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Goa civil society activists object to governor's comments

Panaji, June 9 - Civil society activists in Goa have expressed outrage at Governor Bharat Vir Wanchoo's comments Friday about "self-styled civil society activists questioning the role of legislature".

While some members of civil society maintain that Governor Wanchoo had caused affront to a "group of highly respected citizens who are taking on the corrupt government and bureaucracy", others feel the former Indian Police Service (IPS) officer was possibly taking a swipe at his former colleague Kiran Bedi, who is a part of Team Anna.

"It is objectionable that the governor should use a prefix of 'elf-styled' before civil society members. Would he like to 'appoint' CSO (civil society organisation) members and pay them from the state treasury?" said Miguel Braganza, a member of Goa Bachao Abhiyaan (GBA).

"If his reference was to Anna Hazare, Kiran Bedi and (Arvind) Khejriwal of IAC (India Against Corruption), he should have had the courage to name them. He has been an IPS officer till recently."

While addressing Goa's legislators at an orientation programme Friday, Wanchoo said: "We need to be conscious that some self-styled civil society members are questioning the role of our legislature and it is therefore your responsibility to ensure that as elected representatives, you remain worthy of the trust reposed in you by the people."

Activist Bevinda Colaco, who runs a website on Goa-related events, said Wanchoo's description of some civil society members as "self styled" was disrespectful, but added that the proximity shared by Wanchoo, as the head of the Special Protection Group (SPG), to Congress president Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh could be the reason for his statement.

"This can be excused given his proximity to Sonia Gandhi and the prime minister. He cannot naturally be seen to be respecting, shall we say, critics of his mentors," Colaco said.

Lawyer and activist Aires Rodrigues said the governor should first put his house in order as far as transparency and good governance was concerned.

Rodrigues, who has used the Right to Information (RTI) Act to unearth several bunglings in governance, said the office of the governor had been steadfastly refusing to comply with the RTI Act and had refused to furnish information under the law, when offices of governors in other states and even the presidential office acknowledged the authority of the law.

"It would have been better if the Goa governor walked the talk, instead of just lecturing on good governance. I want to remind Wanchoo that every other governor in the country and even (office of) the President of India is complying with the transparency law," Rodrigues said.

Co-ordinator of India Against Corruption (IAC) chapter in Goa Valmiki Naik said that in the absence of a selection process or any set qualification, it was inevitable that all civil society activists are "self styled".

"It is also a fact that activists are led only by their conscience and not any party or high command. Ignoring any intended or unintended negative connotation of the governor's words, I would focus on his message which is laudable," Naik said, adding that it was his personal opinion.


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