Issue likely to be raised in Legislative Assembly session starting today

After months of inaction against politicians allegedly involved in illegal mining, the Goa State Vigilance Department early this week, based on a complaint filed in 2011 by activist and now Congress spokesperson Sudeep Tamhankar, filed an FIR naming two former Chief Ministers, a former minister, an NCP leader and senior officials of forest and mines departments. Former Chief Ministers Digambar Kamat and Pratapsinh Rane from the Congress, senior NCP leader Prafulla Hede, former Mines minister Somnath Zuarkar, former Goa Mines directors Arvind Loliyekar and J. B. Bhingi, former Chief Conservator of Forests Shashi Kumar, and three officials of the Goa Mines Department who allegedly allowed Mr. Hede to mine illegally, were named in the FIR.

Illegal mining activities took place at the Godoavadae Javaichem Upor and Nagonim Buroda concessions, located close to the Bhagwan Mahavir Wildlife sanctuary in Sanguem taluk of south Goa, the FIR stated.

The complaint also sought to highlight the granting of a no objection certificate (NOC) to Mr. Hede for extraction of ore.

The FIR has been filed under relevant sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act and the Mines and Minerals (Regulation and Development) Act.

The illegal mining case, now before the Supreme Court, was filed by Goa Foundation, an environmental NGO.

Significantly, the FIR was filed barely a few days ahead of the six-day session of the Assembly, scheduled to begin on Wednesday. The government, during the Assembly, will be called upon to answer questions pertaining to illegal mining.

While Mr. Rane is the Opposition leader, Mr. Kamat is an MLA. They were not available for comment.

Mr. Tamhankar told The Hindu on Tuesday that 35 illegal mining cases filed by him were pending with the Vigilance Department. Alleging that the department had selectively included names in the case, he said that while he had demanded an FIR to be filed against Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, who was also Chief Minister during 2000-01, Mr. Parrikar’s name had been excluded. During his term, Rs 6.25 lakh illegal ore royalty was accepted by the Mining Department from Mr. Hede, when the NCP leader had no legal lease for the extraction he was undertaking, Mr. Tamhankar claimed. Mr. Digambar Kamat was then Minister of Mining.

While welcoming the FIR, Mr. Tamhankar demanded that FIRs be registered in all cases raised by him, which included illegalities in condonation of delay and granting of NOC for mining to Mr. Hede and others. Else he will raise this plea before the Supreme Court next week when he was expected to be present as an intervener in the case, he said.

Mr. Tamhankar also said four cases pertaining to illegal mining were filed by him with the Crime Branch of the State Police, and another four with the Central Bureau of Investigation, based on references in the Justice M. B. Shah Commission report that ore was illegally being extracted in neighbouring Karnataka, and exported through Goa’s Mormugao port. His complaint then demanded that the CBI, while probing illegal mining in Karnataka, must probe mining in Goa, too.

Court imposes ban

The Supreme Court had imposed a ban in October last on all mining activity, through an interim order, after an NGO approached it demanding that the Centre and State governments be directed to take action against huge illegalities and irregularities in private sector mining in the State, as exposed by the Shah Commission report.

While calling for thorough investigation and action against illegal mining, the report had put the estimated mining revenue loss to the State exchequer at Rs.35,000 crore.

Keywords: Goa coal mining