Betalbatim: The gram sabha of Betalbatim had to be adjourned on Sunday after locals had heated arguments with members of the panchayat body after the secretary refused to take up discussion of a commercial project pointing to the code of conduct. The budget which was on the meeting’s agenda had to be kept on hold because of the commotion.
Former MLA Mickky Pacheco and later other members of the gram sabha were seen arguing with panchayat secretary Arjun Velip, saying the issue on the development project should have been taken up for discussion.
“In the last five years, there have been around 20 meetings. If you go through them, you will find that resolutions have been taken many times where people have demanded that they should be informed of any development project coming to the village and asked for suggestions and objections. If there is provision for the budget, why there is no provision to discuss this particular issue?” said Pacheco while speaking to the media after the meeting.
Meanwhile, local resident Gerson Rebello said the question he had put up for the meeting was based on a decision that the panchayat had taken before the code of conduct came into force.
“My question to be included in the agenda was not based on taking a policy decision but was with regard to a questionable decision that was taken by the panchayat since the last gram sabha on January 27, 2019. This is a 60 plus room project on a 4,500 square meter land and because we don’t want our village to turn into a Calangute and Baga, we wanted to question the panchayat on why it had issued a construction licence despite local objection,” said Rebello.
In response, the secretary stayed firm on his decision not to take up the issue for discussion saying the moral code of conduct did not allow discussing the issue. “We have been given strict directions not to allow any discussion on development work or take up any policy decisions during the code of conduct. Because of this, we had put the budget and revision of taxes on the agenda but had to issue a corrigendum to remove the revision of taxes since the department asked us not to take up the matter.
So based on the directions of the ECI and the directorate of Panchayats, we could not take up the discussion of any other development works and policy decisions,” said Velip.
Incidentally, the village panchayat sarpanch was not present owing to ill health according to panch members.