WITH March 15 midnight set as deadline for iron ore extraction and transportation from 88 mining leases in Goa, the three-member cabinet advisory committee on Wednesday sought urgent intervention and recommended filing a revision petition in Supreme Court.
Minutes of the meeting were emailed to Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar late afternoon, and the committee is expected to make a move after Parrikar accepts the proposal.
Parrikar, undergoing treatment in USA and on a six-week medical leave, is also the state Mines minister.
The committee has advised the government to look into two situations, either an extension in way of relief from the Supreme Court, or a complete process where MLAs of each constituency could tabulate the loss and nature of loss. The committee has advised “any relief” to be considered as interim, until the auctions begin, as stated by the Supreme Court.
Urban Development Minister Francis D’Souza of the BJP said, “We are not asking to go against the court’s order. The committee has been informed of at least 1.5 lakh people who will be directly affected with job losses…. Each barge involves infrastructure and investment of Rs 18 crore. This industry has majority of Goans working as labourers, truck owners and barge owners. Then there are ancillary employment involving thousands of others.”
He said, “We are asking either the Solicitor General of India to take our case, or the Attorney General of India to help us file the review petition.”
Agriculture Minister Vijay Sardesai, one of the ministers in the panel, said, “There is no logic to this sudden closure. Why March 15? There are business cycles involved, and jobs and investments of locals. Those involved in this field are already exasperated; we anticipate an impact…even a possible law and order situation.”
Third minister in the committee, Sudin Dhavalikar of Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party, is learnt to have proposed for an “alternate package” for families dependent on mining in the absence of any decision.
According to Sardesai, the situation is “Made in Delhi” and will have to have the Centre now helping in pushing the deadline. “We are not against auction — no one is. We are asking for some remedy till the yearend, or till the auction begins,” he said. “Already those involved in this have lost three years and sufficient time has been lost. Now again with this deadline, things look very difficult. We will follow the guidelines and order of Supreme Court in full spirit. But the court also needs to know the impact that the state will bear as far as loss of livelihoods is concerned.”
The apex court had ordered complete closure of mining activity after it revoked 88 mining leases, and called for fresh auction following scrutiny of environment and protocols according to the amended Mines and Minerals Regulation and Development Act, 2016.
In the meeting, convened at the Secretariat on Wednesday, the advisory committee was also apprised of another important issue involving the mines. “With no labour, the mine owners are saying that it will become difficult to drain the mine pits. This is an equally bigger scare, as without proper drainage during Goa’s rains, it runs the risk of flooding the fields around. We have had a situation earlier,” D’Souza said.
D’Souza also said that the Mines Department also brought figures of the year’s data. Of 20 million annual figure for mining from Goa, the department has conveyed to the government that at least 8 million is still to be mined, which now stands affected by the deadline. The meeting also has deliberated on the other matter of huge loans or mortgage that could arise with miners and related infrastructure companies not doing good on their loans.
While MLAs and ministers met in Goa over the issue, Union Minister of State for AYUSH Shripad Naik met BJP national president Amit Shah and Union ministers Nitin Gadkari (Shipping) and Narendra Singh (Mines) and sought their intervention in the matter.