Monday, 22 October 2012

Goa's great mining plunder - Part 8

Mining industry’s structures of domination

Sebastian Rodrigues, October 2011 

One of the favored tools of the mining industry particularly when the protest began to show themselves resisting mining industry was the use of violence through state police force. Mining industry in Goa never cultivated their private mafia. State police force would do their job perhaps for some off the record considerations. The first known protests against mining industry came about in later half of the decade of 1970s when the two villages in Goa’s northern taluka of Bicholim revolted – Mayem and Sirgao. Bicholim taluka has mines of number of mining companies – Dempos, Chowgules, Bandekars, Sesa Goa etc. Those who were involved in rebellion were arrested by Goa Police. Mere arrest that time was sufficient enough to demoralize the peasants. They did not know any way of surpassing police repression and suspended their agitation. Few villages peasants were offered money to suspend the rebellion. The decade of 1970s went about with these kinds sporadic protests with no co-ordination of politics of one village with another. No serious search for surmounting police siding with mining companies. These protests were exclusively were of the people directly affected by mining – particularly their paddy fields. Protests during this time evaporated yet the thought of havoc that mining is ravaging their villages and need to do something remained in a latent yet simmering state only to resurface in the first decade of the twenty-first century. So the first mechanism of domination has been the use of police force.

The second favored structure of domination of mining industry has been the control of media. Mining industry with a remarkable foresight set up their newspapers. Dempos set up Navhind Times in English and Navaprabha in Marathi. Chowgules started Gomantak in Marathi and later Gomantak times in English. Salgaoncar started monthly magazine ‘Goa Today’ and later Konkani daily ‘Sunaprant’. These papers saw to that public attention never gets focused on the ecological crimes that their owners were indulging in. The remaining papers – Tarun Bharat, Rastramat in Marathi and Herald in English too did not carry any consistent exposition of mining industry’s ill doings even though their owners were not mining companies. Press in Goa suffered from three major defects – censorship by owners, self-censorship, and fear of the mining industry that was all pervasive in society. Overall it served as an effective structure of domination for mining industry till 2008 when media began to become increasingly vigilant, aware and ownership of few newspapers shifted away from mining industry, entry of Times of India in English, Lokmat, Pudhari and other publications in Marathi, and effective use of internet by activists in Goa to overcome limits posed by mainstream media.

The third favored structure of domination of the mining industry has been the donations to the village temples. This is an informal form of structures that worked wonders for the mining industry. Paltry sum of donation to demolish and reconstruct the village temples would see that the village never comes to pursue the path of rebellion against mining industry. Psychology of the villagers is such that that they remain indebted to the donor for a long time. This phenomena is rampant in all over Goa and effectively exploited by mining companies. It is not uncommon to witness scenes of posh temples in mining ravaged villages. Religion has been hijacked by mining industries and people in various areas have not been able to put a brake on this trend. It continues to serve the mining companies. Related aspect here is periodic payments made as compensation for the destruction of agricultural fields. However of late number of people have refused to subscribe to the ideology of compensation.

The fourth strong structure of domination has been the hold over educational institutions. Mining companies set up graduate colleges – Dempos - and law college - Salgaoncar to make their presence felt in ideological spectrum of the society. Mining companies has also instituted fellowships for senior researchers. Dempos is one such example. Mining companies and their caste alliances are also involved in writing their history. One of the favored aspects of process is to establish hegemonic hold over Goa, particularly its tribes. It is project of conquest through ideological apparatus to further the agenda of domination not just of the mining industry but over the entire society through thought control measures. Mining companies also has significant influence over the senate of Goa University and its policies. It is because of this influence Goa University was stopped from granting central University status. It is because of this that Goa University has not set up centre for the study for centre of study of tribes in Goa. It is because of this that fees of Goa University are constantly hiked in order to keep the students away from access to higher education. To a large extend mining companies are successful in this venture. It is against the interest of the mining that higher education becomes widespread as the ignited minds will be difficult to curtail in their path if chosen to direct against the mining industry and their caste, class alliances that form coteries and select vice-chancellors.

The fifth strong structure of domination is NGO sector. Mining industry, after facing severe criticism from TERI report in 1997 set up its combine NGO – The Goa Mineral Foundation in 2000. It is working as buffer of public criticism on mining industry. It is involved in whole range of activities from dance classes, distributing notebooks for students, building of toilets, building of bus sheds, sending people for vocational training, watershed programs in one village etc. It has got full time staff that engages in all kinds of activities except in criticizing mining industry. The funds for this are shared between various mining companies Sesa Goa being one of the prominent one. However it is important to observe here that this NGO of mining company has come as response to the protests against mining and to earn credits for the corporate social responsibility. Government of India in a draft mineral policy has cited this NGO as one of the examples to be replicated by the mining industry in India. On ground in Goa however it has not at all succeeded in diverting attention from core damage caused by mining industry. Nevertheless it is a structure of domination sought to be made effective by mining industry but has not succeeded.

The sixth strong structure of domination by mining industry is use and abuse of judiciary in Goa. After the intense protests this is a phenomenon that has come about providing some succor to the mining industry. Police cases are registered on number false pretexts’, people then are arrested, forced to take bail and then after some months charge-sheeted and cases gets listed in the courts. Then people are served notices at home by court bailiffs and asked to appear in the court on a particular date. After appearing in the court the next date is given for appearance. Judiciary’s role in mining belt of Goa has been largely to frustrate the protesting people. Mining companies aim exactly that. Currently there are over 300 cases in various courts of Goa against various people protesting mining industry’s onslaughts. The state government has the power to withdraw these cases but since the mining companies are using the State government as their executive committee these cases are carrying on. Goa’s Chief minister Digambar Kamat holds a portfolio of mining minister for over past 12 years and shares personal interest in the continuation of mining industry. He has a family ties with mining companies. In this scenario Judiciary has been used to further the agenda of the mining companies. Judiciary was also used to silence the vocal critic of the mining industry – the author of this paper – by Fomentos by filing civil defamation suit of Rs.500 crores in Calcutta High Court, Kolkatta for his online writings on blog belonging to Gawda, Kunbi, Velip and Dhangar Federation (GAKUVED). Mining companies are using Judiciary as the very reliable structure of domination.

Seventh strong structure of domination of mining industry is EIA[1] and Public Hearings. These are paid for by mining companies are thoroughly rigged in almost all the cases in numerous manner.  EIA studies are tailored not to the objective reality on ground but to suit the interest of the mining companies. This is because it is the mining companies that are financing the EIA studies. On the day of mandatory hearings there is manipulation in terms of venue – very often it is held in minister’s cabin in a far away place from the mining site. MoEF is guilty of ignoring public opposition to mining projects all over Goa and sanctioned environmental clearances there by establishing colonial relationship between the Central government and people of Goa.

[1] Environment Impact Assessment

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