AS ANTI-COAL protesters took their agitation to the Secretariat on Wednesday, Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant announced that coal handling at the Mormugao Port Trust will be reduced by 50 per cent.
“We cannot stop it all of a sudden. There are families who are dependent on it, around 1,500 families is one estimate. Of this, 4,500 are pensioners who depend on revenue generated by Mormugao Port Trust,” Sawant said. “Coal transport will reduce eventually. The port is looking for an alternate cargo and making efforts to ensure it reduces its dependence on coal handling. All these issues I assure you will be discussed with the Centre.”
The BJP has earlier announced that the party will be taking the agitation issue to Union Minister of State for Ports Mansukh Mandviya, who is expected to visit Goa soon. In the past few months, the agitation against coal transport has gained momentum with villagers protesting against double tracking and road expansion, which they fear is towards expansion of coal transport.
Earlier this week, the Goa government also sent notices to companies importing coal after they failed to pay the transport cess, which runs into crores.
While till date the agitation has been on the streets and at the railway tracks, the anti-coal protesters on Wednesday reached the seat of executive at the Secretariat.
Early morning, ahead of a Cabinet meeting chaired by Sawant, villagers under the Goyant Kolso Naka banner handed a letter to the Chief Minister’s Office. “We have time and again placed before you and the government authorities numerous evidences proving without an iota of doubt that coal transportation through Goa must be stopped along with related infrastructure projects; that Goa’s rivers and coasts must be maintained under the control and autonomy of the local communities; and that solar power, and not fossil fuels, is the way forward. However, none of these arguments or facts have been refuted or challenged by you, or any of the officials, though the subject has been a raging controversy over the past 8 months,” the letter said.
The activists and villagers who had gathered also gave a memorandum of appeals, asking for scrapping of projects.
Addressing a press meet later, Sawant said, “The Goa Tamnar power project is a project we need as we need power. On the other two projects, double tracking of South Western Railway line and widening of NH-4A, talks are on and the Goa Cabinet has empowered me to discuss the issues with Central ministers,” he said.