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Cream of Goa politics under mining cloud

Minister,party chief,many more linked to business in some way or other.

Written by Shalini Nair | Panaji |
October 3, 2011 12:15:27 am

The mining scam unfolding in Goa has been throwing up the names of more and more leaders of the Congress and the NCP who have alleged links to the mining business,direct or indirect. Chief Minister Digambar Kamat,mines minister for 12 years,has been assured the backing of the Congress amid criticism that he has been shielding those involved in irregularities by the iron ore mining lobby.

Several of these leaders — or at least their companies — operate as “raising contractors” for the actual leaseholders. And some of the firms run by these politicians do not even figure in the official records of the Mines Department.

Urban Development Minister Joaquim Alemao,Goa Pradesh Congress Committee president Subhash Shirodkar,former Congress candidate from Panjim Dincar Tarcar and senior NCP leader Jitendra Deshprabhu are among those with direct links to the mining business.

The names of Health Minister Vishwajeet Rane,Home Minister Ravi Naik’s son Roy and Curchorem MLA Shyam Satardekar,too,have cropped up in depositions by various individuals before the Justice M B Shah Commission that is probing the mining situation.

Rama Velip,a tribal farmer,will testify that for one year beginning June 2008,Alemao “carried out illegal mining” on private forest land at Rivona village in South Goa. “Four hundred villagers were chargesheeted by the police in 2009 when we tried to block his vehicles from operating without the mandatory forest clearance,” says Vellip. That mine was shut down last year.

Alemao’s firm Raisa Mining is the raising contractor for two mines,at Keli and Advalpal in North Goa. The Keli mine was found to have 3 lakh tonnes of ore dumps on a recent visit by the Shah Commission. The commission recommended suspension of the licence for the mine as the ore extraction exceeds the limit of 1 lakh tonnes under the rules for environment clearance.

Two other mines for which the Shah panel recommended the same action are run by Tarcar — under a power of attorney. “Despite there being no provision in law for running a mine on a PoA basis,over the last six years the CM has allowed these mines to be run by Tarcar,” said environmentalist Ramesh Gauns. Tarcar operates a total of six mines under PoA: Conquerim in Sattari,Rivona and Sancordem in Sanguem,one in Cavrem,and Molcornem and Sulcorna in Quepem.

Of these,the 83-hectare mine at Sulcorna village was issued a showcause notice by a task-force of the Indian Bureau of Mines (IBM) in March. The notices issued in the name of Tarcar states that in 2009-10,the firm had extracted 3.25 lakh tonnes of minerals and another 3.74 lakh tonnes were recovered from a dump,much more than the permissible extraction limit 2.09 lakh tonnes for the year. However,two such inspections later,the lease for the mine has not been suspended yet.

Documents with The Indian Express show that the IBM task-force had in March also issued a showcause notice to the Santonachi Upriron ore mine in Dabal village in Sanguem,which is operated by GPCC president Shirodkar’s firm Vasundhara Transport. The notice was served for carrying out mining without an approved mining plan.

In the NCP,its national secretary Deshprabhu was arrested in August for illegal mining in his own farm in Pernam taluka. In November 2008,a committee under the Chief Conservator of Forests had inspected the site following complaints. Prabhu claimed that he had been carrying out quarrying work for irrigating his mango grafts and cashew plants and accidentally stumbled upon the iron ore deposits,which he diligently removed and stacked aside.

The committee report,however,points out that he had no clearance either from the water resources department or from the mines department. The mining continued until January 2011,when the government slapped a fine of Rs 1.7 crore on Deshprabhu. According to complaints filed with the anti-corruption bureau and the crime branch,he had by then already caused the state government a loss of Rs 50 crore. Filed by activist Kashinath Shetye,the complaint says that Deshprabhu had dumped 15,000 tonnes of iron ore on property near his,and had 506 truckloads transported.

While Deshprabhu’s case was under investigation by the crime branch,Shetye filed another complaint with the department,this time against the Home Minster’s son. It states that Roy Naik has been a partner in the running of an illegal mine through his company Girish and Roy Logistics Pvt Ltd,and alleges that this has caused a loss of Rs 200 crore to the exchequer. “Even though the estimated loss is much more than in Deshprabhu’s case,no inquiry has been launched yet,” said Shetye.

“Rane,Roy Naik,Shirodkar,Satardekar and CM Kamat himself all have their fingers in the mining pie,” said Manohar Parrikar,Opposition leader from the BJP,who is heading a public accounts committee probe into the mining,

“ The PAC report will indicate the mining irregularities by their firms but the connections of these politicians with the firms is a matter of criminal investigation,which should be carried out by the CBI,” he said.

Parrikar will table the PAC report in the Assembly on October 5. He said that though naming individuals is outside the purview of the inquiry,the report will nevertheless nail the illegal mining carried out by the companies that act as a front for these politicians.

Chief Minister Kamat said he neither owns nor operates any mines,and sought to defend some of his colleagues. “The business of mining has been on in Goa for so many years,and there may be many associated with mining and related activities such as transportation,supply of machinery or running service stations. As long as it is within the framework of the law,there is nothing wrong in it. If at all there are any violations in these cases,there are five to six agencies such as the MoEF,the IBM,the mines department and the Pollution Control Board that takes action from time to time,” he told The Indian Express.

“I personally do not own or operate any mines. In fact I was the one to write to the Environment Ministry in February last year asking them not to issue further clearances to mines.”

Health Minister Rane denied any wrongdoing. “Just because I represent a constituency where mining is common,the BJP is maligning me. I have myself written letters to then Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh against instances of illegal mining; why would I abet it? A distinction should be made between legal and illegal mining,” he said,adding that “Karnataka could sustain itself after Bellary but the economy of Goa will collapse without mines.”

Congress leader Jagmeet Brar,who is in charge of Goa for the AICC,said links to the politicians had not been established. “Whether the mining is legal or illegal is right now just a matter of perspective. It is for the Shah Commission to decide. If there is concrete and glaring evidence against anybody,we will think twice before giving that person a ticket to the 2012 Assembly elections,” he said.


Joaquim Alemao

UD Minister’s Raisa Mining is raising contractor for mines in Keli and Advalpal in North Goa. Photo shows mining in Advalpal; Keli mine was found to have ore dumps beyond permissible limit. Villagers allege minister carried out illegal mining on private forest land in Rivona.

Jitendra Deshprabhu

NCP secretary was arrested in August for mining in his farm (dumps shown in photo). He says he stumbled upon the iron ore deposits which he removed and stacked aside.

Subhash Shirodkar

Goa Congress chief’s Vasundhara Transport operates Santonachi Upriron mine in Sanguem; it was issued a notice by an Indian Bureau of Mines task-force for mining without approved plan.

Dincar Tarcar

Former Congress candidate operates six mines under power of attorney,activists alleged there is no such provision for running a mine. Task-force served notice on one mine for excessive extraction

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