Building a pre-election, citizen-crafted agenda


Dr Basilio Monteiro (above) and the New York-based St John’s University’s last weekend’s ICT-for-development conference  at the Hotel Mandovi saw the raising of many issues — besides just traditional ICTforD themes. As a non-purist, who believes that technology is intricatly connected with real-life, and that we should not pretend otherwise, this was a welcome change.

Dr Nandkumar “The Guy In The Red Shirt” Kamat had many points to make, given his vast and encyclopaedic knowledge. Nandu has a lot to say. Usually. This blogger often appreciates his points (even if we sometimes disagree… and he sometimes takes him time in making them).

One of the very valid points he made was the need for citizens to build up their own pre-poll people’s agenda. As Nandu put it optimstically: “When a (political) candidate comes to my house during the elections due later this year), he will not tell me what I will do, (Instead) I will tell him what he will do.”

[There’s not much time left. Elections are just months away.]

That’s optimistic. Knowing the way politics in Goa operates (based on community, caste, emotive issues, shrewd manipulation … including more recently of “environmental” issues) this is unlikely to happen in the near future. But it is a very interesting goal. Who knows, it could be made to happen. One day.

Microbiologist-activist-and-man-of-many-roles Nandkumar Kamat explained the context thus: “Some 35-40% (voters) never go to the polling booth. They make a huge difference (in the ultimate results). We need a people’s agenda. A peple’s political agenda. Because the Leftists were using the lever (in New Delhi), we got some (postiive) reforms there. Those ruling Goa have no Common Minimum Programme. Instead, here it’s a policy drafted by (dream-merchants like those selling the) monorail, skybus… superhighways… things that were never discussed in any five-year plans. These (dream-merchants, and lobbyists) are the people running our government. In the years to come, there will be a mafia ruling Goa’s political identity. Take the case of what happened (with hill-cutting at) Sant Estevam, a very fragile island. Even the Chief Secretary could not believe (his eyes when he saw) the photos of what we showed him. How do I expect the rule of law in this state? The law is being purchased.”

Interesting points all. Given the deeply-fractured, and easily divided-and-ruled nature of Goan society, there may be pessimism over this working out. But, who knows… Maybe we could try… build a wiki where various inputs are received… and compiled.

Of course, that’s a big job. One could always make a start. What if I was crafting a ‘agenda’ just for the village I live in, Saligao … currently represented by the deputy chief minister of Goa ,no less (who has done a great job in side-stepping crucial issues over the years)? It might read something like this (an incomplete, one-sided list maybe. Your suggestions are welcome):

  • Improve the badly neglected public transport system in Saligao, specially to Panjim, Porvorim.
  • Build badly needed libraries in the village. Never done so far by public authorites.
  • Improve educational facilities, specially of weaker institutions (govt primary school, for eg)
  • Stop village-level corruption (fuelled often by those protected by politicians)
  • Garbage dump on hilltop above community residences a major hazard.
  • Agricultural productivity in village needs to be addressed urgently.
  • Encourage local entrepreneurship, lack of credit in village is a serious issue
  • Career-guidance and drop-out problem need urgent steps
  • Activity centre for the elderly.
  • Health-care facilities virtually non-existent locally …
  • Illegal (or even ‘legal’) land conversion in villages needs addressing asap.
  • Renovation of long-negelected village market place.
  • Playgrounds for children in the village (not just big sports complex, as long talked about)
  • Commercial water sale from the village needs to be monitored, controlled.
  • Drop of village water table (due to above) badly affects agriculturists
  • Sharp drop in home-bred  livestock  needs to be urgently addressed
  • Livelihood opportunities for weaker sections need specially-crafted locally-suited  schemes
  • Opportunities for girl-students needs a special re-look
  • Strengthening educational opportunities in the village
  • Soil erosion, largely untapped.
  • Increasing Saligao’s green cover, including diversity of hilltop cultivation.
  • Study impact of industrial estate inappropriately sited on hilltop, including wastes runoffs
  • Deforestation in some areas, such as Salmona spring locality.
  • Noncultivation of village fields, issues need to be addressed, with action
  • Inter-community relations needs creative solutions to be improved.
  • Telecommunication infrastructure needs strengthening.
  • Expat population needs to be better involved in growth and development of the village.

These are just some suggestions. Do add your ideas to the list. Craft one for your own village. If we get a response, we could compile these issues. And try to cover the interests of diverse sections too!

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