Panaji, Oct 13: Political parties across the spectrum have closed ranks behind Goa’s mining companies, virtually all of whom have been indicted in the Justice M.B. Shah Commission report in a Rs.35,000-crore illegal mining scam.
The Congress wants the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Goa government to engage the best lawyer in the country to challenge the Supreme Court-imposed ban on mining in the state.
“The ban is unfortunate. The Goa government must engage the best lawyer in the country to fight our case and ensure that mining resumes in the state,” Francisco Sardinha of Congress told IANS Friday.
The Justice M.B. Shah probe into illegal mining in Goa unearthed the Rs.35,000-crore scam last month and exposed a politician-bureaucrat-mining company nexus in the state.
Nearly all mining companies, including the Vedanta Resources-owned Sesa Goa and those owned by local families like the Timblos, Chowgules and Salgaocars, were pulled by Justice Shah for several counts of mining and environment-related violations.
The pitch got more serious only after a petition filed by a green activist assisted by noted lawyer Prashant Bhushan, resulted in the apex court banning mining in Goa for a month, until a centrally-empowered committee reports the ground reality of illegal mining to it.
However, Goa’s political parties are leaving no stone unturned to restart mining operations in the state.
The Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP), a member of the ruling alliance, wants Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar to allow mining activities to ensure that people dependent on the industry are not affected.
“Is it the fault of the workers and the truck owners…why are they being made to suffer because of the illegal mining controversy. We request Parrikar to restart all mining activities, or else people will go hungry,” said Deepak Dhavalikar, a cabinet minister in the Goa government.
The MGP recently inducted leading mine owner Dinar Tarcar, accused of illegal mining, into the party’s central committee.
“Those who have filed the petition in court should withdraw it and sit with the government to file an amicable solution,” Dhavalikar said.
Goa Congress president Subhash Shirodkar has also asked the BJP to consult with the party’s central leadership over a way out of the mining ban.
“We will speak to our party high command and work out a way to restart mining in Goa. The BJP should do the same. Without mining Goa’s economy would be badly affected,” Shirodkar said.
The Nationalist Congress Party in Goa also seconded for restarting mining in the state. According to former civil supplies minister and senior NCP leader Jose Phillip D’Souza, the party will petition Sharad Pawar on restarting mining activities in Goa.
“Pawar has been apprised of the situation, he will take up the matter with the UPA government,” D’Souza said.
The BJP, which campaigned against illegal mining in Goa when it was in opposition, is claiming that the Justice M.B. Shah Commission report is riddled with inconsistencies.
“It is basically a Google imagery report. The Shah report has not verified things on the ground. It is very inaccurate,” BJP MLA Pramod Sawant said.
Ramesh Gauns, a leading anti-mining activist, who has been campaigning against indiscriminate and illegal mining in Goa for several decades now, claimed that both the BJP and the Congress were hand-in-glove with Goa’s powerful mining lobby.
“Instead of acting on the findings of the Shah commission, the Parrikar government appointed another committee headed by a retired judge to ‘verify’ Shah’s findings. How ridiculous can this get,” Gauns said.
Incidentally, the political support for Goa’s mining industry also comes in the wake of reports that millions were paid by several mining companies to political parties.
Goa’s hundred odd operational mines extracted over 51 million tons of ore a few years back, before the mining scam hit the ceiling.