The people of Goa must be grateful to your tenacity and persistence in exposing the gross illegalities and irregularities in the mining sector over the last couple years while you were the Leader of Opposition. Up until then the concept or term of illegal mining was not known to most of the Goans; even though the illegality must have existed in small measures.
Today, however, illegal mining and the vastness of the scam has brought a stop to the little legal mining in the state; and the people have gotten well-versed with what is legal and illegal mining.
Your stand post the release of the Justice MB Shah Commission Report on Goa, of shutting down mining in the state was commendable. The stand you took on the transportation of already mined ore lying at the mining sites or jetties was an action I did not agree with, at all. It simply meant exporting the iron-ore dumps in the guise of already mined-ore. You and I both know that more than 50 per cent of the exports of iron-ore over the last couple of years had been low-grade ore from the mining dumps.
Around this time you also strangely stated in Assembly that there was no illegal mining in Goa. That statement of course caught everyone by shock. Simply because you made the term ‘illegal mining’ a household name.
I certainly will not deny, that it took courage to stop the mining operations in the state (some actually alleged that you did it to extort money out of the mining companies, but I never believed those allegations). Of course neither did you nor the mining companies could predict the stand of the Congress at the Centre; they played their card through its Ministry of Environment and Forest and suspended all environmental clearances. That is when the entire issue turned into a political wrestling match.
Goa Foundation stand to take this issue to the Supreme Court seemed the only right thing to do at a time when the illegal mining issue would only be about political upmanship and not about penalising the culprits for the vast illegal mining and loss to the state exchequer.
Your condescending statements against NGOs such as Goa Foundation post their petition was surprising, very surprising, I might add. These NGOs helped keep alive and take forward the very illegal mining issue you cried yourself hoarse about in the Assembly, when you were in the Opposition. So what have they done wrong now.
You have decided, to use the tax-payers money to pay those mining-dependent people was have been affected by the shutdown of mining operations; you can do this because you are the Chief Minister and primarily because the Opposition too would like to pamper the mining-dependent people, since most of them have mining interests. However it is we the tax-payers of Goa who will be paying for their livelihoods, instead of the mining companies.
I can understand the political compulsions that you might have to not file the FIRs against two former Chief Ministers of the Congress namely Digambar Kamat and Pratapsingh Rane or the other Congress leaders like Subash Shirodkar or Joaquim Alemao. But I am wondering, why have you not aggressively gone after recovering the loss that you estimated in the PAC report from the mining companies. You have estimated the figure to be Rs 3500 crore; Shah Commission Report said Rs 35000 crore. You could have started the recovery from your PAC report estimates.
Many people are casting aspersions on your integrity on this account, saying that you are hand-in-glove with mining lobby. I would not like to believe this, simply because, if you were with the mining lobby, you would not have patiently taught, listened, answered and shared information with an investigative reporting team like GoaChronicle.com. You were the inspiration and encouragement to my team to expose the large-scale illegal mining in the state. In fact, we went into such in-depth investigations because we believed that you will bring the guilty to book whether in Opposition or Ruling. Some of our investigative data even formed a part of even Shah Commission report. So what has changed now in your passion to stopping illegal mining and recovering the money.
I would still like to believe that you want to bring the illegal mining companies and politicians to book, but, strong political compulsions are stopping you from doing so; and I understand that. Therefore in all humility, the challenge you put out to the NGOs not once but twice now, -that if they can do any better than you to recover the loot – they should look after the mining department. I would like to take-over the responsibility to recover the mining loot from the mining companies. However, I would like to make it clear that I would need the team of my choice (including legal representatives) and I would need complete access to the documentation and files. But most importantly, I would need you and your government’s unconditional support.
I have taken the first step to accept the challenge. Actually, I don’t see it as a challenge but a mission to recover the money in the interest of the people of this state, those who are mining-dependent and those who are not. Now the ball is in your court. Would you let civil society assist your government in what we feel strongly about? Or would you succumb to your political compulsions to allow the illegal mining companies to go scot free.