With chances of revival of mining industry in Goa in near future appearing remote, the downturn has begun showing its impact on those who are dependent on the sector for survival. People living in the iron ore rich mining belt are bearing the brunt of closure of the mining leases although the state government has assured financial packages.
Areas like Velguem and Pale in Bicholim taluka, Usgao in Ponda taluka and several villages in Saguem and Quepem talukas fear that they are going to hit by the worst-ever recession since 1950 when mining began in Goa. Gajendra Usgaonkar, who owns two trucks and looks after a family of eight, is worried about their survival. ”I will have to kill myself if mining does not resume as I am sitting over a loan liability of Rs 20 lakh to a local bank,” he said. Usgaonkar had left his job with a mining firm and bought trucks, which he thought a profitable venture. But mining activity came to a trickle after instances of illegality came to the fore. ”My both the trucks are new. I am not able to even pay my monthly installments to the bank,” Usgaonkar said.
Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar has appealed to banks to restructure loans of truck owners. But that seems not enough to bail out those affected by the downturn. ”If mining continues to be halted for few more months, the truck owners have to look out for alternate source of livelihood,” said All Goa Truck Owners Association president Nilkant Gawas. Gawas claimed that there are 26,000 trucks operating in the state.
“The problem does not stop here. Other allied industries banking on truck operators are also finding themselves in problem. During the monsoons, the trucks are kept for repairs and maintenance at various workshops, but the truckers have refused to move them out of the workshop as they don’t have money,” he said.
Sarvesh Velguenkar, who runs a workshop at Bayem village in Velguem, has more than 10 such trucks. ”Total bill will be around Rs 50,000 for each truck. I have already invested in raw material like spare parts, paint and labourers. If truck owners don’t pay up I am in deep trouble,” he said. Mining trucks cannot be put to use to any purpose other than ferrying ore. The beleaguered mining industry was expecting to start the season by September-end or at least by mid-October. But the recent Supreme Court order continuing the halt in the transportation and extraction of ore has compounded its woes.