Sunday, 12 February 2017

‘Service is my motto’

-Brian Mendonça

After many months of preparation the elections to the Goa Legislative Assembly were held on 4 February. Being a Presiding Officer for 38 Sanvordem Assembly Constituency (AC), gave me a ringside view of the action. The last time I was posted in Curtorim, the experience was daunting.

With some trepidation I went for my training session at the Government Primary School, opposite the Mamlatdar’s office, Tamsodo, Dharbandora. To add to that there was an international conference at Delem, Canacona on the day previous to poll day when we had to collect our material for polling.

That was when I furtively approached the desk of the Returning Officer (RO) to ask him if I could be allowed to present my paper at Canacona and then come to Tamsodo. It seemed preposterous, but the officers present said Agnelo Fernandes, RO and Deputy Collector, Dharbandora, was an understanding man. He smiled and nodded his head.

I had heard his speech at the training session which roused us from our sleep in the mid-morning. He fired us with a zeal to perform the task entrusted to us. He believed in us. The tension seeped out of me. Seated with the 5 members assigned to me, I too found the voice to stitch my motley crew, together.

Agnelo Fernandes struck me as a young, dynamic, unassuming officer keen to make a difference. Though he got into his chair with some awkwardness, he exuded positivity. His twinkling eyes searched the room. He was always smiling. He regaled us with jokes culled from his experience in the field. He went out of his way to make us feel comfortable.

‘Service is my motto,’ said Agnelo. ‘My greatest satisfaction, is to see a smile on the face of the poorest of the poor. The policies of the Government are on paper. We need to reach it to the people.’ 

Agnelo (48) cleared his Goa Public Service Commission (GPSC) exams in 2000. In17 years he has served in Panjim, Quepem and Cuncolim in various capacities. As Sub-Divisional Officer (SDO) and Sub-Divisional Magistrate (SDM), Dharbandora he has to adjudicate cases and is in charge of law and order. Unfazed by polio at 6 years of age, he moves about fearlessly in his vehicle to maintain the peace. He is an inspiration to others.

Trained in law, he opted for Government service in view of his mobility issues. This year the government made a special thrust to reach out to people who could not walk to the polling booth. Agnelo identified 42 people in his jurisdiction and ensured that they are provided assistance to vote.

Agnelo takes as his model the American President, Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945) -- a great athlete, who was stricken with polio. Despite his mobility issues, he was the only president to be elected four times. Roosevelt led the country through the depression and World War II.

A voracious reader, Agnelo says his greatest strength is that he knows his job thoroughly.
Published in Gomantak Times Weekender, St. Inez, Goa on Sunday 12 February 2017. Pix courtesy Agnelo Fernandes.

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