Truckers heckle illegal mining panel members


Panaji: A public hearing on illegal mining in Goa Saturday saw unruly scenes, with scores of mining truck owners virtually holding the Justice M.B. Shah Commission’s chairman and members hostage and hijacking the session.

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Members of several truck-driver unions who had descended in droves to the 100-seater seminar hall at the state secretariat, heckled the hearing and virtually refused to allow people complaining against illegal mining to state their grievance to ex-Supreme Court judge Shah, who was accompanied by three other members of the commission.

“Providing this small cramped hall is a strategy by the state government along with the mining lobby to ensure that genuine voices against illegal mining do not reach you,” veteran civil society activist Floriano Lobo told the commission, even as people cramped the aisles, and sat on the floor and ledges with hundreds more queueing up outside the venue.

Members of the local truck drivers associations representing the more than 30,000 trucks ferrying iron ore had grabbed most of the seats and vantage space by out-nudging and outshouting anti-mining activists. They would not even allow Justice Shah and his team to moderate the public hearing by refusing to pass the only wireless mike available to the commission’s members despite fervent appeals.

The mob of truck owners heckled Justice Shah and his team repeatedly, demanding that provisions be made for converting illegal mining in Goa into a legal affair, even as Shah’s brief is to pin down illegal mining in the country.

Dipak Parab, a truck owner said: “We do not know what is legal or illegal mining. All I know is that if illegal mining stops, we will lose our daily bread of ferrying iron ore. Please find a way to convert illegal mining into legal mining.”

Shah’s repeated appeals to the assembled crowd, saying his commission was only appointed to probe illegal mining scenario in Goa, along with other iron ore-producing states like Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Orissa and Chhattisgarh, were drowned in the cacophony of the unruly mob.