Mining ban protesters blocked the two bridges over River Mandovi which connect Porvorim with Panaji. The blockade started at around 11:45 am and lasted till about 2:40 pm. Commuters were inconvenienced with many domestic, foreign tourists and locals resorting to walk towards the nearest available transport. Besides, the motorists were forced to halt in queues stretching for kilometers.
The protest was called by mining stakeholders, who demanded immediate relief to their woes. Since March 15 a mining ban ordered by the Supreme court has come into effect. The SC in its order last month had cancelled 88 mining lease (renewed in 2015) operating in Goa and has asked for them to be auction.
District Collector Nila Mohanan had stopped them from entering the city fearing law and order situation.
PWD Minister Sundin Dhavalikar arrived on the scene to pacify the protesters and urged them to relieve the blockade of the bridges. However, the attempts failed. He was soon joined by his cabinet colleagues Agricultural Minister Vijai Sardesai and Housing Minister Jayesh Salgaonkar in trying to break the deadlock.
Dhavalikar even urged the protesters to move to Azad Maidan in the city and grant relief to the public. The protesters did not budge to the appeals of the ministers and continued their agitation.
Earlier, an effigy of the government was burned, while, those attempting to break the blockade were manhandled by the protesters. However, ambulances and people with babies were allowed to pass through without any hurdles.
BJP MLA Nilesh Cabral arrived on the scene but failed to resolve crisis. He assured action and urged the protesters to relieve the blockade on the roads. The crowds responded in a negative manner. MGP MLA Deepak Pauskar is also said to have arrived on the scene.
Finally, after three hours of waiting, the police took to lathi charge with Mohanan herself leading the charge on one front. The protesters blocking the highway opposite Heera petrol pump were cleared without much resistance from agitators. While protesters blockading the road opposite KTC bus stand were lathi charged.
Although the exact number is not known, police sources have informed that many protesters were injured while five members of the police force (which includes two lady constables) were injured. BJP MLA Cabral is also said to have sustained some injuries.
“In all, 11 people are arrested for blocking the road and damaging public properties,” Panaji police inspector Siddhanth Shirodkar said.
In about 30 minutes, the roads were cleared and traffic was restored. Some tourists missed their flights after being stuck on the road. Jet Airways informed that it had waived off penalties for date or flight change, refund, no-show and fare difference.
Image credit: PTI