‘Goa on Sale’ Again as Government Lobbies Support the Lift of Mining Ban
All mining in Goa has been stopped from March 16, 2018, as the Supreme Court quashed 88 mining leases in Goa. It has sparked violent protest in Panajim by the workers supported by the mining lobby, which has caused traffic jams and detention of several people. Meanwhile, activists, farmers, environmentalists and common people have been opposing mining for years, because of the grave impact it has on the ecology of Goa.
It was also followed by Nitin Gadkari’s statement, “If you keep on opposing everything, then how would we be able to support the port? If the port does not get any consignment, it will have to be closed. If there are losses, it is difficult to give payment without any work,” Gadkari said in an indirect reference to the protests against the alleged pollution caused by the port’s handling of coal. It also should be looked in the light of the State and Central BJP government supporting the mining lobby.
The 2014 Judgment of Supreme Court said that ”All mining in Goa is illegal.” Speaking to Rahul Basu of Goa Foundation, he clarified how the Government of Goa under Manohar Parrikar has dealt with the situation.
"When the court said it was illegal, the Goa government had to recover money amounting to 65,000 crores from the mining companies, who are essentially their friends. Instead of doing that, the Goa government went back and renewed the leases that were backdated to 2007, to avoid collecting the money. Now, again in the recent judgment the court has slashed the renewal and said it was illegal, and even the renewal was illegal".
The Goa government is at fault here. It clearly violated the Supreme Court orders. Also, legally all the mining in Goa since 2007 is illegal. This is not only a severe violation of the Supreme Court orders but also a fraud committed by an elected government. Manohar Parrikar, the chief minister of Goa never replied to several clarification seeking letters from different organisations and activists in Goa, about the violation of Supreme Court orders. This shows the clear nexus between the government of Goa and the miners.
There are talks of fresh auctioning of the mines again. Nitin Gadkari has even said that he would seek the opinion of the attorney general on the mining ban. Ramesh Gauns, an activist who has been taking the mining lobby head on said, "the so-called auctioning is another scam. The same 10 companies will bid and end of it Sesa Goa, the subsidiary of Vedanta, will end up running most of the mines, through sub lending, long-term leasing and other loopholes, similar to what has happened in the past. The Goa government is in its pocket".
The narrative the mining industry, lobby and even the government is trying to set is about the ‘losses’ and employment of Goa and its people. If we look from the perspective of protecting the environment and also preserving the ecology of Goa in the long term, industrial and large-scale mining by big corporations has to stop. Also if the government recovers the 65,000 crores from the mining industry, and takes up projects of desilting the rivers, restoration of the devastated mining areas, refilling of the dumps with the excavated land which piled up across more than 10 villages which is a hazard for them, a decent amount of employment can be created right away.
Going further, instead of auctioning the mining, which is again another way to give away Goa’s natural resources to the same people who have been exploiting it to the level of destruction a PSU which can take up projects of mining in a way that the destruction. Also, Anil Agarwal, the CEO of Vedanta, wants the cap on mining to go away and said its businesses are constrained because of the cap in Goa and Karnataka.
Ignoring the devastation of Goa’s environment, and conveniently forgetting about the Rs '65,000 crores’ that the Goa government has to recover from the mining companies, Nitin Gadkari
took a dig at civil society and said, “There are some people who are against everything. We need to think what will happen if the economy comes to a standstill…”
The Goa govt has completely ignored the sustainable developmental plan by the Goa foundation -- a plan that will take care of the environment, as well as generates employment and saves Goa’s natural resources for future generations.
This shows how deep the nexus between politicians and mining industry is, when the government itself is lobbying for the miners. Maybe that is also the reason why the Goa Government doesn’t want to recover the fine of Rs 65,000 cores from the mining industry, as it will strain their relationship.
With the government lobbying for the mining lobby, pushing their case, which will end up destroying Goa, on one hand, and activists, farmers, common people who are also divided into pro-mining and anti-mining narratives, Goa is one again at a crossroad, and this time a dangerous one.
Disclaimer: The views expressed here are the author's personal views, and do not necessarily represent the views of Newsclick.
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