Shrines Chosen Over Shelter

Millions of rupees meant to provide basic amenities to locals is diverted to build temples by village panchayat in Goa’s Cotigaon.

In this video Devidas Goankar, a forest tribal living in Cotigao village South Goa, documents corruption in the local panchayt. Cotigao has poor road, transport and other basic civic facilities. To improve this, the panchayat has received millions from the state government. But instead of developing the village, the panchayat has spent most of the money to build a number of temples.

The temples, once open to public, attract thousands of devotees. The caretaker of the shrines is a board of temple trustees who collect the offerings and donations from the devotees. Several of the panchayat members are on the board, so the temples are only helping them get rich. But locals are deprived of the their rights to a better life.

Documenting this corruption, however, was a tough challenge for Devidas. When he asked the panchayat about the details of the money spent on temples, the panchayat refused to do so. So, Devidas filed an application under the Right to Information Act and found out that more than half of the money allocated for village development was diverted by panchayat.

However, after Devidas filed the RTI, it angered the panchayat members who accused Devidas of provoking the village to rebel. As a result this video took more than 2 months to complete. Finally Devidas was able to complete it because his community members supported him after they learnt of the fund diversion.

Devidas and his community members feel, while building a shrine or two is justified, spending lakhs on them is a gross injustice to them because the money wasn’t given to panchayat for shrines, but to provide the community facilities that they need such as better roads, housing, schools and healthcare.

He wants to see this divertion of development fund stop immediately and spent where it is meant to be spent – development of the village.

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