idea of SEZ’s in the State. It cautions the Government and other interests against contemplating the transformation of the alleged ‘IT Park’ on Taleigao plateau into a Knowledge SEZ. The TBA pointed out the need to recognize the dependence of the communities of Quenem and Nagali on the land ear-marked for the alleged “IT Park”. The TBA endorses the establishment of an Urban Natural Preserve on the land. Such urban preserves, the TBA argues, should ideally be set up, to preserve open spaces that are fast being swallowed up by speculative real-estate development.

Most important to the TBA is the fact that Gram Sabhas are not held regularly as mandatory, proper agendas are not worked out, and citizens of Taleigao are not given a fair chance to voice their views and grievances at the Gram Sabhas. The TBA has taken serious note of the failure of the Panchayat of Taleigao to convene the mandated ordinary Gram Sabha, for at least three times in a row. These lapses by the panchayat have been brought to the attention of the BDO, Director of Panchayats and other appropriate authorities. The TBA strongly condemns the suppression of the voice of the people, in having a say in the development of their village.

The TBA appeals to the people of Taleigao to fearlessly associate with the Abhiyan and express their concerns for the village. The Abhiyan will shortly commence the holding of ward level meetings to ask the people of each area their needs and difficulties so that the same can be addressed at the earliest. Ward committees will be formed to maintain a continuous process of information exchange and follow up with appropriate authorities for action. We will also mobilize people against the ODP and rally people to demand a VDP. More information about the Taleigao Bachao Abhiyan may be obtained by contacting the following Jason Keith Fernandes 9764324074, Shanti Almeida 2453317, Xavier Almeida 9850207420, Pundalik Raikar 9371186651.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Aims and Objectives

The Taleigao Bachao Abhiyan, being an organization of individuals from the Taleigao constituency is committed to;

  • A democratic process of inclusive consultation, participation and dialogue at all levels of society and state.
  • Ensure that all organs of the State and especially the local self-Government bodies operate in a transparent manner and communicate all details to the citizenry
  • Protection of the ecology and environment of Taleigao for the present and future generations
  • Work for the betterment of human health to bring about a positive change in the living standards of the people of Taleigao, and in this process, the State of Goa at large.
  • In the face of the erosion of common property resources, the protection and conservation of such common property resources such as forest lands, natural springs, open spaces, grazing grounds, khazan lands, cultivable lands, and other natural and cultural heritage of the village of Taleigao
  • Equitable use and access to resources of the village community
  • Asserts the right of present and future generations to agrarian lifestyles and professions
    Stand against any violations of human dignity and will assert the right to non-discrimination, of every citizen of Taleigao
  • Ensure adequate wages and working conditions for labour employed in Taleigao
  • Revive/sustain traditional skills by fostering an environment that gives due value to the same.

Toward this end, the Taleigao Bachao Abhiyan will

  • Organise meetings, workshops, seminars and training camps for villagers, social workers and professionals at various levels, to achieve the above objects.
  • Provide support to the underprivileged and deprived sections in order to help them win their social and economic rights and lobby for the implementation of social welfare laws and government schemes and measures.
  • Act as a channel or forum for exchange of experiences and ideas,
  • Organize and carry out socio-economic surveys with a view to understanding the status of various sections of society
  • Document and publish pamphlets and other literature in pursuance of the above objects
  • Establish contact with other organisations, local, state-wide, national or international, with similar objectives or evincing interest in the activities of the organisation.
    raise funds towards achievement of the above purposes
  • Do such acts and things that may be necessary and/or incidental to the aforesaid objects and as may be agreed to be taken up by the Taleigao Bachao Abhiyan from time to time.