Friday 31 March 2023

In defence of Architect Elsa Fernandes

Jyotirao Phooley was born on April 11, 1827 and died on November 28, 1890. In his 63 years of life span he left indelible mark on the history of India as the Nation's greatest reformer. During the course of his reformist project several people and even British Government supported him. However he had to encounter strongest opposition from his close caste Panchayat. The opposition was so fierce that Phooley was expelled from his caste and decision was recorded in the minutes of the caste Panchayat.

Phooley and His wife Savitri carried on the reform work often swimming against the tide of his time. And after some decades found themselves enter into the history text books for their great contribution to humanity. The textbooks were read by the descends of those who expelled Phooley from caste Panchayat several decades after Phooley's death and fresh meeting was called expulsion was revoked and decision entered into the record books of the caste Panchayat!

This is an apt analogy for the yearnings of 54 Villagers of Santa Cruz Village of Goa to debar Architect Elsa Fernandes from attending the village Gram Sabha Meetings. These villagers that includes some elected members of the Santa Cruz Panchayat has not only given unfortunate letter double dated 19 as well as 20 March 2023 to the Director of Panchayat, Block Development Officer, Police Inspector at Old Goa Police Station and Village Panchayat, Santa Cruz. Detail critique of the Said letter is attempted here after probing allegations contained in the letter. The critique is put out in public domain as the Said letter containing several allegations is circulating on social media. We consider the decision to petition against Architect Fernandes unfortunate and regrettable initiative that signatories and their descendents will realize what a blunder it is once history teaches necessary lessons. Currently in defence of democratic norms the letter needs public rebuttals as under:

1. Subject of the letter reads "Complaint against Mrs. Elsa Fernandes for disrupting the Gram sabha dated 26/02/23 and instigating Gram sabha members which could end up in creating law and order situation being a government servant at polythenic College Althino."

It must be taken note that Elsa Fernandes is not just Mrs. She is qualified Architect as well as qualified in Law. This is something these 54 signatories are urged to take note and examine their own qualifications. Elsa has not instigated Gram Sabha. She has questioned following due process of law. The Panchayat authorities could not answer her questions satisfactorily is not valid ground to tag Elsa as an instigator. Further it is found that Elsa is not a government servant at Polythenic College, Althino. There is no Polythenic college anywhere in Goa. Subject of the letter itself is defective. Now let's go to the body of the letter.

2. Sir, We the Villagers of St. Cruz would request you to initiate action against Mrs. Elsa Fernandes for instigating public after being a government servant at polythenic College, Panjim.

Which public has Elsa instigated? What has been the methods of her instigating? It will be recorded in history that 54 Villagers leveled baseless allegations against one of the finest intellectuals Goa currently has and 54 St. Cruz Villagers has fallen short of treating her with respect and dignity that such a highly qualified lady who has dedicated her life for the uplifting of community is being treated so unbecoming of civilized society. No one escapes Judgement of history and these 54 people will have their rewards.

3. "Gram sabha was held in our village on 26/02/2023 where Mrs. Elsa Fernandes put up various points which could be discussed in the committee meetings but instead she of discussing in the Committee meetings she took it up Gram sabha thereby wasting time of the Gram Sabha. Even though in the Panchayat body meeting had rejected her proposal which was informed to her."

54 people here are assessing the merits of the questions Architect Elsa Fernandes has forwarded to the agenda of the Gram Sabha. In their assessment these questions could have been raised in the committee meetings. Goa Panchayati Raj Act has no such restrictions to raise questions. The condition sought to be imposed is arbitrary and baseless and in violation of Panchayat Raj Act. 54 people must touch,  read and study Goa Panchayat Raj Act that governs the conduct of the Gram Sabha. Our investigation has revealed that inspite of raising the questions at the Village Development Committee (VDC) meetings these were not answered by the member secretary who is also village Panchayat Secretary. As the leader of the VDC it became the duty of Architect Elsa Fernandes to raise those questions at the Gram Sabha. It was investment of time at the Gram sabha by Elsa and not waste of time as claimed by 54 signatories. If Panchayat body had rejected her proposal then why did Panchayat Secretary read and discussed the first three questions of the total nineteen? Why discussions on Elsa's question occupies four and half pages of the Gram Sabha minutes? Why decision of the Panchayat body rejecting her application at the Gram Sabha were posted to her days after the Gram Sabha? Why letter was not given to Elsa few days prior to the Gram Sabha so that she could have planned her schedule for the day differently? From the 54 signatories why not a single person could collect the letter from the Panchayat and hand over to Elsa before the Gram Sabha?

4. "Mrs. Elsa Fernandes was a Conveyer of the village Development Committee from the year 2017 till date and did not see to it that the registers were updated and during Gram Sabha wanted to know why the Asset Register was not updated there by trying to create a confusion between the members of the Gram Sabha."

Our probe has revealed that Elsa was not the Conveyer of the Village Development Committee. 

However letter of 54 reveals that Asset Register remained without being updated from 2017 for six years. This is seriously criminal and further actions such as Vigilance investigation are needed to be pursued against all those responsible. As per the rules it is the duty of member secretary to maintain and update Asset Register of the VDC. It needs to be probed as to why member secretary has not updated Asset Register from 2017.

The question regarding Asset Register was directed to stall proliferation of confusion and usher in winds of clarity.

5. "Mrs. Elsa Fernandes also never informed about the training program of the GPARD to the Member of the VDC even though she herself is a trainer at GPARD. And then asks questions like how many members are trained in the Village Development Committee".

The relationship between Goa Institute of Public Administration and Rural Development (GIPARD) has its own protocol for conducting programs. GIPARD communicates to the Director of Panchayat about the training program. Director of Panchayat then communicates to Block Development Officer (BDO). BDO then communicates to the respective Panchayats to depute its delegates for training. This protocol perhaps has not been known to the 54 who signed the letter. Chairman of the VDC who is the Sarpanch has to question Director of Panchayats as to why Santa Cruz Panchayat has not been invited to the GIPARD training programs.

54 acknowledged the calibre of Architect Elsa to be the Trainer at GIPARD. Instead of mudslinging her it would be great if they collaborate and learn from her rather than go the way Phooley caste Panchayat went about only to be regretted by their future descendents when history books records exemplary contribution of Elsa Fernandes for Goa.

6. "Mrs. Elsa Fernandes being an activist is well aware that about various facts but put up such questions only with the malafied intention of creating confusion and law and order situation in the Gram Sabha".

Elsa Fernandes designated herself in public life as an Environmental Architect. She doesn't consider herself as an activists. Why these 54 are shy and reluctant to refer her to what she is - Environmental Architect? This reveals that there is confusion in the minds of these 54 people. Asking questions is a fundamental right under the Constitution of India Article 19. Minus this right and democracy is non-functional. If her questions were creating law and order situation then which sections of IPC, CRPC, would be attracted? Elsa Fernandes is not only responsible citizen but also has LL.B degree and law is well known to her. Her questions were not creating law and order situation. They were threatening to expose something that vested interests desires to remain hidden against the public interest. Elsa's role has been totally and completely in defence of public interest. 

7. "We request you to take necessary action against Mrs. Elsa Fernandes for creating panic and confusion situation for the member at the Gram sabha which could end up in law and order situation, and bar her to attend if it fits in the Panchayat Raj Act. Thanking you"

54 names and signatures

Prayer is for the action against Elsa. 54 claims that she has created panic. They have not given any details as to how many got panic attacks because of her questions and which medical doctor has certified that Elsa's questions are the source of panic? These 54 must understand that all of them put together will not equal Elsa Fernandes. Anticipation is made about law and order situation over Elsa's questions and legal references is made to Panchayati Raj Act. Obviously this law doesn't have scope over criminal matters. This supplies evidence that 54 are either self-confused or induced confused or signed letter without reading the text of the letter. 

Panchayats gets degraded like this and drastic efforts are required to overhaul the system. Affairs at Santa Cruz Panchayat putting Architect Elsa Fernandes into uncalled for stress doesn't speak well for the health of grassroots democracy.

Several people who are amongst 54 signatories were not even present for the Gram Sabha meeting on February 26, 2023. All the more reason to indicate that harassment to Architect Elsa Fernandes by Santa Cruz Panchayat draws parallel to the harassment of Jyotirao Phooley by the caste Panchayat. 

Thursday 30 March 2023

Hanuman Parab on Perils After Auctioning Goa's Iron Ore

After a lengthy litigation in the Supreme Court of India 88 mining leases in Goa was canceled few years ago. Stock of Iron Ore was required to be e-auctioned. Mines in Pissurlem are part of this cluster. In the video Hanuman Parab of Pissurlem village explains perils of e-auctioning after it took off. Rash driving by mining trucks has made village roads risky to move on. Accidents has increased on roads. Cattle due under the wheels of roaring trucks. Drunken driving goes unchecked. Roads have turned dusty back again. To remedy the situation Villagers had to approach Goa Bench of Bombay High again. However mining transporters it appears doesn't even care for the Courts any more. They have become law unto themselves. This cannot happen without the support of the Government machinery. In Pissurlem the Local Panchayat needs to act. Its local MLA Mrs. D. Rane has to act. They are not acting though.

Hanuman Parab has raised his voice courageously against mining industry even in face of Police repression. They have lost their paddy fields, the village itself has been displaced twice in past 70 years of mining history in the village. Decade and half ago he was ran over by mining truck on road and survived with many days at Goa Medical College.

Pissurlem village has plenty of water in abandoned mining pits but it is not shared with farmers like Hanuman Parab to enable them to cultivate paddy fields. Bharat Mukti Morcha supports Pissurlem people in the struggle around mining related issues and calls upon Goa Chief Minister to intervene and redress the grievances expressed by Hanuman Parab and others.

Pissurlem was once highest paddy cultivating village in entire Sattati Taluka. Mining has devastated entire backbone of agriculture in Pissurlem. Bharat Mukti Morcha calls for resurgence of Agriculture in Pissurlem and supply of water captive in village mining pits thereby restoring food security of Sattari taluka.

Towards Protecting Cavrem From Mining Aggression

M.L. No. 3/FeMn/79 is a mining lease in survey no. 19 of Goa's Cavrem village consisting of 70.20 hectares of land endowed with iron ore and Manganese underneath.

 The lease was granted on December 12, 1979 by Goa Government as Union Territory of India. Portuguese government had no role in granting of this mining lease even though it had granted 791 mining leases elsewhere in Goa. This situation is creation of Indian administration in Goa as Union Territory after Goa was "annexed through conquest" as stated in Shantilal Gosalia case.

It is huge mountaneuos terrain classified as Forest land. Cavrem village is inhabitants by Tribal people and have staked community Forest Rights claims for the management of Forest Bio-diversity. There are serious attempts by Goa Government administration to sabotage Cavrem peoples Community Forest Rights claims over Forest Rights as revealed from response to Legislative Assembly Question (LAQ). This indicates that administration in Goa has turned bramanical and working actively to suppress Tribal people and their aspirations. This is dangerous trend and could lead to unpredictable consequences.

Validity of this mining leases has undergone few turns and twists. Lease period originally was for twenty years. Then it was renewed for another twenty years. After the lapse of 40 years no renewal was carried on.

Possibly after Fomentos got its eyes on this mining lease claims were mounted to harvest advantage of the amendment in law that gave new life to the expired lease with 50 years period from the commencement of the lease. The lease commenced on December 12, 1979 and will expire again on December 12, 2029.

This fresh mining aggression on Goa is launched by Fomentos using Kirtane and Pradnya Kane as fronts. Fomentos as avoided it self from being easily detected on the radar. There is in-built anti-nature bias in this entire enterprise in addition to anti-tribal bias. In fact Wency Mendes in one of his latest research papers has described character of mining in Goa as bramanical.

Proposal of Rainbow Warriors to freeze mining in Goa for next two decades is more practical step that will help to heal shattered ecology of Goa and avoid further perpetuation of ecocide and ethnic violence in Goa. This is in support interest of current as well as future generations of Goa. Time from mining shut down in Goa from 2012 is the best time for regeneration of Goa's ecology even though it is nightmare for economists that count profit and distribution of profit under various tags and don't admire such shut downs.

Cavrem mining proposal is detrimental to nature and people and must be opposed tooth and nail. Fresh air, fresh water, secure Forest, secure horticulture, secure agriculture and healthy living is at huge risk from mining. 764 page EIA report of Cavrem mining cannot be allowed to blind people from this well known lessons from Goa mining industry. It's entire history had been perilous, deplorable and disgusting to the core.

One only has to visit Cavrem to witness what the planet stands to loose if we remain on sidelines. We at Bharat Mukti Morcha chose to stand in defence of Cavrem people and in opposition to starting of mining at survey no. 19. We invite you to do the same and more!

Wednesday 29 March 2023

Cavrem mining Public Hearing for April 11, 2023

It's thick western ghats forest in Cavrem in South Goa currently under eyes of storm. Goa State Pollution Control Board issued notification calling for Public Hearing to start mining of Hill for Iron Ore and Manganese to be held on April 11, 2023. 

The lush green forest will get razed down if the mining proposal gets clearance. 7,02,000 square meters of mountainous land constitute survey no.19 of the Cavrem village on Quepem taluka.

The Forest land hasn't been diverted for mining purpose as per the information presented in EIA Study of the project.

Significant feature of this mountain in Cavrem is that Community has staked claims for community Forest Rights that are mysteriously parked in Deputy Collector's office in Quepem for more than half a decade.

Mountain is sacred for the Tribal people of Cavrem just like Niyamgiri in Orissa. If mountain is razed then community gets razed too.

Though EIA documents doesn't mention but investigations by Villagers indicates that corporate behind pushing to start mining of this mountain is same that devastated several other mountains in Goa connected with Fomentos as their Agents.

Fomentos has gruesome records of environmental damage and Human Rights violations though administration of repressive tactics against communities resisting mining industry in Goa.

Colomba village nearby to Cavrem is one of the best examples of their beastly deeds while running Hiralal Khodidas mining lease there. 

Cavrem village is predominantly Tribal occupied village and has staked claims over Forest to manage it in entirety. Cavrem is one of the few Villages in Goa to achieve this feat.

Company claims it will dig 14 meters deep to extract and export purpose. It is the Villagers that stand to loose. "This mountain is very important to us. If it is mined then villagers will have go away". They will add to the pull of ecological refugees.

Cavrem has strong agitational history including resistence to mining. In December 2007 after GAKUVED protest in Quepem attacked three village Mines and forced shut down temporarily thereby grabbing media headlines. This puts the village in strong position to win this battle too. For this we need to connect with the struggle for the kinds of developmental violence it promises to unleash is transcends village boundary into wider terrains of Goa, India and beyond.

Cavrem has opened up unique opportunity yet again to connect past with the present in relation to mining dynamics in all its dimensions.

We invite you in this journey of reflective action as we move step by step towards expression and healing.  To support cavrem Villagers in their current combat and amplify the local voice and articulate further. We at this blog are attempting exactly this. Do get involve!

Saturday 25 March 2023

Goa Salutes You Architect Elsa Fernandes!

There are clues to indicate that Santa Cruz Panchayat has taken some steps of onslaught against Architect Elsa Fernandes for being outspoken and daring. The above video and textual document reveals that Panchayat permission granted for construction of the Gate is in violation of law that requires prior permission from Town and Country Planning Department. 

Police has refused to intervene due to Panchayat permission. 

The controversial Gate was demolished few years ago after Elsa approached Goa Bench of Bombay High Court. And there is already High Court Judgement on this matter.

This is the latest in series of high intensity steps that Panchayat of Santa Cruz has taken to silence the voice of Goa's best known Green Architect who stands up for truth.

Earlier she was asked to pay Rs.7,500/- as a cost of video recording of Gram Sabha proceedings in response to her RTI Application when market cost of pensive drive doesn't exceed Rs.600/-.

When Gambling rules the corriders of power respect for human dignity gets diced away. This is what Architect Elsa Fernandes is going through in her life and her remaining five family members on these days.

"I feel like third class citizen of this country!" Exclaims Architect Fernandes. Tragedy for people of Goa has deepened ever since Goa was annexed through conquest in 1961 and Panchayat Raj, the alien system hoisted in Goa. With this hoisting arrogance and power craze has intensified. India has allowed Gambling to pervade into veins of polity in Goa. Current Santa Cruz Panchayat stands out as sample in this context because of the defiance of Architect Elsa Fernandes. 

It's Time Goa salutes her for her courage to walk the tunnel even when all lights seems to go off and There is no glimmer of hope around. In times like this cry turns into emblem of life. 

Goa salutes you Architect Elsa Fernandes!


Sunday 12 March 2023

Illegal Trawling detected in Zuari river

It has been detected between 10.00 pm to 10.40 pm today March 12, 2023 that around 10 trawlers are carrying on illegal fishing in Zuari river within one kilometers of Odxel-Dona Paula Jetty shoreline with lights off.

Complaints are lodged at Goa Fisheries Control room but response indicate that staff is absent to put Fisheries patrol boat in waters. Patrol boats is currently tied up in Panjim with Bosun absent. Illegal fishing in the dark of the night therefore is beyond control leading to collapse of law and order in Zuari with massive loot.

Fisheries Minister Nilkhant Halarnkar has to get going in cracking down on Fisheries department- Trawler nexus connected with illegal fishing.