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Illegal mining and village protest in Caurem, Goa, India


Description

Ravindra Velip, tribal activist and panch of Caurem village, was arrested on March 21 2016 along with other villagers, after they stopped trucks transporting ore from the Fomento-owned mine in the village. They were released on bail but arrested again the next day, when they once again stopped the trucks. Political parties, civil society groups and NGOs came down heavily on the Goa government after 26 March 2016, condemning the attack on Ravindra Velip while he was in judicial custody in Sada jail in south Goa. The Goa Foundation, an environmental NGO which has taken illegal mining in the state to the Supreme Court, demanded an inquiry by the Inspector General of Police (Prisons) into how unauthorised persons could enter the premises, blindfolded Velip and beat him up mercilessly. “The assault could only have been possible because of the collusion of the jail authorities. It was therefore premeditated,” Goa Foundation director Claude Alvares claimed, adding that the incident will delay total resumption of mining operations indefinitely. “Velip has consistently exposed illegalities committed by mining lease holders in Caurem. It was due to the efforts of his group that authorities located lakhs of tonnes of iron ore illegally extracted and hidden in artificial mountains under layers of mud after mining was suspended by the government,” Alvares said.

Vashuha Sawaiker is a social worker and a lawyer based in Goa who knows Ravindra Velip well. She reported that he and other villagers were arrested on the 22nd March, 2016 for protesting against illegal iron ore mining operations at the tribal village of Caurem in South Goa. The villagers were protesting against the illegal transportation of ore from TC Nos 6/61, 59/51 and 12/53 in Village Panchayat Caurem-Pirla, to hide evidence of illegal ore extraction before inventory is carried out by the Government, or independent agencies. On 23rd March 2016, while in Judicial Custody, Ravindra Velip was attacked by at least 4 persons, blindfolded and gagged, and beaten up and kicked mercilessly. He was lifted and thrown down from a height, resulting in multiple fractures to his forearm causing agonizing pain in his neck and the rest of his body.  Ravindra had applied for the Small Research Grant Project instituted by Goa University and Centre for Studies of Developing Societies, New Delhi. His project was titled " Return to the Forests: A Report on Forest Rights of Caurem Village."  Ravindra, a mechanical engineer, had come back to Goa from Mumbai, and had consistently exposed the illegalities of mining lease holders in Caurem. He had stood for Panchayat level elections and was working at Caurem village. It was due to efforts of his group that the authorities located lakhs of tonnes of iron ore illegally extracted and hidden after the closure of mining was announced by the State Government. He has been promoting and espousing the idea of village cooperatives being used exclusively for some of the activities relating to mining, from excavation to transport. This would directly benefit majority of the villagers who till now continue to suffer from the ill effects of mining activity. At the time of the agitation, Ravindra was also documenting the process by which Caurem villagers claimed their community forests rights. His group had worked towards activating the Forests Rights Committee and with the help of village elders and the use of GPS, the villagers had mapped the ancient village boundaries and filed for community forest rights. He was inspired by Madhav Gadgil's book, "Let Our Rightful Forests Flourish". Caurem happens to be the only village which has claimed rights over minor forests produce in the whole of Goa.  Ravindra and his group of youth are an inspiration for youth in surrounding villages. Their Youth Group The Mallikarjun Art and Cultural Sports Club(MACS CLUB) of Caurem has a website http://caurem.weebly.com/ which has all the resources relating to Community Forests Rights, Mining and Cultural Practices of Tribals. He is a tactful community organiser and after having filed for community rights for his own village he had started helping neighbouring villages in filing for the same.  This is not the first time that such an attack has been made on a youth in Caurem. In May 2011, Nilesh Gaonkar, another anti-mining activist from Caurem was attacked with an iron rod while on his way to work. In October 2013, the National Human Rights Commission directed the Goa government to pay monetary relief of Rs. 5000/- each to 737 villagers for police brutalities on protesting tribal villagers. This was a pre-planned attack to finish Ravindra and create a sense of terror in the minds of the protesting tribal villagers.  The Fomento company has alleged that compensation payments have been made for loss of agricultural land. Meanwhile, the gram sabha of Velip’s Caurem village unanimously resolved to establish a multi-purpose cooperative society to handle mining activities. The villagers demand that if mining activities are to be resumed, they should be handed over to a village-level cooperative society run by them that will ensure mining is conducted without damaging the environment while also ensuring that the benefits actually reach the weaker sections of the society. Taking note of the various irregularities pointed out by the Shah Commission report, the Supreme Court had imposed a blanket ban on mining in the state in 2012, but last year, mining activities have resumed in parts of Goa, shortly after the ban was lifted.

Basic Data

NameIllegal mining and village protest in Caurem, Goa, India
CountryIndia
ProvinceGoa
SiteCaurem, Quepem Taluk
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level

Source of Conflict

Type of Conflict (1st level)Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Land acquisition conflicts
Mineral ore exploration
Deforestation
Specific CommoditiesIron ore

Project Details and Actors

Project DetailsThe Fomento mining company. In the Cauvrem-Pirla Panchayat there are five mining companies which are operating:

1. Minescape Minerals Pvt Ltd which had leased land from one Jairam Neogi; the TC no was 59/51

2. the Devapan ou Devadongar Iron and Manganese Ore Mine TC No 01/51

3. Ajit Kadnekar owned land on which Magnum Mines TC No. 12/52

4. G N Agarwal owned on which Fomentos TC 06/61

5. Zolerancho Dongar mine

Caurem tribal village has a population of 1200. The propose cooperative iron ore mining.
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population1200
Start Date01/01/2009
Company Names or State EnterprisesFomento from India
Tarcar
Magnum
Relevant government actorsSada sub-jail, Goa Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, State Govenrment of Goa, Inspector General of Prisons, Directorate of Mines and Geology in Goa, Director General of Police (Panaji), the Police Inspector of Mormugao Police Station (Mormugao) and Chief Secretary (Porvorim), Indian Bureau of Mines, Ministry of Environment and Forests and epartments of State viz. the Forest Department, the Goa Pollution Control Board and the Department of Mines and Geology
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersGoa Foundation, Federation of Rainbow Warriors, Caurem Adivasi Bachao Samiti, Caurem-Pirla Panchayat, Goa State Schedule Tribe Action Committee

The Conflict and the Mobilization

Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
When did the mobilization beginMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups MobilizingIndigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Women
Ethnically/racially discriminated groups
Forms of MobilizationBlockades
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Objections to the EIA
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches

Impacts

Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Soil erosion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Mine tailing spills, Other Environmental impacts
OtherThe springs of the villages went dry due to pumping of the water from mining pits; the mines were operating below the water table. None of the mining company has implemented its mining closure plan and because of siltation during monsoon season, many fertile fields have been destroyed.
Health ImpactsVisible: Accidents, Other environmental related diseases, Other Health impacts
Potential: Deaths
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Militarization and increased police presence, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Other socio-economic impacts
Potential: Specific impacts on women, Increase in violence and crime

Outcome

Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseCriminalization of activists
Repression
Strengthening of participation
Violent targeting of activists
Development of AlternativesCo-operative mining, proposed by the village assembly
Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.The protests by tribal leaders against illegal iron mining carried our by the Fomento company and others have been met by state violence. Villagers of Caurem were on the forefront already in 2012 to point out illegal mining going on in their village. While local leader Nilesh Gaonkar was mercilessly beaten up in 2012, in 2016 Ravindra Velip was assaulted in a judicial lock up after police arrested him and other villagers for stopping the ore transport.

Sources and Materials

References

For background, book review by Sudhirendar Sharma 9 Jan. 2016 of Hartman de Souza, "Eat Dust. Mining and Greed in Goa".
http://www.hindustantimes.com/books/eat-dust-mining-and-greed-in-goa-is-one-courageous-book/story-tDKVUzU1db15DcBdsTk4HL.html

Links

Goanews, 18 April 2016, Caurem tribals march to Panaji, approaching SC to expose illegalities
http://www.goanews.com/news_disp.php?newsid=7224

The Herald, Goa, Can this government give Ravindra Velip and Caurem some answers? 26 Mar, 2016.
http://www.heraldgoa.in/Edit/Editorial/Can-this-government-give-Ravindra-Velip-and-Caurem-some-answers/100285.html

Struggle Of Caurem Village In Goa And State Repression, by Vasudha Sawaiker. 30 March, 2016. Countercurrents.org
http://www.countercurrents.org/sawaiker300316.htm

The Hindu (Panaji), March 26, 2016, Goa: parties, NGOs condemn attack on activist, by Prakash Kamat
http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-mumbai/goa-parties-ngos-condemn-attack-on-activist/article8398611.ece

Ramachandra Guha in the Hindustan Times, 23 April 2016, report of a visit to Goa including Caurem village.
http://www.hindustantimes.com/columns/illegal-mining-playing-havoc-in-goa/story-yEN9xdivmbRVA9Ky1TU7GK.html

Other Documents

Ravindra Velip (Caurem village, Goa) in April 2016
https://file.ejatlas.org/docs/Ravindra_Velip.jpg

Meta Information

ContributorRadhika Mulay & JMA
Last update29/11/2016

Images

 

Ravindra Velip (Caurem village, Goa) in April 2016