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Goa tribals raise protest against illegal mining

Last updated on: April 25, 2011 11:51 IST

In the tribal village of Cauvrem in South Goa, people now meet more often to decide their strategy against mining trucks, which are operating illegally in the locality resulting in destruction of paddy and chilly cultivation.

Protests have erupted in this village located 60 kilometre away from Panaji, the latest protest being on Saturday when 95 villagers were placed under arrest for blocking traffic. "We will continue agitating until the menace is stopped.  We have petitioned almost all the government agencies but the illegal truck operations don't stop," said Nilesh Gaonkar, activist, Cauvrem Adivasi Bachao Samiti.

The villagers frequently meet at Gatranchi Dev temple, a place where tribals hold their religious rituals. "It is so dusty all over. Mines have devasted our village and the farms," he said. Akin to several other villages in the mining fiefdom, it's difficult to reach Cauvrem, a village which is home to 1,000 tribals from Velip and Gaonkar communities.

On the way, you come across huge six-wheeler trucks raising dust and dirt. Opposition to mining, especially illegal truck operations, runs deep in this part of South Goa. The tribals who consider their mountain as sacred are aghast to see that a mining firm began excavating on a hill here.

A month ago, they launched a massive agitation and rushed to the office of director of mines in Panaji and got

the permission to stop work at the mine site. But woes did not end here as three existing mines continued with truck movements.

"This year, almost 90 per cent of the chilly cultivation has been damaged. Also, the paddy cultivation has not survived due to mining silt," Gaonkar said gesturing out to the fields. The villagers have petitioned agriculture department, mines department and even transport department urging them to come to the village and inspect the conditions.

"No one has turned up yet," Gaonkar said. The tribals, who spent hours in the lock up of a local police station for blocking trucks on Saturday, have now decided to continue their agitation even on Monday.  "Are we left with any other option?" questioned Prabhakar Velip, a village elderly.

The villagers who were arrested for agitating has now filed 10 different complaints with the superintendent of

police (South) against atrocities on them. Of the 10 applications, eight are of women, whose belongings such as mangalsutra and earrings were lost in the melee.

One of them was allegedly manhandled on the road by male constables. "They tore her saree on the street. It's a shameful act," Gaonkar said.  The women protestors have also decided to approach Goa State Women's Commission with a complaint against male police constables, who ruthlessly dragged them on Saturday.
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