As the State government, with the return of Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar begins to focus on the possibility of resumption of mining operations in Goa, little is being said about recovering the losses from illegal mining, that go back decades and amount to thousands of crores of rupees. Following his first cabinet meeting after his arrival, the chief minister announced that resumption of mining would be one of his priorities. And he’s called a meeting on Thursday to hear recommendations of what can be done to restart the operations. This will have brought cheer to the mining dependents in the State, but raises the question of what happens to the amount that the State lost in the form of revenue due to illegal mining? Is recovering that amount ever going to be a priority with the government of this State?
When on February 7, the Supreme Court quashed the second renewals of 88 mining leases, and ordered a stop in mining activities from the following March 16, it had also come down heavily on the government for its lack of application in recovering the losses. The Supreme Court had said, “Goa will take all steps to ensure that the Special Investigation Team and the team of Chartered Accountants constituted pursuant to the Goa Grant of Mining Leases Policy 2014 give their report at the earliest and state should implement the reports at the earliest, unless there are very good reasons for rejecting them.” It had added, “Goa to take steps to expedite recovery of the amounts said to be due from the mining lease holders pursuant to the show cause notices issued to them and pursuant to other reports available with the State of Goa.”
But while these two above statements of the Supreme Court in its order are pointed out regularly, the government has clearly preferred to not talk of its failures in recovery of losses and instead only get on to the process of resumption of mining operations. This, despite the Court again having said that the State should take steps to grant fresh leases ‘in accordance with the provisions of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, 1957’ which would mean auction, and not lease renewals.
Against this scenario, the options before the government are few. There is really little that the government can do to restart mining operations. Currently, the government is depending almost entirely on attempting to convince the Central government to promulgate an ordinance that will revalidate the mining leases, making them operational again. The argument being put forth is that the Central government wanted to abolish concessions and bring Goa under MMDR Act, it abolished concessions in 1987 and so the leases came into force in 1987 and considering the 50 years life span, the leases are valid till 2037. That’s an argument that has its own legal implications and which the courts may not take kindly to.
While mining dependents are sitting on dharna at four different locations demanding to know what steps the government is taking to reopen the sector, a large number of people across the State are also anxious to know what is being done to recover the losses. The accumulated losses of decades are huge, but the process of bringing back the money into the government treasury is taking an inordinately long time and little hope that it will happen soon.
The months ahead, before October, the period when there is a lull in economic activity in the State should be utilised in focusing on bringing back the mining losses to the State coffers. Let there also be a meeting to discuss how the losses are going to be recovered.