Friday, June 6, 2008

New Depth on Land Battles on World Environment Day

GAKUVED call for World Environment Day on June 05 2008 drew very encouraging responses from various sections of people in Goa. The Hall at Don Bosco Farm in Sulcorna was packed with people mostly coming from rural Goa. Fr. Mathias D'Cunha welcomed everyone at the premise while Rama Velip introduced Day's programme. Sebastian Rodrigues, co-ordinator of Mand compared the programme. Here in the above picture Milagrine Antao speaks to the gathering; she spoke briefly yet powerfully about Colamb people's movement against open cast iron mining with specific reference to Police harrasments while they fight.
Architech K.D. Sadhale from Nirmal Vishwa , an Environment focussed organisation based in Ponda recalled his memories on fighting Nylon 6,6 agitation in mid 1990s and how Police were running for shelter when the villagers of Keri, Ponda rose in revolt.

The half day programme was well balanced in attandance; there was very encouraging participation from women in the middle of their struggles to defend life and Earth from mining and real estates.

Motes Antao spoke about Colamb People movement against Fomento mining comapny. One who is sitting left to Motesh is Arun Madgaokar from Ponda. His other colleague Kalidas Savaikar too was present and both of them spoke supporting the villagers in their struggle.

These men came specially for the World Environment Day programme in Sulcorna from not only nearby villages but also from far away villages like in Benaulim, Salcete. 3 members of the State Intelligence Agency - CID and two 2 reglar policemen on duty was present in plain clothes to give first hand reliable reports to the State in panic state and possibly also to the nervous mining industry.

Geraldine Fernanades gave her spirited speech and declared the support of Ganv Ghor Rakhon Manch to the villages of Colamb fighting mining. Geralding came with group of 15 people from Benaulim, Salcete.

Rama Velip from Colamb condemn unleashing of Police force on the village of Colamb. He warned the State government not to treat villagers as terrorists and support mining companies that are all out to destroy so may villages in Goa.

Advocate John Fernanades, who has been actively sopporting people in their struggle against mining industry said that minng as an industry posses severe threat to the State of Goa in creating water shortages.

Shamsunder Naik from Advalpal Gram Sudhar Samiti in Bicholim taluka called for uniti of all the villages afected with mining and need for joint action to pressurise the State government. A group of five people from Advalpal came to Sulcorna for the Environment Day meet.
Sebastian Rodrigues led the gathering in observing one minute silent to pay homage to MLA Gurudas Gawas who died on 4th June 2008. he has been latest victim of the mining industry. He came from mining belt in Bicholim Taluka wherein respiratory deseases are so common. In fact Interim report of the task force mentions that in Goa, majority of cases that occurred have been due to acute respiratory infection. In 2006 alone, 25,559 persons have suffered due to this cause. Pulmonary tuberculosis reported is 2228 during the same period. So many more people have died before him and one minute silent was also to all the nameless, faceless and unknown people of Goa that died.

Dr. Claude Alvares of Goa Foundation, Mapusa called for nationalisation of mining industry in Goa as the private sector has created life threatening situatiopn for people of Goa. With nationalisation, according to him some control on the industry will be possible. Non nationalisation of mining sector has been major condition of the mining elites in secret negotiations caried out with Jawaharlal Nehu before he initiated 'Operation Vijay' in 1961 that drove away Portugal from Goa only to be dominated by mining industry.

Pravin Sabnis, Spokesperson of Goa Bachao Abhiyan (GBA) on SEZ and mining issues shared his solidarity with the struggling groups.

GAKUVED president Durgadas Gaonkar called for No Co-operation Movement in Goa. He demanded repeal of laws that are anti-people. And if the laws are not repealed he called for disoebedience of these laws.
Salvador Dias condemned local MLA Vasu Meng Gaonkar for supporting mining industry. He told the audience that the MLA has not only kept silent on the Colamb people's agitation instead on World Environemtn Day he visited the Fomento mine in Colamb and took part in industry's eye as programme of tree plantation.

Miguel Braganza, IPP of Botanical Society of Goa, remembered the soft-spoken Gurudas Gauns, the Principal of Vividha Higher Secondary School, on the border of the villages of Naveli and Amona in Bicholim taluka. He shared the grief of his father, Prabhakar Yesso Gauns, whom he knows as an honest and hardworking cashew cultivator.
He quoted from page 7 of the “Interim Report” of the Task Force the last line that reads, “In the ultimate analysis, planning is about what we want to become.” Surely, Gurudas would have planned “development” of Naveli differently from the plan that is being prepared by the very government that he was a part of, until yesterday. If the Goa government wants to pay a tribute to its departed member, they have to deal with the mining issue with greater sensitivity to the people living in the mining belt.
Voices on protests against destruction of environment has increased in Goa. This was demonstrated by World Envoronment Day programme in Sulcorna on June 05 2008.

Solidarity also came to the movemtents in Goa from Namdeo Karkare, co-ordinator of Dalit Intellectual Collective based in Mumbai. Karkare extended his support to movements in Goa particularly those fighting mining industry.
While programme was going on Sulcorna, Colamb village wst turned into a fortress by large deplyment of Goa Armed Police in their riot gears protecting the mining companies. The above and below Goa Police was sighted in Colamb at 3.30 pm the programme got over. Armed police had dissapeared before that hence could not be captured on camera after the programme. large plice force was deployed from police station in Canacona.

Later in the evening of June 05 2008 however it become clear to the villagers on reasons for such a heavy police deployments: According to Rama Velip, President of Rivona Unit of GAKUVED Temple committee of temple in Colamb where villagers wanted to hold programme had got into the partnership with the Fomento mining company against the villagers. Temple committee reportedly objected to GAKUVED holding of any programmes in the village. Temple committes' position on mining has come in for severe criticism from the villagers. Some Brahmin landlords who have accepted monetory benefits from the mining company are on the temple committee: mostly their surnames ends up with Prabhudesai. Mining company few months ago offered 5 crore ruppees to the temple but was rejected due to protests by the villagers. According to Rama Velip if this money is accepted by the Temple committee then temple will be turned into private property of the Mining company and few landlords.
They also control Colamb's Communidade by systematically removing names of the local tribal people from the records over the past several decades. They are reponsible for handing over of large tracks of Communidade land to the Fomento mining company. They are also trying to hand over land for mining to MLA Joaquim Alemao.
Besides they are gulty of not protesting when large part of Communidade land was taken over specially the land across Kushavati river and recorded it as land belonging to Rivona. Incidently, through historical trickery they have also usurped lots of private lands and are today landlords using the families whose lands they have usurped as labourers on their farms. Adivasis had no concept of private lands, instead they believe that they are caretakers of the planet to pass on the land for the futue generations. This is indeed noble thought to be remebered on World Environment day.
Awakening is gradually rising amongst adivasis in Colamb and that is worring not only mining companies but also all the historical landgrabbers.
The battle on land had touched new depth in Goa on June 05, 2008! History is being created! Historical silence is being shattered! Voices are rising!
Sebastian Rodrigues

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