Tribals` agitation in Goa turns violent, traffic blocked

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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