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Nearly 10,000 tribals from Goa’s southern regions Wednesday laid siege to the National Highway 17 for nearly three hours and blocked a New Delhi bound Rajdhani Express passenger train, demanding that the state government honour constitutional rights conferred on tribals.

The road and rail blockade was carried out at three places in South Goa district Wednesday morning, throwing interstate traffic into chaos, with long queues of vehicles on either side of the blockade points organised by the United Tribal Associations Alliance (UTAA).

The state government is playing with the sentiments of the tribals. Who do they think we are? All the Goa government does is give us empty assurances,” UTAA president Prakash Velip told reporters here.

UTAA has demanded that some of their demands prompt implementation of the Tribal Forest Act. The tribals representatives have also demanded effective implementation of the reservation for tribals in government jobs and setting up of a scheduled tribes (ST) commission in the state.

Tribals account for 12 percent of Goa’s population of about 14 lakh.

UTAA claims that the government had failed to implement most demands. Even where it has conceded, Velip claims, implementations of the demands have been short of honest.

“The government has cheated us. Chief Minister Digambar Kamat has formed institutions like the tribal welfare department and ST commission, but they are toothless because there is no sanctioned staff to work there. All these are hollow promises,” tribal rights leader and Bharatiya Janata party (BJP) legislator from the Poinguinim constituency Ramesh Tawadkar told.

“We had given the Goa government the deadline of mid May to act. But since they have failed to live up their own promises, we carried out this agitation,” Tawadkar said.

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