Herald: MOOD IN THE MINING BELT

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MOOD IN THE MINING BELT

15 Sep 2017 06:29am IST
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15 Sep 2017 06:29am IST
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Truck owners firm on hike in rates

Different associations of truck owners blame the government for not implementing SC guidelines; Charge MLAs of interfering in mining activities


Truck owners are firm on their demand for hike in rates. Villagers dependent on mining activities blame the state government for pollution, lack of hospitals and mining corridors and development as per the Supreme Court guidelines.

The truck owners say politicians should stop putting split among the truck owners associations. Political interference, say truckers, is a threat to their business since mining is their only source of income to provide for their families’ welfare.

People depending on mining, say, over the years the government has recovered crores of rupees as revenue from mining business but has failed to provide even a single hospital to take care of people suffering from pollution and accidents.

According to locals at least 150 people, including vehicle riders, have lost their lives under the wheels of trucks but have not been compensated by mining companies or the truckers. 

Not only All Goa Truck Owners Association president Nilkant Gawas blamed the government for lack of negligence towards the mining belt but the locals are also irked over mining belt MLAs’ interference in business. Truck owners and locals allege that the government, in connivance with mining companies, is only interested after collecting revenue.

Today (Sept 14) the government called for a discussion but only few truck associations, reportedly supporters of local MLAs, attended the meet. Gawas, being the president of the largest association of truck owners, was not invited because the mining belt MLAs are involved and interfering in the mining activities, the AGTOA president alleged.

The AGTOA, Gawas says, is working beyond any affiliations to political parties. He blamed some MLAs of mining belt for causing a rift in the associations and advised the politicians not to get involved in their business.

When asked about the 50% drop in prices of low grade iron ore in the international market Gawas said the international rates do not remain stable. The Goa Government and Mining Companies point out only to declining rates and never raise the transportation rates when the international rates were hiked to 94.5 dollars per tonne.

“The AGTOA is firm on their demand for Rs 20 per tonne per km for short distance and Rs 17 for longer distance as the diesel rate at present is Rs 60,” said Nilkant Gawas.

Balaji Gawas, sarpanch of Dharbandora Panchayat and president of the Dharbandora Truckers Association, agreed with the AGTOA president on the price hike.

He said when Laxmikant Parsekar was the Chief Minister they had transported the ore at lower rates because the  international rate then was 35 dollars  per tonne. Parsekar, however, had assured them to hike the rate when international prices would be raised. 

Last season they suffered losses because of lower rates.

At the meeting held on Thursday (Sept 14) with Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar and local Savordem MLA Deepak Pawaskar, Gawas said the topic of hike in rates came up for discussion and hoped the Government would take a satisfying decision on rates. He said they will not transport the ore below the demand made by them as it is not affordable.

He said the cost of transportation has been increased due to various reasons including hiked taxes by Government.

He said beside hike in rates unless other major demands are met they will not commence ore transportation. Claiming that last year they suffered losses due to non finalisation of rates, they want the prices hiked for the fresh season to Rs 14 to 15 for per tonne per km against last year’s Rs 12.33.

The Dharbandora Truck Owners Association, with 500 members, has demanded lowering the GPS Charges to Rs 500 per month which are now hiked by government by Rs 8000 

The truck owners also oppose the hike in insurance which earlier was Rs 15,000 and increased to Rs 45,000 and demanded reduction in it.

It may be recalled that the Government put a ban on mining activities in Goa in Sept 2012 following illegalities in the business and the Shah Commission on Goan mining tabled report in the Parliament. Later the Supreme Court also banned mining in Goa in Oct 2012. The SC lifted the ban in 2014 while Government took time to lift the ban until a new mining policy was framed and finally Goa Government lifted the ban in Jan 2015.

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