GoaChronicle.com has not been against mining or its economic benefits to the state. But so far, we have not been able to see the people of Goa benefiting out of mining, and when I mean people, I mean the state as a whole. The balance-sheets of the mining companies, transport companies, barge owners, raising contractors etc have grown phenomenally, that number however is small compared to the overall benefit to the state. The politicians though have made a killing both at the Centre and state. In fact in the coming days we will expose how a now defeated former minister had amassed so much wealth that he has picked up stake in a mining company based out of Singapore for approximately Rs 1500 crore. We are waiting for the confirmation documents from Singapore.
The seed of massive illegal mining was actually sown during 2004, when A Raja was the Union Minister for Environment and Forests (MoEF) and he was the coveted minister till 2009, he was responsible for giving environmental clearance to 169 mines in Goa, to extract 60 million tons of iron-ore annually. He cleared 120 mines in 2007 alone. In one year alone, between 2007-2008, the MoEF had granted clearances to 17 mines within the Netravali Wildlife Sanctuary in Sanguem Taluka. This was done even though the Supreme Court order of 2000 said that no mine would be allowed to operate inside wildlife sanctuaries. But interestingly, A Raja does not even feature in the illegal mining scam in Goa. GoaChronicle.com had also exposed this nexus last year.
I cannot understand the shock reaction about the Shah Commission report indicating the former Chief Minister of the Congress government Digambar Kamat role in the illegal mining scam. As the Minister for Mines for twelve years, either by omission or commission, he is responsible for the mess in the mining sector and should be punished for turning a blind-eye when rampant destruction of pristine land was taking place in the garb of mining, which was illegal. But if it is Kamat who is being indicted, then so should the current Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, who ever since he sat of the CMs chair has been making contradictory statements on the illegal mining issue. From shouting over the roof tops about illegal mining when in Opposition, to saying there is no illegal mining in Goa but irregular mining. Even in the PAC report, he failed to name his former BJP colleague Kamat. And I am certain that even Parrikar’ rants now to file an FIR against Kamat will be nothing but hot air. The Shah Commission report also exposed Parrikar’s double speak, because according to the panel, all 90 mines operating in Goa are having some illegalities or the other, but Parrikar has made statements saying sometimes that there are no illegal mines or that there are only 30 mines with illegalities. And let’s not also forget that when the illegal mining nonsense had started, Parrikar was in power in 2004. So he cannot be absolved for also turning a blind-eye.
And today his draft mining policy, which in my opinion has been tailor-made to benefit some big mining companies, has only strong emphasis on ‘mining dumps’, which in turn is made to benefit the mining companies, it rarely emphasis on the main benefits to the people of Goa.
But more than the state politicians who have sold our resources for a song to the highest bidder, it is those at the Centre that need to be hauled and dragged to court and subsequently put in jail, because it was the core responsibility of the Indian Bureau of Mines and the MoEF to save our resources and environment, not plunder it. Instead, the made hay will the sun shined on account of the demand on low grade iron-ore from China. Today, the Centre gained more from illegal mining than anyone, because whether it came to the government exchequer or not, it certainly went into the politicians personal fund or party fund. That’s one of the reasons why Kamat had survived as the CM.
The Centre has now cleverly put the onus of taking action on the mining companies, ministers and officials on the state government, obviously, for its own political games. The question now is whether Parrikar can walk the talk or will continue to do lip service without any action, or allow this matter to be swept under the carpet. Like his subtle reduction of the stamp duty to be paid on the mining leases, which will result in reduction of Rs 1000 crore in government revenue from mining companies.