This paper accounts for some indicators of change in tribal habitation villages of Goa with special focus on Colamb in Rivona Panchayat jurisdiction in Sanguem taluka. The paper is a product of joint efforts of Durgadas Gaonkar, Dr. Avadoot Prabhudesai, Advocate John Fernandes, Rama Velip and Sebastian Rodigues on the occasion of visit of Western Ghats Expert panel members to Goa for a meeting on 27th September 2010.
The revenue village of Colamb in Sanguem has a population of 2594 people as per 2001 census. 1514 of these belong to Scheduled Tribes communities of Gawda and Velips. The village has a total land of 1929 hectares. The village also has 23 mining leases/concessions granted by Portuguese colonial state before 1961 Goa liberation and are yet to be cancelled by free Indian State. These mining leases cover 1510 hectares of village land. People are dependent upon agriculture and forest for their livelihood. The education level of people here is relatively low. This village is a part of catchment area of Selaulim water dam that supplies water to over 50% of Goa. Nearly 5 mines (efforts are on to start several more) are in operation in the village thereby causing tremendous risk to the villagers life and life support systems. Villagers rose in mass revolt in 2007 and since then continued their agitation pushing the issue of mining in the mainstream political consciousness of Goa. Villagers have been booked under various criminal cases chiefly by the Fomento mining company that operates Hiralal Khodidas mining lease. Various villagers have been affected with negative health effects and hostile socio-economic fallouts.
Quepem taluka has a tribal population of 25,396 people while Sanguem taluka has a tribal population of 15,602 people. Most of whom are either wage employed or self-employed in agriculture as per the Survey report on Scheduled Tribes of Goa (Gawda, Kunbi, Velip) published by department of Social welfare in February 2004. Both these talukas are the targets of predatory mining industry and tribal people have their survival at stake. Colomba village falls in Sanguem taluka but shares border with Quepem taluka.
The legal entanglements
The villagers are target of Fomentos corporate strategy of filing criminal cases against anyone who is involved in protests. Although this is evident all over Goa this paper is restricted in its scope only to Colomba. The company has so far filed 69 criminal cases at Quepem Police station. In all these cases charge-sheets are filed and court cases going on before JMFC Sanguem.
In addition to this Fomentos has also filed civil case no. 23/08 before civil judge, Senior Dvision, Quepem by the legal heirs of Hiralal Khodidas mine Uday Gosalia against 80 people from Colomba. This mine is operated by Fomentos. The corporate hold over the Judiciary can be gazed from the fact that Ex-parte order was granted by Quepem Court against the villagers – without hearing the side of the villagers. Gosalia subsequently has filed two contempt petition against Colomba villagers for violating Court injunction.
The list of criminal cases includes as follows:
1. Case Cr. 43/s/2010 against seven people under section 143, 341, 506, r/w 149 IPC for the offence: restraining of trucks into Hiralal Khodidas Mine and further threatening staff and security personnel of the complainant. Complainant is Chandrakant Patil, Mines Manager of Hiralal Khodidas mine. The seven people in this case includes Egypt D’souza, Rama Velip, Motesh Antao, Dumena D’Souza, Tulsidas Velip – whose house has developed cracks due do blasting by Fometos, Babani Amolkar, and Chandrakala Gaonkar. The complaint filed on 28/11/2008.
2. Case Cr. 15/s/2009 before JMFC Sanguem against Tedoz Antao under sections 341, 323, 427, 506 (II) of IPC. The offence: Wrongful restraining of complainant, assault with fist blows, damage to spectacles. The complainant here is Yeswant Salunke, Security officer, Hiralal Khodidas. He filed this complaint on 14/11/2008 and date of offence allegedly committed is 13/11/2008.
3. Case Cr. 71/s/2008 before JMFC, Sanguem against 7 people under sections 143, 147, 447, 341, 606 (II), 427, 504, r/w 149 IPC. The seven people here includes Egypt D’Souza, Telu Dias, Rama Velip, Motesh Antao, Dumiana D’Souza, Shanta Velip, and Xavier Fernandes. The complainant Surya Naik has given his description on police records as ‘agent of Fomento’. The nature of offence: House and car was damaged by the accused on 13/11/2008. So far ten hearings of this case took place and Inspecting Offfcer (I/O) Arvind Nagekar has remained absent in all instances. As a result judicial process has got stuck and people has to repeatedly make trips to the courts in futility. The ten instances when this case came up for hearing includes 1/12/09, 30/12/09, 12/1/10, 15/2/10, 23/3/10, 26/4/10, 6/7/10, 31/7/10, 21/8/10, and 18/9/10.
4. Case Cr. 70/s/2008 before JMFC, Sanguem against 22 people under section 143, 147, 148, 341, 352, 447, 504, 506 (II) r/w 149 IPC. The 22 people includes Egypt D’souza, Rama Velip, Ruzario Antao, Simao Antao, Chandrakant Gaonkar, Tulsidas Velip, Sulaksha Gaonkar, Tedoz Antao, Vithoba Gaonkar, Vincent Dias, Motesh Antao, Manuel Dias, Dumen D’suza, Purso Gaonkar, Telu Dias, Salvador Dias, Rajnikant Velip, Jason Sequira, Sebastiao D’souza, Natividade Fernandes, Shanta Velip and Palmira Dias. The date of offence is 21/1/2008. The nature of offence is Unlawful Assembly, Armed with dandas, trespass into mining premises, wrongfully restraining complainant, abused him and other mine staff and further came to assault and threaten with dire consequences. The complainant here is Atul Bokade, Mines Manager, Hiralal Khodidas Mines.
5. Case Cr. 1/s/2009 against 17 people under section 143, 147, 447, 341, 506 (II), 427, 504 r/w 149 IPC. The 17 people includes Utabai Velip, Surya Gaonkar, Telu Dias, Egypt D’souza, Kalavati Velip, Vincent Dias, Dumena D’souza, Chandrakant Gaonkar, Premdas Velip, Alexo Dias, Agnelo D’souza, Caitan Barreto, Baby Dias, Bhagirathi Velip, Shanta Velip, Gouca Antao, and Kalidas Naik Gaonkar. Date of offence is 30/12/2008. Nature of offence: Unlawful assembly, trespass into mine premises, wrongful restrained mine workers, abused them with filthy words, threatened them with dire consequences. The complainant here is again Atul Bokade, Mines Manager, Hiralal Khodidas Mines.
6. Case cr. 72/s/2008 against 15 people under section 143, 341, r/w 149 IPC. The 15 people includes Arjun Velip, Tulsidas Velip, Rama Velip, Motesh Antao, Egyp D’Souza, Telu Dias, Vincent Dias, Rajanikant Velip, Salvador Fernandes, Kalidas Velip, Arjun Velip, Kalidas Desai, Puso Gaonkar, Franky Antao, and Arjun L. Velip. Date of offence is 8/10/2007. Nature of offence: Formed unlawful assembly, blocked road, stopped the staff of Hiralal Khodidas mine from entering mine premises. The complainant is again Atul Bokade, Mines Manager, Hiralal Khodidas Mines. Only this case has been closed after being discharged by the court.
All the above cited cases reflect increasing tension in the village created due to mining activities. People’s activities are disrupted due to mining-police nexus. This nexus becomes evident when one examines the record the police in pursuing the cases filed by mining companies’ vis-à-vis cases filed by people against mining companies. Police has 100% follow up to charge-sheet level when it is mining companies are complainants. Police has got 0% record of pursuing the case file by people of Colomba against mining company. People of Colamba has filed number of cases and police are yet to file a single charge-sheet. The villagers complaints can be listed below as follows:
1. On 19/11/2007 villagers of Colomba, Kevona filed a complaint before Quepem police station against Rajesh Zambaulekar and Rupesh Zambaulekar – the mining agents of Timblos and Fomento mine. The nature of offence: Egypt D’Souza was obstructed, pelted stones on his vehicle, threatened and physical manhandling while proceeding from Tilamol to Colomba. Police did not take any cognizance.
2. On 13/6/2008 Gawda, Kunbi, Velip and Dhangar Federation (GAKUVED) filed complaint against manger of Hiralal Khodidas mines for releasing water in Paddy fields. Police took no action.
3. On 19/11/2008 Farmers of Colomba filed complaint against Romaldo Rebello, Bostiao Simoes, Mahadev Devidas, Dinu Devidas, Anton, Arun Naik, Ramnath Velip, Kushali Velip, Dyaneshwar Naik, Suryakant Naik, and Dilip Devidas. Nature of complaint: Manhandling and beating. Complainant is Rama Velip. Police took no action.
4. On 10/11/2008 Rama Velip filed complaint against Hiralal Khodidas Mine at Quepem Police station for destroying Paddy field coconut garden, water bodies, releasing muddy water in Kushawati River. Police took no action.
5. On 26/11/2008 villagers of Colomba filed complaint at Quepem Police station complaining of transportations of iron ore through forest area in violation of High court order. Complaint was signed by Motesh Antao, Fr. Mathias D’Cunha and Rama Velip. Police too no action.
6. On 5/12/2008 United farmers of Colomba filed complaint at Quepem police station regarding illegal operation of mine by Hiralal Khodidas. Complaint signed by Motesh Antao. Police took no action.
7. On 14/1/2010 Dumena D’souza filed complain at Quepem Police station against mines managers of nine mines operating in Quepem and Sanguem talukas for overloading, endangering public health, polluting air, and causing danger to public life. The case was file under section 268, 269, 270, 278 of IPC, section 133 of Cr.PC, Section 40 of Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) 1981 and under section 2(22) and 37 of Goa Public Health Act 1985. The nine mines which are mentioned in this complaint includes: V.S. Dempo T.C. no. 7/50 operation in Rivona, V.S. Dempo T.C. no. 3/51 operating in Curpem, Badruddin Mavany T.c. no. 14/52 operating in Colomba, Vangi Bindi Advona iron ore mine T.c. no. 10/51 operating in Sulcorna and owned by M/s Haidar Kasim Khan, Gogoro Ou Gulcon dongor Iron Ore mine T.c. no. 06/49 operating in Colomba and owned by Hiralal khodidas, Polo Dongor Iron Ore mIne T.C. no. 65/51 operating in curpem owned by G.F. Figueiredo, Gotifonda Tembo Colomab Iron ore mine T.C no. 75/52 owned by Vaicunt Cadnekar, Unonatlo dongor Iron ore mine T.C. no. 17/49 operating in Colomba and owned by Pai Palondikar, and Chunimol Dongor Iron ore mine T.C. no. 28/52 operating at Xivsorem, Rivona. Police took no action.
Police has been biased against people in processing of the cases. Goa government’s police policy towards mining in tribal areas is reflected from this fact. The bias of police in favor of mining industry and against people is clearly visible. The fall out of this situation is indeed very drastic loss of citizens’ confidence in the police force. However since local people are against mining industry for various reasons police force is used by mining industry to protect itself. It is best that in the public interest mining industry be closed down in Goa.
Agriculture was practiced by everyone in the village of Colomba before mining began. Due to rampant mining activities paddy fields of Colomba has suffered drastic reduction of paddy yield. Dument D’Souza who owns a piece of agricultural land that her family cultivates used to harvest 2000 kg of rice before Fomentos started operation of Hiralal Khodidas mine. This has dropped to 900 kg of rice yield after mining company regularly releases mining silt into paddy fields. Coconut plantations too have suffered reduction in yield due to mining activities. The problem of mining to agriculture is also due to release of water from mining pit mixed with lime soda into paddy fields. Additionally the paddy fields nearby suffer due to sodium vapor light in the night focusing into paddy fields.
Response of the mining company managers with regard to discharge of mining silt into the paddy fields is to tell the villagers to remove and company will pay the cost. Villagers however refuse to accept money from mining company.
Agriculture is also threatened due to mining below ground water and drying up of water bodies in Colamba. This is particularly true in case of Badruddin Mavany mine operated by Radha Timblo. Large number of vegetables that used to be cultivated in the Muscavrem, Colomba has found sudden stop after the mining began. Land has been taken over for mining purpose, Kushavati river polluted, and village water bodies such as natural springs and wells dried up. This is fast becoming a reality in number of other areas of Colomba and surrounding villages with number of mining companies beginning their operations.
The situation can be reverted only with closing down mines and cancelling all the mining leases in this and surrounding villages.
Public Health Hazards due to mining
Number of public health hazards has come about due to beginning of mining activities in Colomba and neighboring villages. Dust pollution, noise pollution and heavy vehicular traffic have posed life threatening danger to the villagers. Besides, the entry of large number of migrant workers from various parts of India has caused socio-economic-medical phenomena of spread of HIV infection in mining belt. Alcoholism has increased with increase in mining activities.
Mining of Ferrous and Manganese in these localities has led to the release of impurities in air. The impurities includes silica, magnesium and many more. Inhaling of air polluted with these impurities causes numoconiosis that is also known as ‘dust-in-a-lung’ phenomena. In Colomba the movement of trucks is in the middle of the village. The road used by trucks is also used by school children, women to fetch water, to wash clothes etc. The road that can comfortable take around 50 truck trips per day is burdened with nearly 5000 truck trips filled with ore. Number of people in Colomba and neighboring villages has contacted lung diseases such as tuberculosis after mining activities began here nearly seven years ago. For children below 3 years respiratory problem is acute. 90 percent of people in mining belt suffer from one or other type of respiratory disease. Gattier, Rivona is one locality that has witnessed mass scale contraction of tuberculosis to its residents directly due to mine in the vicinity.
Asthma is another respiratory disease that is very common in mining belt. Besides mining dust lung diseases particularly to children are also caused by accasia trees planted by Forest department. The yellow pollen of these trees causes asthma and skin rash. These trees are danger to nature and must be down and new variety of fruit tree must be planted in their place.
Noise pollution due to movement of trucks leads to permanent disability including total deafness, increase in blood pressure, heart attacks etc.
Communicable diseases like Chicken Gunia, Malaria, Hepatitis and HIV infections have increased in Colomba after mining activities began. The cause can be linked to the increased influx of labour from various parts of India and even Nepal. HIV infection is spread with single men from various parts of India and Nepal taking employment in mines and developing unprotected sexual relationships with local girls.
Accidents due to mining transportation of ore are of three types. First one is caused by direct hitting of person by mining trucks. This happens as each truck is in competition with other to maximize its trips. Pedestrians and other vehicle owners are placed at lethal risk by the movement of trucks. Several accidents are caused this way and many people have died. Only few cases are recorded by police and large of cases are ended by the private force of mining companies by forced compromises or intimidation. A force parallel to police is developing in mining belt that handles besides accident cases, the intimidation of those opposing mining industry. Perhaps these are seeds of mafia in Goa’s mining belt sown by mining industry.
The second variety of mining transport accidents takes place when motorcyclists skid off the road due to spillage of ore on the road from the rooftops of overloaded trucks. In spite roads is filled with spilled ore from truck carrying ore from the mines.
The third variety of accidents takes place when ore from the speeding trucks flies out and hits pedestrians. This has caused injuries to people walking on the road, sometime even to motorcyclists trying to overtake speeding trucks. It is not uncommon to hear of instances when the ore flew out of the truck and hit someone’s head or someone’s eye.
Mining trucks has no controlling authority. Drivers are drunk and drive heavily overloaded trucks. No one checks the license of truck drivers. No one checks truck fitness. Goa Police is mauled by mining industry due to Coporate-Politician-Police nexus in place.
Mining also has drastic indirect effects of Public Health. Number of people taking to alcohol has increased. There is also the rise in liquor outlets in Rivona Panchayat jurisdiction. Few of these are licensed outlets. Large number of them operates without license. More importantly the liquor that is sold in these outlets is adulterated – very often mixed with urea and distilled.
Women in mining belt suffer from anxiety, sleeplessness, and stressful mind due to uncertain situation created by mining industry. Many families are headed by widowed women as their husbands have died due to their employment on mines. Employment on mines gave excess money which they invested in alcohol. This led to the degeneration of their health and ultimately their death. In Curpem and Vichundrem villages large number of men worked on mines and died within few years of their employment. Workers on mines develop renal problem due to exposure to extreme heat and dust. Workers on mines do not get proper water, proper health education, proper masks for nose, proper ear masks. These are given only during mines safely day for one day and then taken back. Doctors with companies are insensitive towards workers. Drivers in mines have no control over themselves when they drive after consuming alcohol. No one checks their physical fitness when they drive in intoxicated state. This behavior of drivers in mining is not an exception but a rule.
Direct effects of mining on water
Silt from mines is released directly into paddy fields of the people. This creates chocking of its traditional water ways and created frequent flooding in monsoon. This is observable in case of Hiralal Khodidas mine in Colomba.
Washing of trucks in fresh water bodies releases silt and other pollutants into water. The water used for irrigation purposes then pollutes land where this water is used. Kushawati river is a very good example as to how mining has created water crisis. Mining in its catchment areas led to drying of kushawati river few years ago. State government instead of shutting down mines constructed check dams at number of places on the river. Check dams created stagnation of water and put pressure of the edges of the river. The big trees on both sides of the river bank died as their roots got affected with blocking of river flow in artificial manner. Besides Kushawati river water is polluted by mining silt. The fish that used to be available for the villagers prior to damming of this river has dramatically reduced and some varieties disappeared all together. The Kushawati river bed has silted and turned shallow.
In Corla village natural springs has gone dry after as the mining led to alteration in the course of ground water. Over 100 tribal people live in this village on hill top.
Blasting in mines
Till few years ago blasting was regular practice in mines in spite of it being legally banned. In Colamb blasting at Hirala khodidas mine by Fomentos has caused cracks to the house of Devki Katu Velip. Workers who indulge in drilling for blasting suffer from blasting renauts phenomena that results in hand gangrene.
Renal Stone for workers working in mining belt is common phenomena. Dust particles accumulated inside the ear consolidate and transform itself into a stone of a respective mineral.
Mining has created all round degeneration of nature and quality of life of tribal people. Even employment on mines has led to number of people in mining belt. Mining is dangerous and its danger will not reduce with 26% of share of income from mines to tribal people as envisaged by government of India. This is only move to distract attention from the gross violation of rights and insult to the dignity of tribal people that cannot be purchased with money. The private ownership of mines gave full scale scope for the usury of the mineral wealth by few individual corporate entities. Mining industry in Goa has hijacked all round welfare and democracy in Goa. Damage to public health, degeneration of agriculture, depletion of ground water, use of police, abuse of judiciary to intimidate village people protesting mining industry are only manifestations of this phenomena. It is hoped that Western Ghats authority will take cognizance of this situation and recommend to the government of India to stop mining in Goa and cancel all the mining leases in the Tribal areas that find common ground in defense of Western Ghats.