Goa: Backed by Local BJP MLAs, 'Self-Lockdowns' in Villages Draw Party Leadership's Ire

Self-lockdowns have reportedly been imposed on grounds ranging from the government's failure to control the spread of COVID-19 to supplementing its efforts to restrain it.

New Delhi: A decision to impose ‘self-lockdown’ by several village panchayats in Goa – leading to the shutdown of local shops and business establishments – has put the ruling BJP state leadership and its legislators and ministers in a sharp divide.

Even though the Union home ministry has lifted the national lockdown and has since passed the baton to the district magistrates to take a call at the provincial level, several panchayats in assembly constituencies represented by BJP in the coastal state have imposed a ‘self-lockdown’ within their jurisdictions.

As per news reports, these decisions, issued through circulars, have the backing of the BJP’s local legislators and ministers and even the state vice president Anil Hoble.

“The decision of the village panchayats of Sattari’s Guleri and Keri, for instance, has the backing of health minister Vishwajit Rane. The same is true for Sancorda, where the PWD minister Deepak Pauskar is the local MLA,” a report in the Times of India said.

Yet another report in the newspaper said the panchayat of Chimbel village, a part of St Cruz assembly constituency represented by BJP’s Antonio ‘Tony’ Fernandes, too issued a circular asking people to observe a self-lockdown for seven days from June 15. Some other panchayats named in news reports are Cumbarjua, Sanvordem, Merces and Aldona – all located in constituencies represented by BJP MLAs.

Self-lockdown essentially means the permission to run chemist and ration shops and a fixed time period for opening milk shops while all other shops remain shut. In some village panchayat areas, roads have also been blocked and fines for breaking the rules have been imposed.

Also read: India’s Environment Ministry Unlocked Many Protected Areas During the Lockdown

These self-lockdowns have reportedly been imposed by panchayats on grounds ranging from the state government’s failure to control the spread of the coronavirus to supplementing the government’s efforts at restraining it.

However, with growing public sentiment against the government due to a spike in the number of cases, and the imposition of fines as high as Rs 5,000 on shopkeepers for not adhering to local rules, the BJP state leadership is increasingly pressurising its legislators and ministers to not back such moves – thereby pushing some panchayats to withdraw the circulars as well.

Speaking to reporters this on June 15, the state party president Sadanand Tanavade called such decisions “illegal”. He told the Times of India that the panchayats don’t have the power to issue lockdown orders “and the person issuing them can get into trouble”. Former MP Narendra Sawaikar too reiterated the same in a tweet.

A day later, chief minister Pramod Swant too joined Tanavade in condemning such moves. However, party vice president Hoble had earlier told reporters that Sawant supported his call for self-lockdowns.

On June 15, the Panchayat minister Mauvin Godinho too said that such bodies had no authority to impose lockdowns and keep villages under lockdown.

On June 16 though, Chumbel issued a circular imposing a self-lockdown in the village but later withdrew it under pressure from the state government. News reports said that the stipulations in the circular would continue to be under observation.

St Cruz MLA Fernandes disagreed with state party leadership that such orders were “illegal” as the village sarpanch “is the first citizen of the village and can take such decisions”.