An attempt by some Rivona locals to stop a few ore-laden trucks, alleging that they were violating court directives, took an ugly turn as the truck drivers allegedly assaulted some villagers on Saturday.
Counter complaints were subsequently filed at the Quepem police station. In their statement, the villagers alleged that the drivers assaulted some of them and also entered the house of an agitator and beat up his wife, two daughters and son. The drivers, on the other hand, alleged that they had been assaulted by the villagers.
The commotion began after villagers halted three trucks plying along the road claiming that they were overloaded. “There were other trucks which had violated other rules but we allowed them to pass. However, we stopped only three overloaded trucks,” a villager told GoaChronicle.com.
It may be recalled that after an agitation on February 16, Rivona locals had, in a memorandum, urged officials from the transport and police departments to exercise control over ore transportation as per directives of the Bombay high court at Panaji. The trucks were expected to maintain a speed limit of 40 km per hour, cover the ore with tarpaulin and carry permissible loads.
However, villagers alleged that overloaded trucks began to ply along the route the very next day. “They were also being driven at a dangerous speed,” Olinda Lopes, a villager said. Incidentally, villagers had stopped around 70 trucks on Thursday and 40 on Friday for violating the directives.
As the ore is not often covered properly it spills along the way, causing dust pollution. “Speeding is another issue as we fear for our lives as trucks race along the narrow roads,” a villager said.
Transport department officials have been monitoring the movement of trucks and have also issued challans to some vehicles.
However, the stoppage of the trucks on Saturday led to some ugly scenes. The drivers alleged that they were pushed around, while some villagers alleged that the drivers returned with some more persons and began assaulting them. Police arrived on the scene around an hour later, villagers said.
Later, both sides were called to the Quepem police station.
P I Sudesh Narvekar said that two truck drivers and a villager were arrested in connection with the cross complaints and later released on bail by the deputy collector. “None of them suffered injuries as proved after a medical examination, but it was more of pushing and shoving,” he said.
Villagers have alleged that the drivers have issued threats to them of burning down their houses and assaulting them. “We have asked the police to provide us 24-hour protection after these threats,” a local said.