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No checks or balances…Our resources plundered!

Nothing surprised and shocked me more during our investigations into the illegal mining in Goa than the fact that the Secretary of Mines Government of Goa and Director of Mines, Directorate of Mines & Geology in a meeting on May 5th 2010 told the Estimates Committee that the government has no mechanism of knowing how much iron-ore has been mined from a particular site and that the only way they get their records is through what the mining companies file in their IT Returns.

In effect it means that nobody knows the actual extent of the illegal mining done in Goa; neither can the PAC Report which is based on government documents or for that matter the Shah Commission report which will come out on October 25, 2011 which is also based on government records tell us the exact extent of damage.

The government records themselves as admitted by the government officials is questionable simply because if the government is going to depend on the mining companies declaring their data as per IT Returns, the notion is ridiculous, since many companies including the big mining companies evade paying taxes, so many would not declare the exact iron-ore quantity extracted. To make a point – MCA has taken serious cognizance of the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO) report on Sesa Goa which it claimed tried to evade taxes through false data submission.

Let us even consider those mining companies and contractors that function as fly-by-night operators who come extract and export, this data is not available to anyone. Would you expect them to file their IT Returns, especially when these companies do not exist on government record that is next to impossible?

Justice MB Shah’s apprehension some weeks ago, indicated the same conundrum, it is going to be difficult to quantify the extent of the loss caused to the government exchequer by way of royalty or for that matter which mining company, contractor or minister has benefitted from this illegal mining; because frankly speaking most of the black-money gotten out of this illegal mining is safely saved in foreign accounts; even Shah’s probing of the banks accounts in India will turn-out to be futile.

I reiterate my statement that on account of this mess of illegal mining the Chief Minister Digambar Kamat must be sacked. And along with him, the Director of Mines Arvind Loliyekar and Secretary of Mines Raajiv Yaduvanshi must be removed with immediate effect.

Let’s not even look into the aspect of them benefitting from the illegal mining financially, that is serious matter to be investigated but not a part of this point I am trying to make; the mere fact that the ‘Mining Sector’ is considered to be the most economic sector of Goa economy, as many would like us to believe, then shouldn’t this ministry or department have been the most efficient.

Goa or its people did not gain from mining – legal or illegal mining. Centre earned more from it than the State government. Of course mining companies, contractors and selfish politicians earned millions from the state’s natural resources which was extracted illegally.

You have the truck owners and barge owners now coming out in support of mining. Keeping aside the fact that most barges are owned by politicians and most trucks have been funded by politicians, and not many Goans working in the mines or trucks but outsiders; the truth is that they will support mining because they believed in the fake scheme of the future as told to them either by the mining companies or politicians.

Lies today are believed more than the truth. So in effect if there has to be any correction to the current situation, like an interim ban on mining till the Centre and State puts a proper mechanism in place, these people would have to weather the tide, as do many, in times of economic crisis.

But it is easier said than done, you might argue. If today we invest in a stock market and it crashes, does the government or the stock market come out in support of those who lost their money in the gamble. Such is the case of the truck owners and barge owners; the lies told on mining had to at some point of time see the truth, the illegalities would come out and their world built on lies would come crumbling down. And I do not blame the workers was have been surviving on account of mining for taking to streets but it is not the people who are trying to correct the wrong that they need to target by saying do not ban mining; but the politicians and mining companies that presented this speculative future in the first place.

I am firm on my opinion that mining needs to be banned in the interim period – for a minimum of six months to a year – in the mean time both the state and Centre needs to ascertain the extent and damage caused due to illegal mining and create of proper guideline and road map for this sector. Also they need to penalize the mining companies and contractors through which they can raise money to create a sustenance fund for those affected by the interim ban on mining – the workers especially and regulate the entire mining business in such a way that people, companies and government benefit; but most of all we need to create and work on a model that is sustainable and economical.

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