Panaji: Hit by a ban for a long time, people in Goa’s mining belt are looking at the upcoming Assembly polls with hopes of getting their livelihood back and the new government to mitigate hardships.
As the poll campaign picks up in the mining belt of Bicholim, Sankhalim, Sanguem, Quepem talukas, covering 700 sq kms area, one can see scores of trucks rusting alongside the road, posing a grim picture in this iron ore rich belt.
The ban on iron ore extraction and export in Goa imposed in 2012, was lifted by Supreme Court in April, 2014, with a cap on export till 20 million metric tons. “Just after the 2012 (state assembly) elections, the ban was imposed. The industry is limping back to normalcy. People are agitated. They want the answer from politicians why they were forced to face this agony,” president of All Goa Truck Owners Association, Nilkant Gawas, told PTI from his village Navelim.
Navelim was once was busy with the iron ore extraction and transportation activity, now lies lifeless akin to other villages like Pale, Velguem, Sonshi of the mining belt. “Mining did begin in a small way. But out of 18,000 trucks, 8,000 trucks are without any cargo to carry. They are left to rust along with fate of their owners,” Gawas said.
The cap on exports coupled with lack of enthusiasm among mining companies to revive their activities, has hurt the business sentiment of this belt. “Mining may not be the sole issue but it is one of the issues in this election. People want to know why the industry was put to shambles,” Shivdas Madkar, a youth dependent on mining activity, said. “The state government did give financial aid to people affected with closure of mining activity. But it was not enough, they want to know who was responsible for the ban,” he said.
While there is visible dissident among people against politicians, with elections around the corner, people’s hope of a better livelihood from mining has also revived. “Past is past. We can’t just make our politicians a punching bag and keep on blaming them. They were partially at fault, but what happened between 2012-2014 was horrible and everyone contributed in their own way for it,” Vikas Gaonkar, a truck owner from Morlem said. “The only hope that we have right now is that the new government will have a fresh perspective towards mining industry. Also the cap of 20 million metric tons should be lifted so that those relying on mining industry get some work,” he added.