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Who are the real thugs of Caurem Village?

GoaChronicle.com brings an insight into the issue surrounding the Caurem – Maina village agitation, the brutality of the police force and the injustice meted out to the uncertain people of the village as mining crimes continue to be swept under the carpet…

The poor, illiterate tribal inhabitants of Caurem Maina village in Quepem taluka are being terrorized both literally and figuratively by the mining lobby with all the support from the administration as was evident on 23rd April when around 160 villagers were arrested for seeking to uphold government orders.

Following a prolonged agitation by people from different parts of Goa, the Director of Mines & Geology Arvind D Loliyekar inked an order dated 17th March 2011 purportedly issued “to stop illegal mining and to regulate the ore transportation and storage of minerals”.

The order laid down various conditions for operating the mining lease and transportation of the ore in the area of Caurem-Maina, Sulcorna, Colomba, Curpem and Rivona and transportation through the Sanguem town.

The significant conditions laid down in the order are:

  1. Transportation should be done only from 8 am to 4 pm with a lunch break from 12:30 noon to 2 pm;
  2. Every truck departing from the mine will collect a transit pass issued by the Department of Mines & Geology and also a slip specifying the weight of the ore carried. No truck shall be carrying ore without these two documents;
  3. Mining lease holder should register all the trucks used to transport ore with the Directorate of Mines & Geology with details like registration number of truck, name of the truck owner, name and address of the truck driver along with his license number;
  4. All the truck drivers should have health card issued by Health Officer and countersigned by RTO officer;
  5. No entry for trucks at mines between 10 pm to 5 am and no transportation of ore on Sundays and Public Holidays.

The order specifically mentioned that it was the responsibility of the lease holders to adhere to the order and more specifically collect every week the number of transit passes that would be required for the subsequent week.
Copies of this order were marked to the South Goa Collector, Superintendent of Police (South), Director of Transport, Asst. Director of Transport (Margao), Deputy Collector/SDM (Quepem), Deputy Superintendent of Police (Quepem), Police Inspector (Quepem), Police Inspector (Curchorem) and all concerned mining lease holders.

However, the mining lease operators totally ignored the order and carried on their activities in total violation of the order while the authorities turned a Nelson’s eye to it.
The violators were basically the three mines operating in the vicinity of the village – J Neogi Mines operated by Dinar Tarcar, Ajit Kadnekar Mines operated by Magnum Mines and G N Agrawal operated by Fomentos.
Incensed with what was happening, Caurem villagers on 13th April stopped trucks transporting ore at 6:30 pm which was way beyond the specified time of 4 pm after which no ore is to be transported.

The Quepem police when informed about the incident, sent one constable at 7:45 pm to the site who unable to do anything, returned to the police station. Subsequently, at 10 pm PSI Rahul Dhamsekar arrived at Caurem and giving the excuse that the truck drivers were not available, also returned to the police station without taking possession of the violating trucks.

The next morning the truck drivers arrived and one by one began taking away the trucks from 9 am onwards. The villagers did not intervene presuming that the police were handling the matter. However, when one truck driver Arian Mario Pedrito assaulted a villager Gokuldas Velip, the villagers retaliated and stopped all the trucks once again.
Quepem Police then registered a complaint by the truck drivers and a counter complaint by the villagers and following discussions all the parties came to a compromise at around 1 pm, whereby it was decided that a police constable would be posted at the gate of the three mines to enforce the order dated 17th March 2011.

Even though an agreement was reached at in the afternoon, the same evening at 4:30, some of the truck drivers waylaid Caurem-Maina villagers at Ambaulim while they were returning home and thrashed them quite badly. Those assaulted by the truck drivers were Shanta Guno Velip who was hospitalized at Hospicio, Dilip Babuso Velip and Dattaraj Padiyar.
As the truck drivers did not adhere to their part of the agreement and as the police failed to depute anybody at the gate to monitor the movement of the trucks, the villagers were left with no option but to stop the trucks operating in violation of the government order.

Ironically, on Saturday a strong police force descended upon the village accompanied by the Deputy Collector in what now appears to be a pre-planned move to terrorise the villagers.
The villagers were brutally lathi charged by the police without even giving them any warning as is required by law. Women were manhandled and many lost their gold ornaments which were deliberately snatched by police personnel. Elderly people and even minor children were beaten up and then taken to the Quepem police station.

The police were ready to book the villagers who were only demanding that the orders of the government be followed. But not a single case was booked against the truck drivers for operating in violation of the orders of the government, not any case registered against the mining lease holders for operating the mines in violation of the laws and rules.
Deputy Superintendent of Police Rohidas Patre claimed to have not received a copy of the order dated 17th March even though it was officially sent to him.

The Deputy Collector Agnelo Fernandes who ordered the lathi charge against the innocent villagers asserted that the villagers could not take law in their own hands to stop traffic even though it was in violation of government orders. He also claimed to have no responsibility to enforce the order dated 17th March 2011 shifting the onus on the Director of Mines & Geology to implement its own order.

Chief Minister Digambar Kamat would not take calls and reportedly told a delegation of Caurem Adivasi Bachao Samiti that they were wrong in stopping the traffic and further advised them to complain to the Director of Mines & Geology of violations by the mining firms rather than trying to stop their activities.
It is no surprise that the crackdown on Caurem villagers had the blessings of the Chief Minister as one of the mine operators Dinar Tarcar was his Congress’ Party’s candidate in the Panjim constituency at the last elections and another Fomentos is known to be very close to him having helped him gain the chief minister’s chair in the first place.

Ironically, the villagers who had supported the Congress candidate Babu Kavlekar at the last assembly elections have been abandoned by him now that the village no longer forms a part of his constituency following the delimitation of the assembly constituencies.
The ugly incident of 23rd April has exposed one fact: the real thugs terrorizing the Caurem village are the truck drivers aided by the Quepem police who have the blessings of the Chief Minister Digambar Kamat.

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