Goa's mining belt takes austerity path during Ganesh festival

The markets in Goa's mining belt have lost the festive spirit as the 10-day long Ganesh festival, the biggest religious event in Konkan, is all to commence from Friday.

PTI| Last Updated: Aug 28, 2014, 10:08 AM IST

Panaji: The markets in Goa's mining belt have lost the festive spirit as the 10-day long Ganesh festival, the biggest religious event in Konkan, is all to commence from Friday.

With marginal footfalls and less spending power, businessmen of Curchorem, Bicholim, Sanguem and other markets in the mining area are buying lesser stock, compared to earlier years.

The Goa government has announced that mining would resume in next two months, but reeling under loans and no regular income since last two years, the people in the iron ore belt are forced to observe austerity during the festival time.

"We are witnessing unprecedented slump in the business. This is the time of the year when we could not pull down our shutters for lunch break. But, now the case is much different. There is hardly 50 percent of the expected business. People have no money to spend on luxuries, may it be festival or not," said Arun Kakodkar of Apsara cloth shop at Sanvordem market, about 80 kms away from Panaji.

The shopkeeper, who has been in the market for last 48 years, terms the current phase as "grave".

"This is grave situation. The savings have drained out. People are left with empty hands," he said.

The concern expressed by Kakodkar is echoed in all the markets that used to thrive on money from the mining industry.

Traders say the downfall in business is almost by 50 to 80 percent.

"I get more customers to sell their gold than to buy new one. Gold is extreme luxury. Two square meals is their concern and not gold," said Ramakant Raikar, a jewellery shop owner from Sanvordem village, which is a hub of iron ore mining industry.While people dependent on mining industry are facing the
direct impact, those relying on allied activities to eke out a livelihood are also going through similar challenges.

Few kilometres away from Sanvordem market, at Codli-Tisk, Pandurang Teli narrated how slowly and steadily the business was drying up in this belt.

"Over 400 customers flocked every day for tea and snacks at my place. Huge number of workmen who were employed by mining companies in the area used to visit my stall," said Teli, whose restaurant in a makeshift hut along the road was abuzz with activity when the mining was going on.

"Things have changed completely now. Hardly 5-10 customers walk in. And even if someone comes, his spending power is less. This does not look like Ganesh Chaturthi festival season," he said.

The impact of the mining closure is also percolating on the organisation of public Ganeshotsav mandals.

"There is no donation coming from anyone. We have to struggle to even set up pandal this time," said Sarvesh Gaonkar, a youth associated with Sanvordem Sarvajanik Ganeshotsav mandal, one of the biggest organisers of the Ganesh festival in the area.

"The festival will begin when mining will start. Even if it starts, it won't fetch business like earlier," he expressed.