Will Those Behind Goa's Mining Scam Walk Free? - The New Indian Express

Will Those Behind Goa's Mining Scam Walk Free?

Published: 24th April 2014 12:51 PM

Last Updated: 24th April 2014 12:51 PM

Mining may soon resume in Goa with the Supreme Court's lifting of the 18-month ban but the big names indicted in the state's mammoth Rs.35,000 crore (nearly $6 billion) illegal mining scandal continue to evade arrest.

Six people, including small-time traders, junior bureaucrats and a mines' director have been arrested after much delay by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led coalition government, which has conspicuously failed to nail the real architects of the scam exposed by the Justice M.B. Shah Commission.

State Congress president John Fernandes told IANS that the BJP, especially Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar, who was shouting from the rooftops against illegal mining for seven years as an opposition leader, was now a "part of the system".

Mining here was banned in October 2012 by the apex court while hearing a petition on large-scale illegalities in Goa's mining sector.
The central government-appointed Shah Commission had exposed the estimated Rs.35,000 crore scam in which politicians, bureaucrats and mining company magnates are linked.

Justice Shah's scope of enquiry covered a period from 2004-09 during which the mining industry boomed and coincided with the tenure of two Congress chief ministers.

Digambar Kamat, who has served as mines minister for nearly a decade without a break under both the BJP and Congress governments, has been singled out in the report for turning a "blind eye" to the illegal mining.

All the big mining companies operating in Goa have also been indicted, without exception, in the report for crimes ranging from illegal mining, encroachment of government land, extracting ore outside lease areas, pollution of water bodies and mining in wildlife areas, to list just a few.

Parrikar, whose own report as Public Accounts Committee (PAC) chairman had named and exposed individuals and companies for illegal mining, now finds himself accused of pandering to the mining lobby.

"Parrikar should have the courage to have a go at the same people he had been accusing of illegal mining. He should arrest them, even if they are from my party. The Congress will not come in the way," Fernandes said.

Parrikar has in turn repeatedly blamed the several hundred iron ore traders who had mushroomed overnight in the state as those responsible for the illegal mining scam, rarely coming clear about the involvement of big mining companies in the scam.

But the Goa chief minister was quick to issue a statement earlier this week welcoming the Supreme Court order.

"The Goa government welcomes the Supreme Court order as a great opportunity to do regulated mining in the state," the statement read, but carried no assurance of action against illegal mining magnates.

Transport Minister Sudin Dhavalikar too claims that the ministers and MLAs in the last state assembly were involved in illegal mining and that they needed to be brought to book.

"Ministers and MLAs from the last government were involved in illegal mining. They have to be investigated," Dhavalikar told reporters after reports of the Supreme Court judgement trickled in Monday afternoon.

(Mayabhushan Nagvenkar can be contacted at mayabhushan.n@ians.in)

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