On August 14, 2011, 32-year-old Gulu Parwar died and two others were seriously injured in an explosion, while they were in the process of dismantling a tank inside a scrapyard in Margao. This explosion, and death and injuries got the authorities moving. They issued stern messages warning actions against illegal scrapyards and many tough words were spoken.
However, once the headlines faded the silence followed and no action came forth from the authorities, further encouraging the scrapyard owners in Salcete to expand their illegal businesses.
As the government of Goa failed to put in place a policy for scrapyards over the last two years – citing various reasons, including the paucity of land, the owners meanwhile continued their illegal activities in these scrapyards, much to the disdain of the citizens.
A source stated that if any authority initiates any action or when the authorities try to close or clamp down a scrapyard, the owners of the said scrapyard, as a protective tool, produces a letter saying that the state government is in the process of making arrangements to rehabilitate them in the industrial estates.
The information gathered by ‘The Navhind Times’ reveals that the last action taken against a scrapyard in Salcete by the authorities — the Deputy Collector and the District Collector, was in 2009. The then Save Goa MLA, Mr Alex Reginaldo Lourenco, had complained to the then district collector, Mr G P Naik, about the scrapyard located in St Jose de Areal, which had encroached on agricultural land and polluted paddy fields and that criminal activities were taking place there. The complaint led to the demolition of the said scrapyard.
According to the reliable information, there are over 500 scrapyards operating in the small state of Goa and most of these are illegal. In Salcete, there are nearly 150 scrapyards and around 18 of these operate within the city limits with the blessings and patronage of the politicians.
Sources mention that many of these scrapyards use cooking gas cylinders to dismantle the corroded vehicles and other scrap items. These scrapyards have also been a place where stolen vehicles are either crushed or dismantled so that the spares could be sold. It is also learnt that some scrapyard owners pay regular hafta to the concerned agencies to continue their business undisturbed.
Mr S Raiturkar, a senior citizen, said, “I had once suggested to the police to check the scrapyards to locate my stolen scooter. They did not agree to my suggestion nor was I allowed to check. The protection at the scrapyard was so strong with aluminum sheets that one cannot even peep in.”
He alleged that these scrapyards also provide shelter to criminals and therefore such illegalities should be stopped. Mr Jose Menino Colaco of Fatorda claimed that the scrapyard owners keep hazadous waste, plastic and all sundry, which invite problems during the monsoons. “There is no price control on the scrapyards. Old vehicle parts are sold at high prices,” he pointed and demanded the concern authorities to act.
Around 40 residents of Fatorda protested against these illegal scrapyards on April 30, 2011. They had demanded action against them; however, the government failed to act. The scrapyards seem to create more nuisance and the revenue they provide is negligible.
Mr N D Agrawal, the District Collector, assures, “I am going to conduct a meeting of all these scrapyard owners. But, before that, a team of four or five officers will be deputed to check illegalities.”
He adds that a report will be asked from other agencies which issue NOCs.
The court had directed the state government to relocate the scrapyards away from the cities and villages, as they were reportedly causing nuisance.
When contacted, the official of the directorate of industry, Mr M A Mhujawer, said that these scrapyards are to be shifted shortly to a government identified land. The chairperson of Margao Municipal Council (MMC) Mr Arthur D’Silva assured to monitor the city scrapyards.
A city scrapyard owner said on condition of anonymity, that they pay large amounts of money “under the table to various government agencies, so that they can continue operating their business undisturbed.” If we are legalised, a lot of our money will be saved,” he quipped. [NT]