Goa’s capital Panaji came to a grinding halt as tens of thousands of protesters took to streets to protest the closure of the iron mining in the state. The protests resulted in massive traffic jams and utter chaos in the state capital.
There were also reports of scuffles between the protesters and police personnel near the Kadamba bus stand after the District Collector Nila Mohanan made desperate attempts to stop the agitators from entering the city.
The angry protesters later blocked the main entry roads to the city, including the two bridges on the Mandovi river, leading to heavy traffic chaos, reported PTI. The miners are protesting against the Supreme Court’s February order banning the iron ore extraction with effect from 16 March.
“We are trying to ensure that there is no law and order problem. Police forces from outside Goa have also been called in and deployed along with the state police,” Director General of Police Muktesh Chandar was quoted by PTI.
The protesters had come from different villages of the iron ore-rich mining belt of both the North Goa and South Goa districts earlier in the morning. They assembled at the city bus stand with intentions to march to the Azad Maidan in Panaji.
Among those making desperate attempts to pacify the protesters on Monday was Agriculture Minister Vijai Sardesai, who told Janta Ka Reporter that his government sympathised with the protesters adding that his government will file a review petition in the Supreme Court.
“While we respect the top court’s order, it has been very disruptive because of an incredibly short deadline. The order was passed in February and the mining stopped from 16 March. Our government lawyers ought to have made the argument before the honourable judges of the Supreme Court that the state government will simply not be able to implement this order at such a short notice. After all we talking about around 1.5 to 2 lakh people being directly affected by this order,” Sardesai said.
Sardesai said that dealing with these protesters posed more challenges given that they had no leaders. He said that he chose to travel to the protest venue keeping the discomfort being caused to ordinary citizens including tourists and patients in mind.
“I received the reports of ambulances being stuck and tourists not being allowed to travel to the airport to catch their flights. This prompted me to meet the protesters and pacify them. But to no avail,” he said.
The top court in February had quashed the second renewal of iron ore mining leases given to 88 companies in Goa three months ago. Aside from tourism, mining contributes the most to Goa’s economy. The mining industry was severely disrupted in 2012 after the Supreme Court closed the iron ore extraction business.
Meanwhile, more than 5000 people have signed up a petition meant for the Chief Justice of India urging him to save the livelihoods of ‘three lakh mining dependents‘ in Goa. The petition read, “The reason for starting this petition is to ensure that stoppage of major economic activity in the state should not lead to a humanitarian crisis in this Paradise on Earth that is Goa. The mining Industry and the local population in Goa have peacefully co-existed in the state for the past 7 decades and any disruption to this normal, peaceful fabric of society will be detrimental and have very far reaching effects which can be catastrophic to the well being of all the mining dependents and the society. The scenario is comparable to the Mumbai mills strike which led to jobless youth and school dropouts taking to crime to make ends meet. And let us not forget that Goa is a favorite destination for foreign tourists who visit the place as it is a safe haven.”