Monday, February 8, 2010

Interpretation from Panchwadi Bachao Samiti on events of 7th February in the village

Overwhelming opposition to the proposed mining roads dominated the Gram Sabha Meeting held on 7/2/2010 at Panchawadi, which eventually ended at 4 PM in chaos and confusion, yet again. Over 400 persons opposed the proposal by Sesa Goa to use Panchawadi for mining activities, completely outnumbering the handful of supporters of the Sesa proposal. However, the Dy. Sarpanch, who was chairing the meeting in the absence of the Sarpanch, and the Secretary continued to use illegitimate means to further the aims of Sesa by refusing to allow a hand vote to prove the majority.

The first two and a half hours of the grueling meeting were consumed in taking signatures of the attendees. The meeting then commenced with reading of the previous Gram Sabha Meeting minutes which went on for another 3 hours without conclusion. The Dy. Sarpanch and Secretary were grilled by the Gram Sabha members for falsifying the minutes, to which questions they could not offer any replies. Frustrated with the impasse, the people asked the Dy. Sarpanch to decide the issue with a hand vote. When the Dy. Sarpanch asked the supporters of the Sesa plan to raise their hands only a dozen persons lifted their hands. Overjoyed with their victory, the villagers next asked the Sarpanch to count the number of members opposing the said project. The Sarpanch refused to allow the hand vote in spite of persistent demands from the Gram Sabha members. As the Gram Sabha members mounted pressure for the hand vote, the Sarpanch abruptly stated that since the Gram Sabha members were not co-operating, he had adopted a resolution approving the Sesa proposal. After making this statement, the Sarpanch, Secretary, BDO observer and the few supporters of the mining company abruptly and hurriedly left the venue under the protection of the large police posse. The majority of the villagers were left shocked and agitated by the unlawful act of the Sarpanch followed by his sudden disappearance, an obvious plan to undermine the Gram Sabha. This was followed by intense protests by the angry villagers who even blocked the Shiroda-Sanvordem road for over one hour, during which period some persons damaged the Panchayat building. The villagers have pointed out that not a single policeman attempted to stop the breakage and allege that the damage to the public property was a pre-planned move by the supporters of the mining company.

The Panchayat authorities finally arrived at the scene only at about 5.15 PM and assured the villagers that their grievances would be resolved immediately, which assurances have been taken by the villagers with more than a pinch of suspicion.

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