Goa: Stir against mining ban intensifies, police baton charge protesters
Thousands of mining and allied industry workers had gathered in the morning at the Kadamba bus stand at the city’s entrance to launch their protest.india Updated: Mar 19, 2018 20:27 IST
The police on Monday baton-charged mining workers who laid siege to two gateway bridges to Panaji in a bid to march into the city to protest the Supreme Court-imposed ban on iron ore extraction in the coastal state.
BJP MLA from Curchorem constituency in South Goa district Nilesh Cabral and many protesters were injured in the lathicharge, a police officer said.
Thousands of mining and allied industry workers had gathered in the morning at the Kadamba bus stand at the city’s entrance from where they wanted to march towards the Azad Maidan, a distance of two kms.
However, anticipating a law and order issue, District Collector Nila Mohanan stopped the agitators from entering the city.
The protesters, who had come from different villages of the iron ore-rich mining belt of North and South Goa districts, then blocked the main entry roads to the state capital, including the two bridges on the Mandovi river, leading to heavy traffic snarls and chaos.
The bridges are important links connecting the North Goa tourism belt with South Goa where facilities such as the airport and railway stations are located.
As the agitators continued to stay put, Agriculture Minister Sudin Dhavalikar of the MGP, his Cabinet colleagues Vijai Sardesai and Jayesh Salgaoncar (both belonging to the Goa Forward Party), MLAs Nilesh Cabral and Dipak Pawaskar (MGP) rushed to meet the agitators and tried to pacify them.
Sardesai asked the protesters to move their agitation to Azad Maidan in the city so that people are not put to inconvenience, but they refused.
As the protesters refused to budge, police resorted to baton charge.
Some agitators and five police personnel, including two woman constables, were injured in the lathicharge that lasted nearly 30 minutes before the crowd was dispersed, the officer said.
A total of 11 protesters were arrested, he said.
The incident occurred a few hours ahead of the scheduled visit of Union Shipping Minister Nitin Gadkari to Panaji to meet the BJP MLAs and stakeholders of mining industry.
“In all, 11 people are arrested for blocking the road and damaging public properties,” Panaji police inspector Siddhanth Shirodkar told reporters.
Minister Sardesai confirmed that Cabral was injured in the lathicharge.
However, another police official said it was difficult to assess the exact number of the agitators injured in the lathicharge as many of them approached various hospitals for treatment on their own.
The apex court had last month quashed the second renewal of iron ore mining leases given to 88 companies in Goa in 2015. The mining ban came into force on March 15 midnight.
Besides loss of jobs, the state government anticipated a massive revenue loss to the exchequer in the wake of the mining shutdown.
Meanwhile, the Goa Cabinet Advisory Committee (CAC) has decided to prepare a report of today’s incident and forward it to Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar who is currently in the US for treatment.
“The government would prepare a report detailing today’s development,” said Sardesai.
The mining industry stakeholders, including truck owners and ship operators, are trying to persuade the state and the Centre for resumption of mining activities.
This is the second upheaval in the industry which had faced a closure in 2012 too, following a Supreme Court directive.