“It will ensure transparency and increased income for state”
The Justice M.B. Shah Commission, which went into illegal mining of iron ore and manganese in Goa, suggested that leases be granted through public auction to reduce corruption.
After holding several hearings and inspections in Goa, the Commission said natural resources, mostly iron ore, had made a few leaseholders billionaires.
“It is necessary that leasehold rights for mining are granted by public auction. This would increase the income of the state and there would be transparency in grant of lease and reduction in corruption/favouritism.”
The Mines Ministry, in its Action Taken Report submitted in Parliament on Friday, said the issue of public auction had been included in the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Bill, 2011 which had been referred to a parliamentary panel.
The Commission indicted the former Chief Minister of Goa, Digambar Kamat, for allowing illegal mining in the State resulting in amassing of wealth by certain individuals and companies at the cost of environment.
It found “all modes of illegal mining” being committed in Goa.
During the last five years, the Directorate of Mines and Geology (DMG) had not held inspection of the leases. There was a “total collapse” of the fabrics of monitoring and regulatory mechanism in Goa.
The 434-page report said complaints of pollution of natural streams, rivers, ponds, destruction of agriculture and failure of horticulture crops were well-known to the entire State administration.
“But no inspection had been carried out which resulted in a fear-free environment which has caused loss to the ecology, agriculture, groundwater, natural streams, ponds, rivers and biodiversity.”
The Commission identified that 2796.24 hectares had been encroached upon. “Out of this, about 578.42 ha is illegally used for illegal extraction or removal of iron ore.”
Some big companies, firms and individuals who had encroached upon the large area included V.M. Salgaoncar Ltd, Ramakant Xetie and Bros., Mingoa Sociedade Mineira Goesa, Firm Chowgule and Cia Ltd, Bandekar Bros Pvt Ltd and Guitabala Manohar Parulcar.
The Commission had recommended deterrent punishment by filing criminal cases against the lessees for criminal misconduct.
“Only isolated cases, where they [the DMG] have received complaints from locals due to inconvenience caused by the mining activity, have been attended to. No regular monitoring and compliance of the regulations and statutes, as required, have been done,” the report noted.
The Commission said the act of not inspecting the mines was “a deliberate omission which resulted into illegal mining and a huge loss to the exchequer.”
“It is observed that at a number of occasions, complaints have been received by the Government of Goa through responsible persons about illegal mining. Despite that, no inspections were carried out. It is clear that to avoid action, the duty to inspect mines might have been evaded by the DMG.”
It had recommended action against the then Director of Mines and Geology and subordinate officers for their “misconduct and dereliction of duties.”
The DMG’s Flying Squad had attempted to carry out a site inspection in 19 villages, where illegal mining had been detected, the report said.
“From details made available by the informant/complainant, it is found that in 19 villages, illegal mining were noticed. Unfortunately, due to inefficiency of the officers, no details were ascertainable of either owner or relevant survey number in which illegal mining was being carried out. Only in six cases, the persons accused have been named,” the panel said.
The Commission observed that natural resource, namely iron ore, “has made only few persons billionaires” who were holding leasehold interest in mining.
As against this, tribals/villagers from where the minerals were transported/exported, suffer adverse environmental effects.