In the olden days, yet golden days, village communities were truly of the people, for the people, and by the people. There were five wise men, the panchas who pretty much were guardians of the village- the wisemen, whose cumulative wisdom and common sense, backed by community spirit managed the affairs of the village and the lives of its inhabitants.
When the Constitution of India was written, this approach was sought to be continued where the panchayats as the lowest tier of governance would be very important and all other tiers of governance at the blocks, districts and the State would be based on the principle of governance as per the collective will of the people.
Goans, after a lot of struggle and official resistance, have had a chance that they have fought for, to get self-governance that has been temporarily stalled back into their lives.
But as Goans in 186 panchayat areas go to vote a week from now, will they treat this as just another form of the Assembly elections, an election of parties, MLAs, and groups of vested interests?
Suppose it is a replica of the assembly elections. In that case, you are completely squandering away the opportunity to secure the destiny of your village, the needs of your community and the future of the coming generations. Do you want that? Do see the face of your child or grandchild and then answer.
When money comes in, your future goes out
If this election is about money coming in, it will also be about your future going out, as the Assembly elections proved. Yes, there were men from holy institutions who were “guiding” people on which way to vote and the direction to take, but in reality, everyone knew which candidate and party they were backing and who they were opposing, thereby functioning just like any political institution.
And then there were other wise men who made videos with their familiar greeting “Gôychea Mhojea Gôykaramno”, which were targeted defamatory outbursts against credible leaders, almost certainly backed by rival politicians, MLAs, and ministers.
They were busy making these videos to discredit true sons of the soil. One wonders why institutions of faith or videomaking wisemen haven’t given any message for the panchayat elections. Are these elections too small, or not important enough?
Will the panchayat elections also follow the same plate? Will it be about parties and MLAs trying to flex their political muscles and using wisemen who love to make viral videos as their puppets or will it be a simple, credible, authentic, and honest exercise in choosing a people’s governance in the grassroots?
That is a choice you must make, and you must get the message. You have seen the disastrous fallout of following videos of vested interest groups, which brought jumping frogs into the house, and as soon as the rains came, they showed their desire to start jumping both from their parties as well as from the oaths they solemnly took.
Be careful of froggies
If the panchayat elections are contested in the same spirit and the same formula, one can say goodbye to honest people’s governance. You will elect panchayat bodies of ‘froggies’ who will take your vote and then be part of a group that can rule under the blessings of the local MLAs or area ministers. Another election will begone when your mandate is traded and the “Froggie” winners jump. If you vote for them, dirty politics will be at your door.
Is this why people wanted the panchayat elections to take place at any cost- for the jumpers or for the people wanting real people’s governance?
And it matters much more in these elections because this is your election more than any other. Governance starts at your doorstep and spreads to the community.
It’s all about your village, your bunds and fields, your farms, and your way of life. Give this some thought
In this very generation, you have seen how village life has been threatened and, in many places, withered away. The control of villages must be in the hands of local bodies and not surrendered to big ticket planning agencies whose development model is construction, construction, and construction. Properties are being grabbed, the land is being taken away for various projects, farmlands are finished, and plantations and cashew trees are falling to roads being built for International airports. The bulldozers don’t not only go over houses, but they also bulldoze futures.
Elsewhere water bodies are being filled for buildings, construction debris is entering fields, and village bunds are getting broken leading to the ingress of saline water and destroying crops over hundreds of acres affecting 400 to 500 farmers in one go (in Kundaim and Siridao). These are issues of self-governance. When panchayats are strong and have the right people, then villages are not at the control or mercy of MLAs or ministers who may give some ad-hoc relief to win over long-term personal loyalty. But never empower people to take their own decisions.
But if the right people are chosen and elected, then we will have stronger panchayats. And stronger panchayats, which do not bend for any reasons, including monetary, can ensure that anti-people decisions, taken by elected members for their own benefits and “welfare” do not affect the welfare of common villagers.
The right panchayat members will ensure that funds coming into panchayats are spent honestly.
It has been a hard-fought battle to get a chance to have these elections at all. And your destinies are in your own hands. Yet again, one should pledge that the panchayat polls should not be a platform of politics of greed but set a benchmark of honest village-level people’s governance.
Simply put, vote for the future of villages, not for the future of your MLA.