A day after the Justice M.B. Shah Commission report, indicting his predecessor Digambar Kamat for allowing illegal mining, was made public, Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar said his government would scrutinise all 82 leases, ahead of the upcoming mining season, and close those fraught with serious illegalities.
Addressing journalists here on Saturday, Mr. Parrikar, who holds the Mines portfolio, said his government would act on the report within a “defined time frame.” The Department of Mines and Geology would scrutinise all leases and those with serious irregularities would be cancelled. A decision would be taken after an inquiry. “We will scrutinise each and every mining case and take a decision.”
Mr. Parrikar said: “Let the Department study the report for 4-5 days and then work out a comprehensive plan based on the recommendations of the report.” The government would file the First Information Report against Mr. Kamat and Pratapsingh Rane, another former Chief Minister, and officials of all the Ministries concerned…”
For Mr. Parrikar, it was a matter of satisfaction that the Shah Commission endorsed the findings of the Public Accounts Committee, which he headed last year as Leader of Opposition. While the PAC report had pointed to 40 instances of condonation of delay in renewal of leases, the Commission cited 42 cases. “Now the people will know why the then Chief Minister, Digambar Kamat, and the then Speaker, Pratapsingh Rane, did not allow the PAC report to be tabled in the Assembly.”
Answering a question, Mr. Parrikar said that given the Centre’s response to Coalgate, he did not expect much from it in terms of action on the Commission report.
“How will the [Union] Ministry of Environment and Forests explain its stand on all illegalities? It should start cleaning up its act. The same thing is true of the Indian Bureau of Mines.”
On the MoEF’s lapses, he said that in some cases of clearances, actual mines did not even exist. “Nobody from the MoEF even bothered to check with the State government. The same was the case with some of the wildlife clearances.”
Mr. Parrikar was upset at the missives from the MoEF and the IBM directing the State not to go ahead with its proposal to allow lifting of mining dumps.
Asked about the possible socio-economic impact in the mining areas if some of the leases were revoked, he said: “That cannot be helped.” However, he agreed that the government would have to work out alternatives for the people, and that could not happen overnight. This was one of the reasons why the State’s Mining Policy draft was talking about allowing lifting of dumps. The government would allow lifting of those dumps that damaged the environment with “proper approvals and within tolerable limits.” Legal advice sought from the Additional Solicitor General by the erstwhile government made it clear that the process did not need environment clearance but only air and water clearances.
As for making the regulatory mechanism stringent in the season ahead, Mr. Parrikar said his government had brought royalty pilferage under control, computerised the royalty payment mechanism, made a ‘No Objection Certificate’ from the captain of ports mandatory for inland vessels transporting ore. Soon production of a bill of lading from the Customs would also be made mandatory for exporters. These measures apart, the Department of Mines decided to deploy manpower at all mining sites for continued supervision, and the mine-owners would bear the cost.
Last year, Goa exported 44 million tonnes of iron ore, while the government collected a royalty of around Rs.1,000 crore.