Panaji : Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar’s volte face on illegal mining has riled anti-mining activists and has given the Opposition an opportunity to attack the Bharatiya Janata Party-led coalition governemnt.
Parrikar had in a written statement tabled Monday during the monsoon session of the Goa assembly said that there were “no illegal mines operating in Goa”, shocking anti-mining activists. Parrikar’s flip flop came seven years after his campaign against large-scale illegal mining in Goa as the opposition leader.
“This proves that many issues were falsely created by the BJP with the help of the media. Goa was misguided on the mining issue. He (Parrikar) was shouting that there was a Rs 25,000 crore illegal mining scam for five years and more. And suddenly, after four months in power, there is no longer any illegal minin?” state Congress president Subhash Shirodkar asked while speaking to IANS.
Parrikar and the Bharatiya Janata Party had in the past, as a part of the opposition, led the charge against ‘illegal mining’ in Goa and had alleged a Rs 25,000 crore mining scam. Parrikar, as well as other senior BJP leaders, had named several cabinet ministers, including then chief minister Digambar Kamat for sheltering the illegal mining mafia in Goa.
Once in power however, Parrikar has now sought to make a distinction between illegal mining and illegal export of ore.
“We do not have much illegal mining. What is happening is mining of dumps. Chartered accountants will be asked to audit mines’ extraction. The ore export is illegal. Mining is a process. Operating mines are working legally, but there are irregularities,” Parrikar said.
Civil society activists believe that for a man who campaigned vehemently against illegal mining, until the elections, Parrikar’s volte face was shocking.
“I am stunned with the reply. I do not know his compulsions. A veteran like him should not deviate so much from the truth,” Anand Salgaokar, who has petitioned several authorities against illegal mining.
Oscar Martin, a south Goa-based activist who has been campaigning for several civil society causes, which includes fighting again st illegal mining, said that illegal mining was rampant even after Parrikar came to power in March.
“For the last few months, illegal mining is continuing. This reply vindicates that. What has happened is that illegal mining has remained constant, while governments have changed,” Martin said.