Church accuses Goa government of bypassing village assemblies
Aug. 22, 2013
The social arm of the Catholic Church in Goa has said that the state government is muddled as far as grassroots democratic concepts are concerned. The Council for Social Justice and Peace (CSJP), which functions as a grassroots social organization of the Church, also said the state government was trying to bypass basic Panchayati Raj principles in the decision-making processes. “The Council here by reminds the government that elected representatives are voted into public office to govern on behalf of the people and not to reign over them. Therefore, the Gram Sabha must also have their due share in any consultation on laws and policies which are ultimately for the benefit of society,” said Fr. Savio Fernandes, CSJP executive secretary, in a press statement.
Attempts to bypass Gram Sabhas or “village assemblies” from decision-making were tantamount to a “divide and rule” approach at a village level, he warned. Accusing the state government of pitting Gram Sabhas against the elected representatives of the village panchayats, the priest said, “The Goa government seems to have got its fundamentals on grassroots democracy greatly muddled. ”The Church’s comments come at a time when the state government has asked all elected members of Panchayats and Zilla Panchayats to make suggestions in order to amend the Panchayati Raj act and other issues related to grassroots governance.
Fr. Fernandes said leaving the Gram Sabhas out of the loop and the amendment processes would defy the principles of the grassroots-empowering legislation. The Goa government has been at loggerheads with Gram Sabha bodies in several of the nearly 200 village panchayats in the state over the past few years over issues related to real estate development norms and mining regulations. The Church in Goa is an influential socio-religious entity because nearly 30 per cent of the state’s population is Catholic.
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