Monday, January 21, 2008

Colamb villagers force shut down of Fomentos Mine

In a major breakthrough to the movement of Colamb villagers seeking to defend their land and agricultural livelihood, group of over 200 villagers stormed into the Fomento mines TC No. 06/1949 and forced to shut down two of its operating units in Colamb village.

According to the reports received villagers entered the Khodidas Hiralal mine operated by Goa corporate house of Fomentos at 11.00am today January 21, 2008. Mining company was prepared to tackle the situation as it brought in 6 bouncers (Goons) from the nearby Cacora-Sanvordem area with three bike bearing registration numbers GA08 5408, GA08 2464, and GA08 D6504. The strategy of the mining company was not to involve the police and deal with the protesting villagers by the application of private muscle power. (It remains to be seen as to how Goa Police deals with the Goons brought to the mining site to threaten the villagers or is it going to be the story as usual: favour and encourage mining mafia.) The strategy however failed due to presence of over 200 villagers and also their supporters from different parts of Goa. The supporters included Arun Madgaonkar, Vithal Khandeparkar and Kalidas Savaikar.

The first thing that the villagers did was gave half an hour deadline to the mining company to shut down its operations. Written letter to this effect was also handed over the mining company by the villagers. Earlier the letter to this effect was served on the State administration on December 10 2007 by Gawda, Kunbi, Velip and Dhangar Federation (GAKUVED) during the Human Rights Day Rally. Reminder was again served on the administration a week ago. However administration chose to doze off rather than act against the erring mining companies.

When the request was turned down that the mob entered the mine and forced the machinery not only to shut down but also to dismantle the same. Machinery in both the units was forced dismantled. The staff in the screening unit fled from the seen anticipating villagers attack so there was no one working on the site when the villagers raided the mining premises. By 12.30 pm the entire mining plant was shut down and pleasing silence descended. Menacing dozers, rippers and trucks was silenced by this gutsy courage of the villagers.

Police came to the scene only when the villagers had done their job and were returning home from the mines. Four Police Jeeps with around 40 police personnel were heading towards the controversial mine. Police Chief from Quepem Police Station tried to coerce the villagers to send in 10 member delegation to the mining company’s office to talks. Of course this offer was not only turned down but police was told that in case they want to talk to the villagers than they must come to the village and express themselves. Police then calmed down from their high pedestal and came into the village with a proposal that they want to convene the meeting of the villagers and mining company in the presence of the Collector. This offer too was politely refused by pointing to the futility of such interactions in the past. Police had faced wrath of the villagers on December 10 2007 when GAKUVED led a morcha (protest march) against Quepem Police Station.

Villagers after this victory are keeping continues vigil over the situation; for under their village lies black gold called iron ore and magnesium and corporate have divided 1929 hectares of this village into 22 mining leases covering 1510 hectares, leaving only 419 hectares for the village. That will be covered under mining dumps and occupied by Forest department as reserved forest to be free from people but gifted in exchange of few brief cases to the mining companies.

With this action of the villagers of Colamb direct action just addition to December 11 2007 direct attack on mines by Cavrem villagers in Quepem taluka.

Fomentos are one of the most notorious business houses as far as their Environment record goes. Politically it shares very close family ties with the present days rulers of Goa. Co-option is done through sponsoring of Dinner parties in its five star hotel Cidade de Goa on Bambolim Coast in North Goa. Wonder when the better sense will prevail upon the Goa’s mining elites? It is better that it prevails soon or situation will force into sensible mode and try them for all the nefarious land usurpations, ecological crimes and economic swindlings.

For the moment it is time for small celebration even while we recall the way Fomentos used Forest department and other state administration to further its will. Of course other mining companies are doing the same. This time this corporate rat is in the movement’s net!

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