Mining industry in Goa is open cast with three major minerals: iron ore, manganese and to some extend bauxite. It has its beginning early twentieth century and exports of the ore began in 1948. The chief destination initially has been Japan. Gradually other European countries also entered as destination in later years. Towards the beginning of the twentieth century China surpassed everyone else as destination of Iron Ore. Protests against mining industry began during the decade of 1970s. They were repressed by the State police force. Renewed sophisticated protests swept Goa from 2007 onwards. Various organizations have played important role in politicizing the common people, and media. One of the distinctive features of these protests is the decentralized, autonomous multi-layered dissent by tribal groups and middle classes. The use of information technology to defuse State repression has been another key ingredient.
The mining activity in Goa starts during colonial era dominated by Portuguese political domination with the support of local caste and class elites. Portuguese steadily increased their hold on Goa after landing in Goa in 1510 on the invitation of local Brahmins wanting to overthrow muslim rule of Adil shah. This was done successfully. Muslim rule was replaced by Christian rule. Both the rules were of colonial nature. Portuguese went on increasing their hold over the Goa in the next few centuries. Goa has world’s longest colonial domination in terms of time. It ranged from 1510 to 1961. Portuguese was first direct European colonial powers in India and were the last ones to leave. Its basic concern remained in using Goa as a Port for trade strategy due to its appropriate location on the west coast of India. Spices were amongst the items that were mostly sort by the Portuguese and mining never crossed into their priorities till the early twentieth century when the German geologists were drafted in to undertake Goa’s mineral survey that confirmed the existence of mineral wealth in Goa. Over the next few decades, mining activity began with the manual digging of the earth – open cast mining. This technique of manual digging led to the export of 100 tones of iron ore to Japan in 1948. It went to Japan to contribute substantially towards the rebuilding of its war torn economy after US nuclear bombings on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. Japan continued to be Goa’s stable destination for Iron ore and manganese trade till date. China boom is an additional burden on the Goa’s resources without replacing Japan.
This involved granting of mining leases by Portuguese colonial rulers. Nearly 891 mining leases were granted with patrimonial rights to the individuals and companies that supported perpetuation of colonial rule of Portuguese in Goa. Portuguese granted the mining leases from 1929 to 1959. Technically colonial government had granted concessions – tutelar de cocessao . However Indian government through legal intervention changed it into Leases that needs renewal periodically and removed patrimonial rights to the lease holders.
The total areas covered under these mining leases touches nearly 68,000 hectares of Goa’s land in a distance of 95 kilometers out of total 105 kilometers from north to south of Goa. The mining activity was manual in nature and could not inflict major damage to the ecology at the site of mining even though rivers transporting iron ore were damaged early in the loading and unloading operations. Manual mining could not go deeper than ground water table. Hence it can be called an ecologically sustainable mining practice even though economically it is exploitative practice as few families usurped almost all the economic gains. This could be sustained because these entities involved in mining trade were stable source of support to the Portuguese colonial administration. This kind of arrangement is so typical of any colonial regime. It was mining companies that were major source of strength for Portugal to master audacity to continue that colonial rule in Goa even after India’s Independence when British rule came to an end. The Portuguese earned major advantage in this till 1961 when the Indian army intervened to end the colonial era.
Goa’s mining trade is deeply entrenched in global geo-politics. Because Japan wanted the steady supply of raw materials value addition in the form of manufacture is strikingly absent in Goa. Centre-Periphery relationship characterizes the relationship between Goa and Japan in mining sector. Japan buys Goa’s ore, indulges in value addition and then markets the finished products all over the globe. It is against the interest of the destination countries to let Goa develop its own industry. Hence these powers has cultivated a tiny yet rich coterie of elites that has kept its firm control over polity and media in Goa to effectively check mate any voice of dissent to these exploitative and dominating arrangement of power. The 1961 transfer of power of rule over Goa from Portugal to India cam about only after Indian then Prime minister Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru assured the local mining elites in Goa that mines in Goa would not be nationalized even though contrary was the situation in rest of India. This concession granted to the mining companies in Goa was a major factor that led to neutralizing of NATO strikes on India after Indian army marched inside Goa’s International borders. Nehru made very lucrative exception to the miners in Goa and that made them continue their hegemonic position in the polity of Goa during post liberation period.
Around the decade of 1970s mining industry in Goa began the process of mechanization of mining sector. The rapid change in the excavation process led to dramatic changes in the character of the industry. Exploitation that was largely limited towards economic sphere found itself flowing into ecological sphere very rapidly.
The Pressures on Ecology
With the introduction and intensification of mining industry ecological threat became gradually visible. Location of mining leases in the villages depending upon forest, agriculture and nature water bodies gradually became the targets of this predatory industry. The paddy fields began to be directly affected in number of ways. All the ways however are negative. Quite often the location of paddy fields became the site for the mining activity and peasants lost control over the land directly. Sometimes mines were located at a close proximity of the paddy fields and waste discharges were released in paddy fields with no control from state authorities. Sometimes mine in the relatively close proximity would be causing the drying up of natural water bodies that include drying up of springs that would supply water to village wells and village paddy fields. Sometimes the varying combinations of all these factors would cause serious social and ecological insecurity in the village.
The village level perception of ecological threats when viewed in combination with various other villages and topography some new level of ecological threats becomes visible. The first factor that becomes clear that huge chuck of Goa’s land is under mining activities some mines are in operation other can become operational in future. There is something particularly disturbing that quickly comes to the fore is that besides paddy fields and water bodies large number of mines are directly located inside the ecologically sensitive areas of western ghats range of mountains known as one of the dozen bio-diversity hotspot of the planet earth. Doing mining activity here could very dramatically cause huge amount of loss to the global ecological wealth. The second factor has to do with the topography of the State of Goa. On the eastern past the mountains from western ghats, in the middle are fertile alluvial planes and towards the west is the coastline. These three ecological regions falls within various zones classified under water shed map of India and are sensitively intergraded. Mountains from the Ghats harvest sunlight as well as water from the rains. Naturally harvested water is what causes fresh water perennial water bodies like rivers, rivulets, streams to flow onto the plains and supply water for agriculture, dams, industry and myriad of other things. Plains are also the approximate sites wherein the fresh water and saline Arabian Sea water intersect and gives form ecotone region. Coast of Goa is largely reclaimed from the Arabian Sea by the ancestors of tribal settlers of Goa – the gawdas. Their ancestors worked on the geography of Goa over the centuries to reclaim the fertile lands. This fact has been too often sought to be covered up by invasive Brahmin tribe with their Parshuram Arrow myth reclaiming the coast of Goa. Currently this coast is covered with tourism destination centers of attractions. Tourism industry depends entire on the water from the hinterlands piped from various dams – Selaulim, Opa, Asanaora etc all of which are facing threat due to rapidly expanding mining industry in the hinterlands. The three regions of Goa closely related to each other and mining activity is perceived as causing major social and ecological threat to the state of Goa fearing that this industry may turn Goa into desert besides providing body blow to the fisheries industry due to polluting of rivers.
Threat to water, threat to forest, threat to agriculture, are some of he major ecological issues on the horizon in Goa. These are the issues that State government that is dominated by mining industry as well as mining industry itself sought to put under the carpet escape its liabilities for over half a century of mineral usury of Goa. It was done through various formal and informal structures of domination.
Mining industry’s structures of domination
One of the favored tools of the mining industry particularly when the protest began to show themselves resisting mining industry was the use of violence through state police force. Mining industry in Goa never cultivated their private mafia. State police force would do their job perhaps for some off the record considerations. The first known protests against mining industry came about in later half of the decade of 1970s when the two villages in Goa’s northern taluka of Bicholim revolted – Mayem and Sirgao. Bicholim taluka has mines of number of mining companies – Dempos, Chowgules, Bandekars, Sesa Goa etc. Those who were involved in rebellion were arrested by Goa Police. Mere arrest that time was sufficient enough to demoralize the peasants. They did not know any way of surpassing police repression and suspended their agitation. Few villages peasants were offered money to suspend the rebellion. The decade of 1970s went about with these kinds sporadic protests with no co-ordination of politics of one village with another. No serious search for surmounting police siding with mining companies. These protests were exclusively were of the people directly affected by mining – particularly their paddy fields. Protests during this time evaporated yet the thought of havoc that mining ir ravaging their villages and need to do something remained in a latent yet simmering state only to resurface in the first decade of the twenty-first century. So the first mechanism of domination has been the use of police force.
The second favored structure of domination of mining industry has been the control of media. Mining industry with a remarkable foresight set up their newspapers. Dempos set up Navhind Times in English and Navaprabha in Marathi. Chowgules started Gomantak in Marathi and later Gomantak times in English. Salgaoncar started monthly magazine ‘Goa Today’ and later Konkani daily ‘Sunaprant’. These papers saw to that public attention never gets focused on the ecological crimes that their owners were indulging in. The remaining papers – Tarun Bharat, Rastramat in Marathi and Herald in English too did not carry any consistent exposition of mining industry’s ill doings even though their owners were not mining companies. Press in Goa suffered from three major defects – censorship by owners, self-censorship, and fear of the mining industry that was all pervasive in society. Overall it served as an effective structure of domination for mining industry till 2008 when media began to become increasingly vigilant, aware and ownership of few newspapers shifted away from mining industry, entry of Times of India in English, Lokmat, Pudhari and other publications in Marathi, and effective use of internet by activists in Goa to overcome limits posed by mainstream media.
The third favored structure of structure of domination of the mining industry has been the donations to the village temples. This is an informal form of structures that worked wonders for the mining industry. Paltry sum of donation to demolish and reconstruct the village temples would see that the village never comes to pursue the path of rebellion against mining industry. Psychology of the villagers is such that that they remain indebted to the donor for a long time. This phenomena is rampant is all over Goa and effectively exploited by mining companies. It is not uncommon to witness scenes of posh temples in mining ravaged villages. Religion has been hijacked by mining industries and people in various areas have not been able to put a brake on this trend. It continues to serve the mining companies. Related aspect here is periodic payments made as compensation for the destruction of agricultural fields. However of late number of people have refused to subscribe to the ideology of compensation.
The fourth strong structure of domination has been the hold over educational institutions. Mining companies set up graduate colleges – Dempos - and law college - Salgaoncar to make their presence felt in ideological spectrum of the society. Mining companies has also instituted fellowships for senior researchers. Dempos is one such example. Mining companies and their caste alliances are also involved in writing their history. One of the favored aspects of process is to establish hegemonic hold over Goa, particularly its tribes. It is project of conquest through ideological apparatus to further the agenda of domination not just of the mining industry but over the entire society through thought control measures. Mining companies also has significant influence over the senate of Goa University and its policies. It is because of this influence Goa University was stopped from granting central University status. It is because of this that Goa University has not set up centre for the study for centre of study of tribes in Goa. It is because of this that fees of Goa University are constantly hiked in order to keep the students away from access to higher education. To a large extend mining companies are successful in this venture. It is against the interest of the mining that higher education becomes widespread as the ignited minds will be difficult to curtail in their path if chosen to direct against the mining industry and their caste, class alliances that form coteries and select vice-chancellors.
The fifth strong structure of domination is NGO sector. Mining industry, after facing severe criticism from TERI report in 1997 set up its combine NGO – The Goa Mineral Foundation in 2000. It is working as buffer of public criticism on mining industry. It is involved in whole range of activities from dance classes, distributing notebooks for students, building of toilets, building of bus sheds, sending people for vocational training, watershed programs in one village etc. It has got full time staff that engages in all kinds’ activities except in criticizing mining industry. The funds for this are shared between various mining companies Sesa Goa being one of the prominent one. However it is important to observe here that this NGO of mining company has come as response to the protests against mining and to earn credits for the corporate social responsibility. Government of India in a draft mineral policy has cited this NGO as one of the examples to be replicated by the mining industry in India. On ground in Goa however it has not at all succeeded in diverting attention from core damage caused by mining industry. Nevertheless it is a structure of domination sought to be made effective by mining industry but has not succeeded.
The sixth strong structure of domination by mining industry is use and abuse of judiciary in Goa. After the intense protests this is a phenomenon that has come about providing some succor to the mining industry. Police cases are registered on number false pretexts’, people then are arrested, forced to take bail and then after some months charge-sheeted and cases gets listed in the courts. Then people are served notices at home by court bailiffs and asked to appear in the court on a particular date. After appearing in the court the next date is given for appearance. Judiciary’s role in mining belt of Goa has been largely to frustrate the protesting people. Mining companies aim exactly that. Currently there are over 300 cases in various courts of Goa against various people protesting mining industry’s onslaughts. The state government has the power to withdraw these cases but since the mining companies are using the State government as their executive committee these cases are carrying on. Goa Chief minister Digambar Kamat holds a portfolio of mining minister for over past 15 years and shares personal interest in the continuation of mining industry. He has a family ties with mining companies. In this scenario Judiciary has been used to further the agenda of the mining companies. Judiciary was also used to silence the vocal critic of the mining industry – the author of this paper – by Fomentos by filing civil defamation suit of Rs.500 crores in Calcutta High Court, Kolkatta for his online writings on blog belonging to Gawda, Kunbi, Velip and Dhangar Federation (GAKUVED). Mining companies are using Judiciary as the very reliable structure of domination.
Seventh strong structure of domination of mining industry is EIA and Public Hearings. These are paid for by mining companies are thoroughly rigged in almost all the cases in numerous manner. EIA studies are tailored not to the objective reality on ground but to suit the interest of the mining companies. This is because it is the mining companies that are financing the EIA studies. On the day of mandatory hearings there is manipulation in terms of venue – very often it is held in minister’s cabin in a far away place from the mining site. MoEF is guilty of ignoring public opposition to mining projects all over Goa and sanctioned environmental clearances there by establishing colonial relationship between the Central government and people of Goa.
Protest agitations against mining Industry
It was 1st April 2001 that the author got agitated on the issue of open cast iron ore mine in Goa. It was at one august gathering of environment lovers in Old Goa that one youth –Vassudev Porob- from Pissurlem village of Sattari taluka got up to intervene in the discussion on Mhadei river diversion by Karnataka Government thereby depriving Goa of water flow. Vassudev Porob sharply focused on his water rich village yet not a single drop existed in village wells due to continuous pumping out of water by mining companies thereby depleting ground water. Hence agriculture was not getting water; cultivation of paddy was becoming impossible.
He barely finished speaking for couple of minutes when a scientist and former director of National Institute of Oceanography Dr. Untawale sprang up from his chair to scold Vassudev for speaking against mining in public “You must never discuss mining in public”. The author challenged Dr. Untawale and declare that not only should all speak loud against mining industry in Goa but also invited everyone at the meeting to a sit –in or Dharna outside the office of mining company in Goa’s capital city of Panjim.
After this it was huge learning experience, very often understanding through roving of boat backwards in time to know what to expect in future that spread vast open before ones mind. Every month one visit to Pissurlem became discipline for the next three years. Learning was not easy. Every visit would contribute towards weakening of chest that was already weak with tuberculosis as first 14 years has been in mining area. Memories of childhood and playing with dust were constant companion on every time author would visit Pissurlem. It downed on author that while family was rotting in dust from 1973 to 1987 - till the family left the place as sickness hounded, and dust made life impossible – there was none to raise the voice and protest. Some how survived the ordeals of childhood and early youth to speak out today.
Agitations in Goa’s minng belt has been spurred for various reasons. In Pissurlem it was because of refusal of additional bucket of water that a villager Pandurang Porob was attacked by Chopper and causing injuries to his legs. Pissurlem is totally at the mercy of mining companies to supply them with water after village wells, springs, natural tanks, and ponds are rendered dry by unsustainable open cast iron and manganese mining carried on by at least 5 mining companies.
Another villager Hanumant Porob was arrested and imprisoned for protesting against mining silt in the village agricultural fields that once prided itself being highest yield giver in the Sattari taluka. Mining companies have not yielded to the demands of the Pissurlem villagers are compelled to get into mining trucks business themselves. There cannot be any greater tragedy than this one unfolding in Pissurlem.
Colamb village in Sanguem taluka is blessed with people who refused to barter their land for money offered by mining companies. As a result there has been number of protests against the mining companies. Number of times Police force is pitted against them and arrests are effected. There are at least half a dozen charge sheets filed against Colamb villagers in various combinations and they now has to regularly report themselves to the Courts in Quepem and Sanguem towns. People from various other parts of
On one occasion nearly ten people from Colamb protesting against mining were arrested, criminally charged and photographed at Quepem Police Station with slates around their necks. This is a practice used on hard core criminals. Industry-Police nexus in this manner sort to de-legitimize and criminalize the protests against mining industry in
Uncompromising stand of Colamb villagers against mining industry attracted higher level of collusion between Fomento mining company and the Leader of the Opposition Manohar Parrikar and in June 2008 People of Colamb along with author of this article was tagged as Naxalite in the
After this attempt of the mining industry was foiled Fomento filed defamation suit against the author of this article for Rs 500 crore in Calcutta High Court stating that the company is has suffered losses in business after some customers read the blog www.mandgoa.blogspot.com and terminated their contracts to buy ore from Fomentos. This scare tactic again failed as the rising public opinion against mining industry further popularized the online writings of this author.
Dora de Souza, a woman aged 80 plus chained herself to the mine operated by Dinar Tarcar in Maina, Quepem in October 2009. She along with 7 others were arrested – four were beaten up by mining company’s goons led by Subhas Phaldesai, then Balli South Goa Zilla Parishad member- criminal cases filed and imprisoned for two days.
Motes Antao from Colamb has been arrested number of times. One month ago he was arrested by Goa Police stationed at Quepem Police Station because he filed application under Right to Information Act 2005 asking the detail information on assets held mining trucks owned by police officials including PI Santos Desai who is currently posted at Margao Police Station. Motes was called at the police station under the pretext of collecting information sought under RTI and detained over some case the Fomento mines manager in Colamb had filed against him ten months earlier.
Lawyer John Fernandes was charged for attempt to murder during a lathi charge on villagers of Ambaulim, Quepem in December 2008. Several people were injured during the lathi charge on villagers that were protesting against dust pollution caused in their village by mining trucks. Several people were arrested and criminally charged. PI Santosh Desai led the Lathi charge on protestors. Advocate Fernandes was again physically abused by the agents of the mining companies in 2010. It here that public organized around Adv. Fernandes and staged one day hunger strike in front of Quepem police station forcing the police authorizes to criminally book the assaulters.
Determination of Colamb villagers infused courage to number of other villagers affected by mining industry. Advalpal in Bicholim revolted in May 2008 in spite of earlier compromises with the mining companies. Over 70 people were arrested and criminally charged. Akash Naik, a nine-year-old school boy supported by Goa Foundation in September 2009 got a stay order from Goa bench of Bombay High Court against marauding Sesa Goa mine owned by British corporate Vedanta listed on
Sirgao villagers in Bicholim taluka revolted against this 40 year old industry in village and filed Public Interest Litigation in
Wide spread nature of protests against mining has led to the emergence of coalition of mining affected villages in August 2008. It is known as Goa Federation of Mines Affected People (GOAMAP). GOAMAP has raised the issue of mining destroying
Large number of People across the board has lent their voice and support the movement to defend
Ramesh Gauns, a teacher from Bicholim has successfully blocked commissioning of Zantye’s iron Ore mine at a village where he has been teaching for the past over two decades – Sarvona in Bicholim taluka. He used agitation modes as well as judiciary to his advantage. Particularly important is the use of Right to Information Act 2005 to get hold of key documents of the mining industry.
Claude Alvares and Norma Alvares have rendered huge service to the State of
Sangamitra Mainkar, Prabhakar Dhage, Carmen Miranda, Wendell Rodricks, Maria Aurora Couto, Venita Coelho, Hartman de Souza, Advocate Ritwick Dutta are other notable people that has lent their valued loud voices to the protests against mining in Goa. Trade Unionist Christopher Fonseca of AITUC in Television interview in June 2009 referred to the protest movements against mining as “Prophetic Voices and Goa is lucky to have them.” CITU workers union has also initiated dialogue with the people protesting against mining in Goa. Overall there is growing consensus that in the long term interest of Goa mining industry in Goa has to be shut down. Voice of protest against mining industry can be heard from Colamb to Sirgao, Nuem-Khola to Advalpal, and Bicholim to Usgao. This is a beginning of change in power relations and power structure in the State of Goa. Goenchea xetkaracho Ekvot (GXE) got into working alliance with Goa Federation of Mines Affected People (GOAMAP) in January 2010 and since have been working in coordination with each other. One of the fruits of this collaboration has been bus trips to Goa’s mining belt that took people on tour to mining areas from April to June 2010 on every Sunday. This helped to further broadening the contours of ecology movement in Goa by letting first hand exposure to people from various walks of lives who otherwise seldom visit mining areas, to see the mining reality of Goa.
In February 2010 Union Minister of Environment and Forest put a moratorium for any further mining in Goa till comprehensive cumulative EIA is undertaken some agency like NEERI, Nagpur. This has been perceived as a direct result of the campaign against the mining industry in Goa and the ability it has acquired to influence policy maker s of the country.
Delhi High Court has truck down nearly three environmental clearances given by the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) largely due to the effective coordination between the protestors in Goa and lawyers in Delhi. Appellate authority too has struck of Pirla mine in south Goa after sending its judge on site visit to Goa.
MoEF through its regional office based in Bangalore has initiated direct discussions on mining with the protestors, government officials, and the mining companies in 2010. First round of discussion took place in February and the second round in May. This if nothing has bestowed certain amount of official legitimacy by official agencies. It is called a round table on sustainable mining, the first of its kind in India. Although there is hardly any possibility of sustainable mining it is looked upon as a very important occasion to further that agenda of the protest movement that has found base in middle classes of Goa and people of Goa settled abroad.
Media in Goa took a u-turn on mining from 2008 onwards and there is increased coverage for mining issues in Goa. This was possible largely by lobbying of activists with media and dramatic naming of blog dealing with mining and tribal issues in Goa as promoter of naxalite ideology in Goa Assembly by the leader of opposition Manohar Parrikar. Media attention to mining issues since then has never waned away. The use of internet played two important roles. First to make the issue of mining internationally know and get people from all over the world interested in mining issue. There was an advantage particularly Goa being well known tourism destination. Predictable it attracted outstation media and researchers to cover mining issues in Goa. Secondly, it bestowed freedom from censorship by vested interests that act as gatekeepers of information. Even though things remained less in terms of its reach, blog served as reference point for important resources on mining and land movements in Goa. Internet came particularly handy while dealing with police repression on villagers in various parts of the State in demanding their release. Messages were sent on mailing lists particularly on Goanet that has subscription of over 30,000 people across the globe. Publishing of photos of environmental destruction caused due to mining companies online and companies involved named. This led to increasing discomfort of mining companies with the protestors and increasing public support for the bold online exposures. The fear of mining industry that lasted in Goa for half a decade began to evaporate gradually from the 2007 onwards when GAKUVED marched on the streets of Quepem on 10 December 2010. Within next few days couple of mines were attacked by the villagers and forced to shut down.
There is also wide ranging on ground collaboration with various activists formations dealing with wide range of issue towards evolving a strategy of coordination of politics between the coast and the hinterland. This has helped in filling up loose ends providing necessary input to tackle wide range of challenges.
Protest against mining in Goa is modeled on decentralized, absence of any single command structure. Multiple critical agencies are working against mining to suit their priorities without any kind of coercion on any one. People that are involved are because they are convinced about the issues involved. Each group formations retain their own autonomy in decision making. NGOs, grassroots groups, support groups, teachers, intellectuals, media are playing their own role after self realization. Anti-mining movement has acquired necessary potency to attract newer people into its fold and sustain those already involved with new challenges. Amongst the new challenges before the ecology movements in Goa is to devise strategies formulate concepts that would facilitate transformation of the current upheaval into political power that would rise up from below and penetrate effectively in the process of governance. This needs to be achieved by defining and re-defining the relationships with political parties and understanding system of governance in place. If the movements in Goa are able to make headway in this direction then it would certainly be new leap for movement, new leap for Goa.
Note: This paper is presented at the consultation on ‘optimizing biodiversity and social security in mining areas: an earthy vision’ organized by Balipara Tract and Frontier Foundation, supported by Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and Development Alvernatives in Pune on 30th September 2010.