Tribals` agitation in Goa turns violent, traffic blocked
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Last Updated: Wednesday, May 25, 2011, 16:32
  
Panaji: The agitation by tribals in Goa for various demands, including implementation of reservations in government jobs turned violent on Wednesday, as mobs damaged police vehicles, railway signals and tracks at Balli village, 60 km south of Panaji.

Around 10,000 people, under the banner of United Tribals Associations Alliance (UTAA), have blocked the National Highway and railway tracks since morning, seeking that Chief Minister Digambar Kamat fulfill their demands immediately.

The protest, peaceful initially, became violent when authorities ordered people to clear the road.

Two buses carrying policemen from India Reserve Battalion (IRB) were stoned at Balli, police said. A police jeep heading for the site too was damaged.

Protesters smashed up railway traffic signal near Balli Railway station and also damaged the tracks, they said.

The tribals have laid siege at three important locations Balli, Karmal Ghat and Khola -- paralysing traffic on National Highway 17 which connects Goa to Karnataka.

Konkan Railway Corporation Limited (KRCL) officials said that the train traffic too has been affected severely.

Rajadhani Express, on its way to Delhi, was stopped at Madgao railway station while several trains were stopped at other points.

"State government is playing with the sentiments of the tribals. We protested twice in past and both the times government dished out assurances which were never fulfilled.

Now we will clear the roads only when government fulfils its promises," UTAA president, Prakash Velip, said.

Some 12 per cent population of Goa falls in the category Scheduled Tribes (ST), based mostly in the rural talukas of Quepem, Canacona, Sanguem and Sattari.

UTAA had earlier staged protests on December 2009 and January 2010, but relented after Kamat conceded some demands. The list of 12 demands, presented then, included formation of ST Commission, implementation of Tribal Forest Act and reservations in the government jobs.

"He (Chief Minister) has formed institutions like tribal welfare department and ST Commission. But they are without any sanctioned staff," said Ramesh Tawadkar, BJP legislator and a tribal leader.

Agitators have also demanded that state budget should provide for as much as Rs 600 crore for tribal welfare, considering proportion of the tribals in the population.

"Government is spending just Rs 229 crore on them," Tawadkar said.

UTAA leaders stated that they had set the deadline of May 15 for the state government to act on the previous assurances. But as the Chief Minister failed, they had to take to the streets.

While thousands of tribal youths have gathered on the National Highway, the leaders said more youths would join in later in the day.

PTI


First Published: Wednesday, May 25, 2011, 16:32


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