People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


Vol. XXXVI

No. 44

November 04, 2012

 

GOA

 

CPI(M) Demands Takeover of All Mines

 

Jatin Naik

 

THE Goa state unit of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) has demanded that a subsistence allowance must be given to all the workers affected by the ban on mining in Goa and that the Goa government must take over all the mines and make efforts to resume mining in the state. One may note that even today the mining industry continues to be the backbone of Goas economy.

 

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) organised a Protest March and Rally on October 17, 2012, in the capital city of Panaji to demand a solution to the present crisis in Goa's mining industry on the basis of protection of the livelihood of thousands of mine workers as well as of the truck workers, barge workers and other working people who are directly or indirectly dependent on the mining industry. 

 

On the day, a thousand-odd workers, peasants and other working people marched under the red flag of the CPI(M) and, winding their way through the main streets of the city, converged in a rally at Azad Maidan in Panaji. They were demanding the resumption of mining as per the due process of law and compensation to the people affected directly or indirectly due to the ban on mining operations in the state. They also demanded formation of a Goa Mineral Development Corporation. Their other demands included compensation for the loss of crops to peasants and rehabilitation of fields that have been affected by siltation and seepage of mining rejects; cleaning up of water sources which are clogged by the mining rejects; and crucially the recovery of huge foreign exchange earned and stashed in foreign banks by the bosses of the mining companies. The protestors also called for a ban on the export of metal ores and that it should rather be consumed domestically for steel production and thus for industrial growth and advancement.

 

Speaking at the rally of the mine workers, port workers, peasants and other working people, CPI(M) Central Committee member Tapan Sen, state incharge Dr Vivek Monteiro and CPI(M) state secretary Thalmann Pereira reiterated the party's central demand that the Goa government must take over the mines and make efforts to resume mining.

 

Tapan Sen charged the Congress and the BJP for following the neo-liberal economic policies which have resulted in large-scale illegal mining in Goa as well as in Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh. He stated that private mining firms and government officials are responsible for the present crisis in the mining industry and, as such, they should be brought to book and punished accordingly for the mining scam. He demanded immediate resumption of legal mining or some kind of assistance to those who are directly or indirectly affected by the halting of the mining operations. "The initiative should come from the central government as well as from the state government to compensate these victims of private mining companies."

 

Sen further said that nearly one lakh workers have been affected due to the ban on mining and if there are four members in a family then the number of those affected comes to nearly four lakh people. He then added that this is a very big number for a small state like Goa. He said that private mine operators are now running away from their responsibility and are well aware that there is no demand for iron ore either in the European or in the Chinese market, and so they are silent today. But "once the demand goes up, they will slowly reopen and export the ore for better prices."

 

"This is not the case of Goa alone. A similar situation is prevailing throughout the nation wherever there are mines and ore is being exported," Sen stated.  He said that as the Goan ore extraction is 67 million tonnes per year, the mines might be soon exhausted or closed for want of ore. He said the extraction should be streamlined through the formation of a Goa Mineral Development Corporation.

 

Dr Vivek Monteiro exhorted the workers and peasants to remain united against the private mine operators who have undertaken unsustainable mining and are thereby exploiting the mine workers and damaging the fertile agricultural lands.

 

CPI(M) state secretary Thalmann Pereira cautioned that if workers were forced to go hungry, they would make the life miserable for the concerned ministers and MLAs.

 

Jatin Naik and Naresh Shigaonkat, state level leaders of the party, as also women's front leader Sugandhi Francis also addressed the rally.

 

A deputation consisting of Thalmann Pereirra, S S Naik, Kamalakant Gadekar and Anand Betkikar later met the North Goa collector and submitted a memorandum through his office to the prime minister, the chief minister, union mines minister, and the union minister for environment and forests. They urged the officials to resolve the Goa mines imbroglio in the interests of the people dependent on mining.

 

Addressing the presspersons later in T B Cunha Hall in Panaji, Tapan Sen urged the Goa state government to take over the mines and set up a mineral development corporation in the state on the lines of the National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC) and resume mining under this corporation. The party also backed the demand of the truck and barge owners for moratorium on their loans and interest payments. It has also sought compensation to the farmers who have lost their crop because of seepage of the mining rejects. New roads should be built in mining areas for the benefit of the people.

 

The CPI(M)s Goa state committee is of the view that the politicians and bureaucrats who supported the private miners should not be allowed to go scot-free. It is also opposed to the export of iron ore from Goa, stating that it definitely goes against the Vision 2020 document on steel production.

 

The Communist Party of India (Marxist) has placed the following immediate demands before the union government and the state government:

 

a) Immediately set up a Goa Mineral Development Corporation (GMDC) on the lines of the National Mineral Development Corporation (NMDC).

b) Immediately restart all the mines which are within the environment and legal regulations.

c) In respect of the mines which do not at present comply with the regulations, subsistence allowance must be given to all the workers as well as those directly and indirectly dependent upon mine operations till such time as they are redeployed.

d) There must be a moratorium on the recovery of loans and interest payments from truck owners and barge owners by banks and other financial institutions.

e) Immediate compensation must be paid for the crop losses to all the peasants whose agricultural lands and irrigation sources have got affected by the seepage of the mining rejects.

f) There must be immediate construction of additional roads. Dust pollution measures must be taken in the mining villages.