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Goa Polls: Parties Promise Resumption of Mining to Woo Voters While Affected Families Dig Deep to Survive

By: Pragya Kaushika

News18.com

Last Updated: February 10, 2022, 16:08 IST

Local resident Raju says he has been driving trucks for 35 years and the Goa mining ban has hit him badly. Pic/News18

Local resident Raju says he has been driving trucks for 35 years and the Goa mining ban has hit him badly. Pic/News18

With a sizable population in at least six assembly constituencies affected directly or indirectly by the ban on mining in the state, the issue is set to decide the fate of many candidates.

The resumption of mining has become an emotive issue in the ongoing campaign for the February 14 Goa assembly polls. The ruling Bharatiya Janata Party, as well as the Congress and Aam Aadmi Party, have all promised to restart mining of iron ore in the state.

The issue is a powerful one as political parties believe that over a lakh people depended on it when it was stopped in 2012, causing loss of livelihood to those families.

In November, Delhi chief minister and AAP convener Arvind Kejriwal made a poll promise to resume mining within six months of his party being elected in Goa. He assured Rs 5,000 each to the families that depended on the mining industry until it resumes.

The Supreme Court in 2018 had cancelled Vedanta Ltd’s lease to mine iron ore in Goa and also directed mining companies to stop all operations until they obtained new environmental clearances and leases.

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While the issue of mining has been around for years, with other regional parties making it a major poll subject, there was a sudden clamour to pledge support to resume it if voted to power by national parties as well including the BJP, Congress and Trinamool Congress making promises to restart the process “within six months of coming to power" or working on a roadmap towards it.

Chief minister Pramod Sawant assured, in an interview to News18.com, that within six months mining will resume as the BJP government has formed a mining corporation and approved a dumping policy, which should be fine with the Supreme court.

The CM’s constituency, Sanquelim, too was hit by the ban.

News18.com spoke to Shobha of Savarbhat, a village that falls under the chief minister’s constituency, about the hardships her family faced after the mining shutdown. “The world came crashing down on us in 2012 when mining was banned. My son was employed as a driver and we had a better life. He is getting old. He goes asking people for a job to run the house," said the woman, sitting in her home with bare minimum furniture. “He can’t get a bride as he doesn’t have a stable job. He was a tipper driver in the mines."

According to senior BJP leaders, while there have been efforts from the state government including renewing 88 leases, these were scrapped by the Supreme Court in 2018, putting a full ban on mining.

While the mining was stopped in 2012, it resumed for a short time due to the government’s intervention and renewing of leases. Later, a public interest litigation (PIL) was filed and the top court put a complete ban.

Nilesh Naik, sitting in a hand-painted house, says he has lost hope of seeing mining getting restarted.

“I was forced to leave the business as mining stopped. We heard it was opening again but it didn’t. We can’t earn our bread and butter. We are a family of 12 people and had to sell our truck to survive," said Naik.

Another village resident Raju when asked about life without mining said, “Just don’t ask. We are badly hit. I’ve been driving a truck for 35 years and know nothing else. It’s a matter of livelihood."

Ekta, another local resident, too had a tale to tell. Her father owns a garage that services trucks and paints them too. “We had a good business but now trucks don’t come anymore for paint jobs. We had a decent income when mining was open. Now, we don’t have money to go to any private hospital in case someone falls sick," added the girl.

Further towards the north, the Bicholim constituency too has families that lost jobs because of the ban on mining.

“We used to earn Rs 15,000 in a month in 2009 and now we struggle to make ends meet. We have friends who used to run dhabas, garages and kirana shops in and around mining companies. All of them lost their source of livelihood," said Anu from Gaonkarwada who has now taken up other jobs to survive.

Many are hoping that the new government chosen in February 14 polling will restart mining as promised and help them lead a dignified life.

With a sizable population in at least six assembly constituencies affected directly or indirectly by the ban on mining in the state, the issue is set to decide the fate of many candidates.

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first published:February 10, 2022, 15:28 IST
last updated:February 10, 2022, 16:08 IST
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