Yesterday, the news media reported what looked to be chaos reigning supreme in the capital city of Panjim. Mining dependents came out in large numbers to protest the Supreme Court order passed in February that effectively shut down all mining operations in the state. This mining ban has affected hundreds and thousands and the mining areas of Goa have an eerie, abandoned and desolate look now.
More agitations over the mining ban to follow after yesterday’s protest
The Supreme Court’s order which has led to the closure of approximately 88 mines in the state is what led to the protest being staged. However, what was supposed to be a peaceful demonstration, soon turned into mass agitation. Protestors blocked the roads of Mandovi Bridge till late afternoon. They clashed with the Goa police, throwing stones and bottles, and even damaged government vehicles and buses. This ended with the police being forced to lathi charge the crowd in order to clear the roads.
However, it does not seem like the trouble is over. Upset at being beaten by the police yesterday afternoon, the mining dependents say that there will be more agitations in the state.
President of North Goa Truckers Association Neelkant Gawas said, “More agitations will be carried out by our members until mining restarts in Goa.” He said that the mining ban has affected lakhs of people dependent on the mining industry and they are united in the protest of the closure. According to him, the government is paralyzed in making any kind of decisions. He even expressed doubts on whether the steps proposed by ministers would help restart the industry soon.
Why lathi charge what was supposed to be a peaceful protest?
According to Gawas, the lathi charge was unwarranted and he lashed out saying, “We were holding a peaceful agitation and did not try to fight. We also allowed the traffic to flow on the Mandovi bridges. But just as we stepped inside for talk the lathi charge was ordered.”
Union Minister for Road Transport and Highways, Nitin Gadkari arrived in Goa yesterday evening. There is going to be a meeting between him and the mining dependents. However, Gawas said he had his doubts that there would be a positive outcome to the meeting regarding the mining ban. He said, “Gadkari is not concerned with mining. We need to conduct a meeting with the Mining Minister.”
Other mining dependents have their say
The mining ban protest was attended by owners of trucks, barges, and machinery. Protestors also included people employed by them as helpers, drivers, crew, operators etc.
President of Goa Barge Owners Association (GBOA) Raymond De Sa said that the Association is demanding an inquiry into the reason for the lathi charge. He added that the main demand of the GBOA is the restart of mining and takeover of barge loans by the government. “If the government cannot take over our loans, we demand a freeze on them until mining restarts,” he said.
Additionally, the GBOA had planned to block the navigation channel in the Mandovi river. But finally, they decided to give respect to the government’s appeal to not go ahead with such a move. Mr. De Sa further added that the state government had supported the barge owners and dependents in the past on many occasions and so they decided to withdraw their decision.
Secretary of GBOA Sanjeev Naik said, “The government is also under a lot of pressure to reopen mining. We are sure that as elected representatives they will have our best interest at heart in the future action plan.”
What do the affected do now?
The mining industry used to be huge in Goa. Dependents comprised of workers in the mining lease areas, employees of mining companies, locals involved in ferrying iron ore, and operators of mining machinery. The transport segment of the industry accounted for over 30000 people alone that have been badly affected by the mining ban.
Truck owners said that they have spent lakhs of rupees on repairs and maintenance after mining restarted in 2015. They further added that they cannot handle another shutdown and survive the same. They need to recover all the money invested in repairing and maintaining their trucks during the previous mining ban.
Goa’s mining operations have been shut down on March 16 after a Supreme Court order canceled the renewal of 88 mining leases which are allegedly illegal.
Information source – The Navhind Times