Goa Speaker had dismissed the committee report on illegal mining as ‘a draft'
With the Public Accounts Committee report on mining having failed to make it to the Goa Assembly, the former PAC chief, Leader of the Opposition and senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader, Manohar Parrikar, has vowed to come out with a “Parrikar Accounts Committee Report” to expose alleged irregularities of the Digambar Kamat government on the mining issue.
Undeterred by the haste with which he was ousted as PAC Chairman in the aftermath of the committee's controversial report on illegal mining, Mr. Parrikar told The Hindu on Sunday that the Goa BJP executive meet on Saturday decided to go to the people of the State with a report of the “illegalities” pertaining to mining and expose all those involved.
“The Congress leaders have branded the genuine PAC report as the ‘Parrikar Accounts Committee Report' in any case. So let me now come out with a real Parrikar Accounts Committee report and expose the Congress before the people,” said Mr. Parrikar.
“It does not matter if the Congress has managed to spike the PAC report. It does not matter that I am no more the Chairman of the PAC. I will produce my own ‘PAC report' documenting in detail all the facts and figures and statistics and scams and ‘illegalities' on mining and we will go all over Goa exposing the culprits and their connivers.”
Already, the BJP has demanded the resignation of Mr. Kamat, holding him responsible for the mining scams and illegalities, and has also demanded a thorough investigation by an agency like the Central Bureau of Investigation.
He said the party had decided to petition Constitutional authorities, including the Governor's office, the Comptroller and Auditor General, the Chief Vigilance Officer, for impartial investigation regarding the loss to the State exchequer.
The BJP executive, in the resolution adopted on Saturday, said 30 per cent of the total 54 million tonnes of ore exported from the State last year was illegal. On the resulting environmental damage, the party said the government had sanctioned 13,500 hectares of forest land for diversion and cut two lakh trees to facilitate the activity.
Mr. Parrikar maintained that the Speaker had no role in “examining the legality or otherwise of a PAC report”.
“House rules are clear. The report goes to the Speaker only for including [him] on the agenda of the business of the House. Where is the question of the Speaker going into its signing? If he was really serious about it, why didn't some members sign the report? He should have asked all those ruling-side members of the PAC why they did not take any interest in the meetings in the first place,” said Mr. Parrikar, in response to Speaker Pratapsinh Rane's dismissal of the report as a draft as it did not have a majority of signatures.
Mr. Parrikar said the decision to ban the movement of dumps should have come much earlier as also the Mines Department's recent direction to certain operators, who had leases obtained on the basis of power of attorney, to ‘condole the delay' in the renewal of leases. Insisting that it should not have been allowed in the first place, he said a probe by an agency would reveal the real reasons behind the spiking of the PAC report.
Responding to a question, Mr. Parrikar ridiculed the suggestion that the report was dismissed owing to it having been leaked, and said it was an attempt to keep the report from going on record.
“Try and understand that I have been consistently exposing the mining illegalities and scams for several years in the State Assembly, getting information through probing questions. Outside, I have been getting information using the Right to Information Act. As PAC Chairman, the only difference it made was that I got to further authenticate and cross-verify grey areas. I am the Leader of the Opposition and, therefore, have a duty to speak out. I have made it clear every time I spoke about mining in recent time that I was speaking in my capacity as Opposition Leader and not as PAC Chairman. Therefore, the ruling party did not want these scams and illegalities on the record of the House — that was the real intent,” said Mr. Parrikar.