Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Police repression yet again in Colamb

Twenty one Colamb villagers were picked up by Police at the instruction of Deputy Collector Johnson Fernandes from the Khodidas Hiralal mining site at 4.00 pm today March 25, 2008. The villagers were protesting the granting of permission to use the road for transportation of Ore through Forest by Forest department.

16 male constables and 6 lady constables engaged to arrest 16 Women and 5 men. Women were picked up by male constables – manhandled with some women complaining missing of their gold ornaments on their bodies during the scuffle with the police on the mining site. Joint mamlatdar of Sanguem Amol Gaonkar, Sanguem Police Inspector Ramesh Gaonkar, Quepem Police Inspector Naresh Mhamel and Deputy Supritendent of Police Patre were other senior officers that acted to facilitate the arrests of the Colamb villagers.

Colamb villagers that are taken at the Quepem Police Station for the purpose of arrests are as follows: Purso Gaonkar, Vipoda Goankar, Arjun Velip, Sitaram Velip, Chandrakand Gaonkar, Andrew Antao, Salu Dias, Egyps D’Souza, Telu Dias, Jerone Fernandes, Jaya Raikar, Rasika Goankar, Zayu Gaonkar, Vitem Velip, Chandrakala Goankar, Sulaksha Goankar, Prashanti Velip, Palmira Fernandes, Dumen D’Souza, Sunita Gaonkar, Shaobavati Amolkar, Celina Dias, Milagrine Antao and Consi Antao.

According to the reports, as soon as people were removed the mining site and put into police vehicles – to be taken at the Quepem Police Station - mining company started transportation of Ore through forest with its trucks.

Earlier in the day mining company - Fomentos was stopped from opening of the road for transporting the Iron Ore at 10.00 am. Mining company then was provided police protection under the supervision of Quepem PI and the officer of the rank of deputy collector to make the arrests at 4.00 pm.

The road that was opened up by the mining company through forest route was stopped by the villagers as the mining activity negatively affected their agriculture and water sources due to siltation of field and drying up of natural springs.

One of the villagers Rama Velip along with Dr. Avadooth Prabhudessai and Goa Foundation had gone to the High Court on this issue. High Court admitted the petition on March 10 2008, though it did not grant any interim relief for closure of the mine.

The case came up for the hearing again on March 24 2008 when the affidavits were filed before the court by Department of Mines and Geology, Forest department, and mining company Hiralal Khodidas. Forest department produced the letter of permission for the use of controversial road for the mining company signed by Conservator of Forests dated March 20 2008.

This letter is clear indication as to the extend to which the Forest department and the mining company are hands in gloves with. It took just 10 days to get the road for mining purpose though the forest land! This is indeed amazing considering that even after 5 years and 33 hearings forest department is yet to file its affidavit in Soiru Sawant’s case.

Here is the text of the letter the Office of the conservator of Forests, Maratha Samaj Building, Vivekaand Road, Panaji dated March 20 2008 bearing No.- 6 – 13(174) -97 – FD and addressed to the Deputy conservator of forest, South Goa, Margao with the Subject ‘Permission for use of Forest Road passing through survey no 72 of village Colomba of Sanguem Taluka of South Goa & Survey no. 2 of Curpem Village’:

Ref: 1) Your letter no. 6/439/SGF/2007-08/3098 dated 19/03/2008
2) Your letter no. 6/439/SGF/2007-08/3013 dated 13/03/2008

With reference to the above cited subject and your letters and as recommended by you, permission is herewith granted to use a stretch of 400 meters Long Forest Road of about 6 meters in width passing through the survey no.72 of Colomba Village and survey no.2 of Curpem Village in Sanguem Taluka for transportation of ore by M/S Hiralal Khodidas from T.C. no. 06/49 in survey no. 51/1, 68, 71, of Colomba village.

This permission is given to avoid transportation of Ore by trucks through narrow road passing through a cluster of dwelling houses in village which causes heavy pollution and is opposed by the villagers.

The permission to use Forest Road is subject to the following conditions.

1) Payment for the cost of fencing on either side of the road and erection of gate at the start of the road.
2) Payment of wear and tear of the road as demanded by the department.
3) Salary of the two field staff to be deputed for protection.
4) No transport should be carried out after sunset and before sunrise.
5) Realizing charges for using the road at the rate of Rs. 20,000/- per month.
6) Department reserves the right to close the road at any time without further notice.
7) Using the road does not give any right to the lease holder or its continuance.
8) No development of road should be carried out.
9) Usage of road may be allowed till 15th of June 2008.
10) No ore from forest is transported and the mines department has renewed the lease and the lease is valid.
This has the approval of competent authority.

Sd/- on 20/03/08

(C.A. Reddy) IFS,
Conservator of Forests,
I/C Chief conservator of Forest

The nexus of the mining company with the power structures is amply visible from this letter. Margao office of the Forest Department recommends the road and Conservator of Forest does the formality of giving it the seal of approval and authority. And in Goa we in the 48th year of Goa’s so called Liberation. The Liberation will come to Goa only when the mining industry is dismantled. Colamb is showing Goa the way ahead. Let’s express our Solidarity with Colamb people’s struggle for creating a just society.

P.S. Colamb villagers staged morcha at Quepem Police Station late evening and got the release of all the villagers. All together 24 people were detained with 14 being booked as preventive detention. By 8 pm all the villagers were released.

John Fernanades and Sebastian Rodrigues

No comments: