Goa barge owners’ association sheds crocodile tears for ‘common man’

Stating that fall in iron ore exports will "spell the death knell of the barge industry" in Goa, the Goa barge owners' association (GBOA) has pleaded with the Supreme Court's central empowered committee (CEC) that regulated legal mining should be started immediately as it is in the interest of not only the barge owners but also of the common man.

In a memorandum to the CEC on Sunday, the GBOA said that over 6,000 crew members are directly employed on barges and another 30,000 are engaged in ancillaries like workshops, port, jetties, truck services, offices etc. "Stoppage of work would lead to large-scale retrenchment of workmen and affect the social fabric of Goa," GBOA president Atul Jadhav said, adding that barge owners are mere transporters of the ore and that they are completely unaware whether the ore is legal or illegal.

The GBOA stated that the financial exposure of barge owners to banks and financial institutions is around 350 crore, of which 150 crore is owed to local cooperative banks. "Barge owners are left in the lurch and have no resources to repay the banks. The present stoppage would lead to all bank loans becoming NPA. In almost all cases, barge owners have kept their homes as collateral. Banks have started proceeding against barge owners with notices under the SARFRASI (The Securitisation and Reconstruction of Financial Assets and Enforcement of Security Interest) Act," GBOA said.

The GBOA also informed the CEC that it has appealed on behalf of its members to the Reserve Bank of India and the lead bank (SBI) and has made a presentation before the state-level banking committee recently. "In the absence of reliefs, barge owners are doomed," the memorandum stated.

The GBOA also said that barges transport the entire cargo for exports to the ports of Panaji and Mormugao and that there is no other cargo for transportation.

"Goa handled 80% of the inland water transport trade of the country. Facilities for loading/unloading cargo are not available elsewhere. Thus, about 370 barges, valued at approximately 1,200 crore, would be rendered idle. A barge has value as a logistic tool, but without business it is only with its scrap," the GBOA stated.

Jadhav said the CEC was very cooperative with the barge owners. He said the CEC wanted additional information regarding the barge operations in Goa and the GBOA would furnish all such information. [TOI]