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Indian iron ore mining mess - Goa CM showing double standards
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Friday, 14 Sep 2012

Illegal mining in Goa cost the government INR 35,000 crore according to a report recently presented in Parliament. The BJP won the elections in Goa just six months ago, and the new chief minister, Mr Manohar Parrikar, has promised that police cases will be filed against two former Congress chief ministers. But he may be guilty of double standards.

Mr Parrikar uses the findings of the Shah Commission to accuse former Chief Ministers Digambar Kamat and Pratapsinh Rane of allowing illegal mining on their watch. The BJP government in the state says it will file FIRs against them as well as officials of state and central government departments.

Headed by retired judge MB Shah, the commission says the scam in Goa is worth nearly INR 35,000 crore and that there is proof of "serious illegalities and irregularities." The Commission also suggests that mining leases be granted through public auction to reduce corruption.

The Shah Commission says the violations of guidelines began in 2000. That is when Mr Parrikar came to power. The report said that "The cases of these violations are mainly after 2000 onwards the main reason is unrestricted and unregulated export of iron ore to China.” When asked how he was therefore exempting himself, Mr Parrikar told NDTV that the Commission finds fault with the period from 2005-2011 when the Congress was in power. Even if there were violations during his term as chief minister, he said, the buck stopped with the Mines Minister, Digambar Kamat. The chief minister said he could not be held accountable for Mr Kamat's actions because he was not part of the decision-making process.

During Mr Parrikar's first term as chief minister, Mr Kamat was the Mines Minister. In 2005, Mr Kamat switched parties after the BJP was voted out and joined the Congress government headed by Mr Rane. Mr Kamat was minister of mines till 2012 till the Congress lost the recently held elections to the BJP and Mr Parrikar became chief minister. So Mr Kamat held the Mines portfolio over a 10 year period from 2002 in three governments, two headed by the Congress and one by the BJP.

Breaking his silence on the controversy, Mr Kamat today told NDTV that he has not done anything illegal. He said that "Mentioning my name is a passing remark. not specifically mentioned I am responsible. I have studied the report... show me one place where report says Digambar Kamat to blame... I am ready to face any enquiry or any eventuality.”

The 400 page report describes state and central government agencies as parties to the scam, along with powerful mining operators in the region, who allegedly colluded to enable an "unrestricted, unchecked and unregulated export of iron ore to China." Illegal mining covered hundreds of acres of government-owned and forest land. Environmental laws were violated. Companies were allowed to mine more than what they were allowed by their leases.

The report finds that complaints regarding pollution were deliberately ignored by the entire state administration. It said that no inspections were carried out which created "a fear free environment which has caused loss to the ecology, environment."

The BJP government has temporarily banned all activities at 90 iron ore mines. But the order does not apply to iron ore already produced and stored at ports or in transit. The state will form a verification and clearance committee to scrutinise operations before giving approval to resume mining, the government has said.

Environment Minister Jayanti Natarajan today announced that the environmental clearances of 93 mines in Goa have been suspended.

Goa is India's second-biggest iron ore producer. It produces more than 50 million tonnes of iron ore annually and exports almost all of it, making it the top exporter.

Source - NDTV


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