United Tribal Associations’ Alliance (UTAA) staged a rail and rasta roko at Balli on Wednesday morning thereby paralyzing traffic to the South of Goa totally. By afternoon as the patience ran thin, two buses of Goa Police and a jeep was stoned and destroyed by the agitators.
Konkan Railway Corporations operations were severely affected as the rail traffic came to a grinding halt. While the CST-Manglaore bound Konkan Kanya was halted at the Margao Railway Station, the Rajdhani Express was halted at Canacona railway station.
Other passenger trains delayed due to the rasta roko include the 12432 Rajdhani Express that arrived at Margao Railway Station at 12:10 noon and was stopped along the platform No. 2. Besides, the Ernakulam-Nizamudin express and Mangalore-Verna passenger were halted in Karwar itself.
Besides, the freight traffic on KRC route was severely affected and freight trains were kept in the yards at Verna and Margao.
Thousands of tribals from Canacona, Quepem and even Sanguem taluka converged at Balli on Wednesday morning and blocked the National Highway No. 17 along the Karmal Ghat and also at Khola in Canacona taluka besides also squatting on the railway tracks at Balli railway station to implement the rail roko agitation.
The tribals came prepared for any eventuality as most of them were armed with dandas. They cut and uprooted trees and laid them across the railway tracks and also the National Highway No. 17.
Besides throwing trees on the railway tracks, some dead wood was placed at different places and set on fire. Extra railway tracks that were lying by the side unused, were dragged across the tracks in order to block them.
A strong police force was rushed to the site with most senior officers camping there. However, till noon the police did not crack down on the agitators nor did the agitators lift their agitation.
It may be recalled that UTAA had submitted a 12-point memorandum to the South Goa Collector on 12th May and threatened to launch an agitation if their demands were not met by 20th May. Some of their main demands are formation of the Scheduled Tribe Commission, implementation of the Tribal Forest Act and proper implementation of the reservation policy.
UTAA President Prakash Velip said they had to take to the streets because the government was taking them for granted and had not acted on their demands despite their earlier two protests rallies on 16th December 2009 and 5th January 2010.
He pointed out that the government has constituted the ST Commission on paper only as it has not been sanctioned any staff and added that this exposes the government’s apathy to their plight or issues.