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Villagers, sarpanch clash at Cansaulim gram sabha

Vasco: The gram sabha of Cansaulim Arossim Cuelim on Sunday witnessed noisy scenes and finally culminated in a scuffle between sarpanch Martha Saldanha and the agitated members of the gram sabha over the issue of garbage.

Objecting strongly to the draft Coastal Zone Management Plan (CZMP), the gram sabha members demanded that the plan be scrapped. They further questioned the panchayat members over tenant verification drive and asked the sarpanch what steps have been taken to collect and dispose garbage.

Issues related to collection and disposal of garbage, absence of a dedicated site for dumping of garbage, destruction caused to nullahs, ponds, low-lying areas and all water bodies due to the permission granted to Daffodil Projects Pvt Ltd (ex-competent automobiles) allegedly by the panchayat body and construction of road near Arossim Bandar were hotly debated during the gram sabha. However, following some personal remarks made by the gram sabha members and the sarpanch against each other, the meeting ended in a scuffle between the members of the gram sabha and Saldanha. The agitated gram sabha members even made an attempt to manhandle Saldanha but due to the presence of police personnel, she escaped unhurt.

Speaking to pressmen, the gram sabha members said that the sarpanch was cornered by them over the issue of garbage. “The panchayat has failed to treat the wet garbage, while dry garbage is being collected every ten days. With regard to Daffodil Projects Pvt Ltd, the panchayat body has to take care of the environmental issues, but panchayat seems to have no regulation and control over cutting of trees and even other major problems, which can invite disaster in the village,” alleged the gram sabha members.

They alleged that the panchayat body is supporting mega projects when there is no garbage treatment plant. “The High Court has issued directions to the village panchayat bodies not to pass any mega project in the absence of a garbage treatment plant. The panchayat has to take an affidavit on where the mega projects will dispose of their garbage,” said the gram sabha members.

They also alleged that the sarpanch has passed budget, which was proposed by her and seconded by a panch member. “As per the gram sabha rules, the budget should be proposed by the gram sabha members and not by the sarpanch. The sarpanch has to explain and place the budget before the gram sabha members,” said Simon D’Souza of Cansaulim. The gram sabha members were of the opinion that the sarpanch was not listening to them. They also alleged that she was in the habit of talking in a rude manner.

Replying to the allegations, the sarpanch said the panchayat has identified two sites for setting up a garbage treatment plant at Adorem but the state government has failed to acquire the proposed sites. On the issue of Daffodil Projects Pvt Ltd, Saldanha said that the issue was not listed on the annexure of the gram sabha. However, the project was cleared by the National Green Tribunal, she said.

Meanwhile, Saldanha has decided to file a police complaint against some gram sabha members for manhandling her during the gram sabha.

Speaking to this daily, Saldanha said that she has identified the gram sabha members, who tried to attack her when the gram sabha was about to conclude. “The gram sabha member (woman) caught hold of my collar and started abusing me,” alleged Saldanha. She also alleged that the woman who caught hold of her collar made some personal remarks regarding her late husband. 

During the scuffle, a panch member Carma Fernandes, representing ward 8, fell on the floor of the hall.

Taking cognisance of the incident that occurred in the panchayat hall on Sunday, Saldanha has decided to make arrangements for covering the gram sabha on camera. “All the panch members have decided to cover the gram sabha meeting through video shoot in order to keep control over the gram sabha members and avoid incidents of manhandling elected members,” said Saldanha.

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