Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Pissurlem Chopper attack

Chopper attack on Pissurlem’s Pandurang Porob: an investigative Report with comments and analysis.

By Sebastian Rodrigues, NEST, September 2004

Pandurang Porob, resident of Pissurlem, involved in resistance movement against mining invasion of his village in Goa was attacked with Chopper by the group of 12 people on 4th September 2004 at 9.am.
At seven in the Morning Pandurang intercepted water tanker of the Fomentos mining company and demanded two bucket of water to his house. The driver refused to oblige. Pandurang told the driver to stop the water service. The local contractor is Sagun Wadkar, the former Sarpanch and presently a member of the Pissurlem Panchayat. His wife Saraswati Wadkar is the present Sarpanch. They are implementing the exploitative orders of mining companies-backed by former Chief minister and present leader of the opposition Pratapsingh Raoji Rane- bulldozing ugly designs of the mining companies across the throat of the villagers. The mining companies in Pissurlem hold Gandhi’s dream of Panchayati Raj ransom.
Two hours later, at 9.00am when Pandurang Porob was returning from nearby Honda village on a motorbike, he was charged against by group of 12 people. One of them attacked left side of Pandurang’s face with the chopper. With this Pandurang fell unconscious to the ground. Then he was hit again on his left leg causing injuries. He was bleeding when his friend and fellow villager Pundalik Porob happen to pass by and rescued Pandurang from the fatal consequences. He was rushed to the Hospital for treatment at Sankhelim and discharged after 24 hours after putting on the stitches on his injuries. When visited him on 16 Sept. 2004 he was unable to walk without limping due to injuries to his left leg.
The unruly mob then smashed his motorcycle out of anger. It was lying at the local police Station on 16th Sept. 2004 when then visit to the village was undertaken.
This is not the first time that Pandurang has been attacked in mining related violence in Goa. Two years ago too, he was physically attacked- though without any weapons.
Pandurang Porob is the Attorney of the Pissurlem Communidade- having administrative jurisdiction over the land admeasuring over 10 lakh sq.mts. in the village. Pissurlem is the only village in the whole of Sattari taluka wherein this kind of indigenous land owning institution survives. In the pre-Portuguese era the land ownership has been Social in nature known as “Ganvkaris”. Portuguese during the colonial rule renamed them as “Communidades”.
The three mining companies, which supply water to the villagers of Pissurlem, are Fomentos, Damodar Mangaljis, and multinational Sesa Goa. These companies do this because village wells have gone dry since mining pits has caused scandalous damage to the ecology. Fomentos mines have been closed due to Public pressure 10 years ago. Yet the company continues to supply water in tankers to the village. This is because it hopes to re-start the closed mine in Pissurlem for Ore extraction.
Water supplied to the village of Pissurlem is from the Well at the neighbouring village of Sonxi. The Contract of water supply is awarded to Sagun Wadkar, who earns Rs. 28,000/- per month through water trade from various mining companies. Wadkar invests this money in order to pay police and the locals who are emerging as the embryo of mafia in the mining sector in Goa.
Pro-mining lobby in the village for a long time dominated the functioning of Pissurlem Communidade. However after the takeover of the communidade by the group led by Pandurang Porob, it began to pressurize mining companies like Sesa Goa to stop encroachments and to pay up the remuneration entitled for mining which was never collected earlier due to well oiled nexus between the communidade officials and the mining companies. The income collected from the mining companies by the Pissurlem Communidades crossed Rs.1, 00,000/- mark last year. Though this is negligible amount when compared to the earning of the mining companies, still the companies decided to tighten the screws on the Communidade members.
Pandurang Porob was offered bribes number of occasions in order to allow free hand to the mining companies. To begin with the offer was of Rs.2 lakh. When this was rejected it was doubled to 4 lakh. When he again rejected this then he was asked to fill the amount on a blank cheque. Panduarang refused this too. With this refusal mining companies’ option of quelling resistance through money power came to an end.
The second option was to use the State Power. But this option became non-starter since Pandurang is an active worker of BJP who is ruling the State of Goa. Police could not be used to harass him and others in Pissurlem in the mining resistance movement.
The Companies deployed the third option of muscle power. After the assault company (Fomentos) is blaming the driver and the contractor (Sagun Wadkar) for the deadly attack on Pandurang. However Company has not dismissed the contractor till date. This establishes direct evidence for nexus. And even if the Company had to dismiss the Contractor, it does not escape from the responsibility for the attack- the Principle of vicarious liability applies in this case- for both the driver as well as the Contractor have acted in the service of the company- even to indulge in the co-ersive acts of violence. This development itself is violence.
Over 80 acres of agricultural land is silted in Pissurlem. Five years ago these fields were cultivated by the will power and hard work of the villagers. But then the famous floods appeared in 1999 (mining was the cause of the floods) and deposited nearly 1-meter deep mining silt in to the Agricultural fields. Since then there has been demands for de-silting. Panchayat wants The Mineral Foundation of Goa (funded by mining Companies) to clear the fields. The Mineral foundation of Goa has been dilly-dallying the proposal for obvious reasons. This field has been identified for mining excavation by another company- Damodar Mangaljis. Why will Mineral Foundation of Goa de-silt these fields? They have every reason to collaborate with the village Panchayat to hoodwink the villagers.
These fields has been historically providing highest yield in whole of Sattari taluka. Compensation is being paid by the companies in order to leave the fields without cultivation. This is the way Goa’s tickling bomb of food scarcity is nurtured in the mining –invaded Pissurlem. It is indeed safe to predict that future of Goa is Famine- thanks to the butchery of the agriculture by the Mining Companies- Salgaocars, Chowgules, Damodar Mangaljis and Japanese Multinational Sesa Goa (in the case Pissurlem). Development fosters hunger!
Political Parties like MGP, Congress and BJP who have following in the village have been funded by the mining companies. Once they come to Power they provide shelter to mining companies bulldozing common people. Take the case of Chopper attack on Pandurang Porob. When he was attacked, Police refused to act. Pandurang is the BJP Worker. Goa has BJP Government. Chief Minister is also the Home minister. Yet Police refused to act. The reasons are anybody’s guess. The next day on 5th Sept. 2004 BJP’s Poriem Constituency General secretary Hanuman Porob (also an active campaigner against mining in Pissurlem and the resident of Pissurlem himself-who had been imprisoned as school student due to his opposition to mining destruction of agriculture) tendered his resignation to Goa BJP President. After some parleys with the party leadership, Senior BJP leader visited Pandurang in Pissurlem. He gave same as usual politically evasive response “We will look into the matter”. But Pandurang himself does not believe his party’s top leaders.
It not the police action or inaction that is the subject of discussion over here. The discussion is about how politics is forged in Class struggle. National and Multinational mining companies on the one side and the common People, Peasants on the other hand. The power of the mining companies in Goa’s polity is well known. They create and break the government in Goa. Besides regularly abuse state machinery for its benefit.
The message that is sought to be sent out is vehemently signaling towards the beginning of violent private intervention in defense of the mining Companies- in the 52 years history of mining in Pissurlem village – which has witnessed displacement of the entire village 28 years ago. It may even be called contracted violence. The village is fighting second wave of displacement of Dhatwada ward.
Pandurang Porob is raising the issues not just of political party which is ruling the state of Goa, yet helpless to protecting it’s own workers from the violent designs of the mining industry; he is also raising the question of food security, processes and contests of control over land, water, forest and agriculture; the processes that are becoming increasingly dictatorial. “So much so that even to speak out and demand two buckets of water is taken as offence by the mining lords of Goa. This incident speaks volumes on the quality of democracy prevalent in Goa of 21st century” as Hanuman Porob puts it.
Though Pissurlem is the village of indigenous settlements, it is caged in religious beliefs. There are as many as 16 Temples- biggest of which was funded by mine operator late Dayanand Bandodkar, who has also been the first chief minister of Goa. Tremendous energy – in terms of thought and money is incurred towards these activities. Mining companies too promote religious activities all over Goa: for as long as you are religious minded, the mining companies can carry on the loot in undisturbed manner. Like many villages, Pissurlem people too are intoxicated with religious opium and allowing mining companies and industry to go scot free with the grave injustices to the village unity, prosperity, ecology and People’s economy.
Mining has 52 years of history in Pissurlem. Over the years mining has flattened evergreen Majestic Mountain of Western Ghats and exported iron ore and manganese to Japan, Germany, USA, China and other countries. Villagers’ wells have dried up without a single drop in them. Last year (2003) when I inspected Pissurlem well belonging to Vasudev Porob on January 25th, I found it dried-up. The development means deprivation.
People’s thirst for water was sought to be quenched by diverting flowing Mhadei river water through a cannel- that too has not taken off. Even if it had to take-off it would have not have addressed the twin issues of sucking up of ground water by industries like Ambey metallic Ltd and others, and scandalous 24 hour pumping out of ground water by mining companies in order to extract ore.
Ambey metallic Ltd. belonging to one Mr. Agrawal from Delhi is horrendous eyesore to the picturesque setting of Pissurlem. The loans of this polluting plant were written-off by Parrikar Government last year (2003), of coarse for the percentage to be in BJP fund. Besides taking water from Government subsidized Industrial Development Corporation (IDC); has dugged down four bore wells in its factory premises. This highly polluting industry releases its effluents in the village water ways ultimately finding its way into Mandovi river; whose water Government intends channelizing for drinking purpose in Pissurlem through cannels. Destruction through so-called development.
Rule of the mining companies, even through it is ruthless goes on chiefly because of ignorance and fear. Religion fosters ignorance: Dempos for example have been sponsoring for “ Novo Somar” the Hindu festival in Bicholim as well as “Pejechem Fest”, a Catholic festival in Siridona, Ilhas. Sesa Goa has been giving donations to a temple in Pissurlem. Villagers too, have demanded donations to temples. Fear amongst People was inculcated through 451 years of Portuguese colonial rule. Though Portuguese has left Goa in 1961, the fear remains unshaken.
Most of the intellectuals in Goa- both from natural as well as social sciences are either scared to speak out against mining someway or the other have become beneficiaries of the various facilities offered by the corporate in mining and allied sectors. Mining companies always have a major say in the educational affairs of Goa. The mining corporate even had representation on Goa University’s senate. Also in reverse the V.C of Goa University is reported to be on the governing board of mining companies sponsored NGO-The Mineral Foundation of Goa. Mining companies have sponsored various fellowships in order to co-opt the intellectual community of Goa: Dempo fellowship is one of them. Sesa Goa has sponsored-researched fellowship in Goa University’s Microbiology department. Dempos are the professional clients of scientists at National Institute of Oceanography (NIO), Dona Paula, Goa. Besides mining companies has their own colleges and press- where to speak and write against mining is an act of rebellion. On the contrary intellectuals have tolerated naming of roads after mine operators i.e. road from Bambolim to Panaji via Santa Cruz. Mining companies not only has abused nature in Goa, but also caused tremendous inequality through this kind of economic terrorism. They don’t deserve roads to be named after their founders.
Though intellectuals in Goa are paid through state taxes, they are scarcely bothered about the problems faced by the common people like those under discussion in Pissurlem. On the contrary through their silence and collaboration with state (Which is the executive committee of the ruling classes i.e. mining companies) and corporate have caused enormous harm to the well being and welfare of People in Goa’s mining belt and other areas. It is time for people to rise up boldly and demand ruthless accountability with the academic community of Goa.
There is an urgent need to denounce the chopper attack on Pandurang Porob. There is an urgent need to rise up against mining invasion of Goa. There is an urgent need for us to be inspired by the courage, determination and fighting spirit demonstrated by Pandurang Porob and other courageous people of Pissurlem. There is an urgent need to offer support and solidarity with those resisting mining onslaught on Goa. Immediately, the Fomentos mining companies owned by Timblos must be exposed. This company also owns five star hotels– Cidade-de Goa at Dona- Paula, Goa.
When you finish reading this report – speak out, speak out with courage; and fire, at least to one person of your choice- may be your Daughter, Boy-friend, Wife, Mother, Classmate, Teacher, Neighbor, Relative, Driver, Cook, Friend, Colleague at work or just anyone else of your choice. Your small action like this today has the potential to bring about huge change tomorrow. So, begin. This is a Public Trial of mining in Goa.

Act Now! Think Now! Reflect Now! Transform Now!!

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