Current Affairs

Should Tax-Payers be penalized for fall-out of Illegal Mining: GC Questions

Nothing can be more evident than the stand taken by both the BJP-led government and the Congress-led opposition on the nexus that exists between the mining lobby and governments; than the demand for a Centre-based relief package for the mining-dependent people who have been affected due to suspension of mining operations in the state.

The Shah Commission report exposed the truth of the large-scale loot of the state’s natural resources and destruction of the environment. The total estimated loss to the government exchequer is pegged at Rs 34,935 crore as noted by the panel investigating the illegal mining scam in Goa. Illegality in mining continued since 2000 (as noted in the SC report) because successive governments deliberately failed to keep in check, the growing menace of illegal mining.

With the growth in demand for low-grade iron ore from the state, supply too increased tremendously. Riding the growth wave, many mining-related services started to increase their footprint, whether it was barge-owners or truck owners etc. Everyone concerned reaped a bountiful harvest and also planned for a much better business in the days ahead not taking into consideration that someday the illegal mining would suddenly come to a halt.

Today, the mining operations in the state has stopped and with it all mining-related services have come to a stand-still. Both the government and opposition estimate that the total mining people affected by the suspension of mining operations is around 200,000 people. Yet the government or opposition cannot bring forth any authenticated data to prove the exact number of people in mining-related business. It once more would like to create a situation of speculative dependency on mining so as to create a situation of unrest and chaos so that mining operations can be started once again or some relief package from the Centre can be released to pay to the mining-dependent people so as to cease the created unrest.

GoaChronicle.com has been in the forefront of exposing illegal mining in the state. And we have the right to question both the ruling government and opposition the following pertinent questions;

1. When is the government going to start the process of recovering the Rs 34,935 crore mentioned in the Shah Commission report for the mining companies involved in illegal mining? So far the only FIR has been registered against Congress spokesperson Jitendra Deshprabhu for alleged illegal mining causing loss of Rs 50 crore to the government exchequer. While Deshprabhu features in Parrikar’s PAC report on mining, he is not at all mentioned in the Shah Commission report. (This is probably the only yet most critical aspect of illegal mining which the Shah Commission has missed out on. Cases of illegal mining on land that has not been officially earmarked for mining operations but mining and extraction of iron-ore has taken place and according to sources in the Directorate of Mines and Geology there are several cases).
It is questionable that mining companies such as Chowghule, Dempo, Timblos, Salgaonkar and others have not even been sent a notice of recovery of the illegality as identified by the Shah Commission report.

2. Government and opposition appears to be keen to provide relief to the mining-dependent people, even though knowingly or unknowingly were party to the illegal mining scam in Goa and whose business grew because of illegal mining. Would it also provide relief also to the mining-affected people who have suffered due to the rampant illegal mining and its effects on health, environment and water-resources. These people had to endure these pains knowingly because the government turned a blind-eye to the entire illegal mining issue?

3. The first step to regulating mining in the state; will be to recover the loss caused to the government exchequer because of illegal mining. Following which legal mining can commence. Yet the government prefers to restart mining, export the iron-ore lying in dumps but fails to start any proceedings to recover the loss from the mining companies?

4. Trade Unions have been mobilised to demand re-starting of mining operations in the state. Interestingly, when villagers at Caurem, Rivona and other places were terrorised and even victimised by the mining companies and mining-dependent people; not a single political party opted to bring justice to the mining-affected people. GoaChronicle.com along with activists like Nilesh Gaonkar, Judith Almeida and Abhijit Prabhudessai raised the issue on Caurem with the Nationa Human Rights Commission and its found that in the Caurem violence where the police took side of the mining lobby there was a human rights violation and has asked the state government to compensate the victims.

5. The government prefers to remain quite on former Chief Minister and Minister for Mines for twelve years Digambar Kamat who has been in the forefront of the illegal mining scam, by virtue of holding the mining portfolio in successive governments. If at all illegal mining prospered it is because the Chief Ministers at the helm and Minister for Mines allowed it to take place and allegedly benefitted from the illegal mining.

The demand of the government and opposition for a relief package is yet another attempt for the mining lobby who are supported by corrupt politicians in the state and Centre in Goa to go scot free without the burden of paying for their crimes of illegal mining or creation of a mining market in Goa that was illegal, since Shah Commission report clearly states all mining in Goa is illegal.

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