Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Church slams BJP digitalisation agenda in Goa

Himalayan Paths

By Mayabhushan Nagvenkar
Panaji, Jan 23 (IANS)
Days after a spokesperson for Goa’s archbishop denied allegations that the influential Roman Catholic Church was indulging in politics ahead of the February 4 assembly polls, its social arm has taken direct pot shots at the ruling BJP, accusing it of misgovernance and corruption and calling the nationwide digitalisation initiative a “disturbing development”.

Quoting Pope Francis liberally, the Council for Social Justice and Peace (CSJP) has officially released fliers that slam several policies of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government and accuses the media of being a “mouthpiece of the government and corporates”.

“The shift from the social policy of roti, kapda aur makaan for uplifting the poor sections of society to an emphasis on digital and cashless policy involving smart phones, ATM cards and Paytm apps as the basic requirement for every citizen to avail of government benefits and purchase their basic needs is a worrisome phenomenon,” the flier says.

“Selective private business interests being promoted through government policies under the pretext of fostering economic growth, tackling corruption and ensuring transparency through digitalisation are a disturbing development,” it adds.

After Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Digital India push, the BJP state leadership had repeatedly expressed its ambition of making Goa India’s first cashless state.

Headed by a Roman Catholic priest, the CSJP works under the aegis of Goa Church and has in the past been vocal about misgovernance, social inequities and the like. Catholics account for nearly 26 per cent of the state’s 1.5 million population.

“The undue intrusion and interference of governments in the judiciary or educational and financial institutions cannot be a sign of good governance. The terror unleashed by state and non-state actors to silence dissent or diverse opinions about governance by labelling them as anti-national or unpatriotic cannot be ignored by responsible citizens,” the CSJP says, adding that efforts were being made nationally to “undo the sovereign, socialist, secular and democratic fabric of our nation as enshrined in our constitution”.

Alleging “wanton destruction of Goa’s environment and culture” and that voters often elect “insensitive and unscrupulous political representatives” due to “material and formal” cooperation, the flier quotes Pope Francis’ 2013 homily that the people are responsible for the quality of governance.

“None can say… I have nothing to do with this, they govern. No, no, I am responsible for their governance, and I have to do the best so that they govern well, and I have to do my best by participating in politics according to my ability,” the flier says, quoting the Pope.

Slamming the outgoing state government for setting up an Investment Promotion Board to “push projects in villages and towns by undermining the constitutional powers of the (local) self-governments and accusing the central government of forcefully nationalising Goa’s natural resources, the CSJP also said that politicians exploited the vulnerability of the unemployed, displaced and economically backward voters by “luring them with freebies and unrealistic promises of jobs”.

Asking citizens to “access other sources of alternative and reliable political information”, the Council also accused the media of being seen as the mouthpiece of the government and corporates.

“The print and electronic media, which is considered the fourth pillar of a democracy and is ethically required to maintain autonomy and report factual and unbiased news to the public, is now increasingly seen to be the mouthpiece of the government and corporates, and driven by competition,” the flier says.

On January 18, in a statement issued by the Archbishop’s House, a spokesperson had denied indulging in politics ahead of state assembly elections, following accusations made by a local politician, which went viral on social media.

(Mayabhushan Nagvenkar can be contacted [email protected])

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