After three days of protest in New Delhi the mining dependents from Goa return without having created much of an impact in the National Capital. The aim of this protest was to bring the ‘plight’ of the Goan mining dependents to the attention of the MPs attending the Winter session of Parliament. It doesn’t appear to have worked. It was the State political leaders who addressed them in Delhi, it was the local media that covered the protest. In Delhi’s chilly weather, the mining dependents were offered a cold shoulder by the political class.
With the exception of former Prime Minister H D Deve Gowda and some Shiv Sena MPs, the rest of the politicians who showed up to display solidarity were from the State. None of the political leaders who the Goa Mining People’s Front had said would be joining them reached either the Ramleela Grounds or Jantar Mantar, making it quite a damp squib of a protest. And the national media almost overlooked the protest, the election results in five States grabbing headlines and eyeballs. Besides getting covered in the Goa media, there was little coverage of the protest in the national print editions or television channels.
The biggest achievement was handing over a memorandum to the Prime Minister’s Office with their demands. The PMO has been petitioned several times in the past months, even by the Chief Minister himself, but there has been no resolution on the mining imbroglio. Every time the mining issue has been taken to the Centre, it has been the same demand, a Central ordinance to amend Section 2 of the Goa, Daman and Diu Mining Concessions (Abolition and Declaration as Mining Leases) Act of 1987. If, as has been pointed out by the GMPF this is very easy, why is the Centre not promulgating the ordinance or even listing the amendment in the business for the Winter session of Parliament.
The takeaways from the protest are assurances that the demands of the mining dependents will be looked into, that if the amendments to the Act sought are moved in Parliament the parties will support them, and Gowda saying that he will take up their cause in the Lok Sabha and speak to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on their plight. Gowda, a member of the Lok Sabha, said he would try to raise the issue through a calling-attention motion or a special discussion. That ‘try’ is more than what any of the State MPs, all of the BJP which is in power at the Centre and State, have assured the protesting mining workers.
The memorandum to the PMO has stated that the abrupt stoppage of mining has hit the economy of the State, dried up employment opportunities and caused loss of the investor’s confidence. It also states that the mining industry has been the backbone of Goa’s economy for over six decades as the largest employment generator in the State. That is has, but times have changed and after two stoppages of mining operations, the impact on the economy that was expected has not really shown itself. Goa has managed to survive and only needs to look beyond mining to strengthen the economy.
The protestors return to Goa, what next for them? There has to be some conclusion to this issue of mining. The State has spent 10 months since the Supreme Court order that stopped mining operations attempting to find some solution. What if it had spent that time in getting the process to auction the mines started in earnest? Goa would have had already moved quite a few paces forward in this endeavour, which is the best possible solution to the mining imbroglio. Instead, the State has been waiting in the hope that the Centre will pass an ordinance to restart operations in the mining pits of Goa.