The only entity that talks of recovery of the mining losses is the Goa Foundation. The silence by all others leads one to wonder whether a financial loss to the State exchequer that has been estimated at thousands of crores of rupees is not of any concern to anybody else. Goa Foundation is now contemplating moving the courts to direct the government to recover the Rs 3400 cr from illegal mining operations that has been pointed out by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India and also the State Chartered Accountants audit report. When a government acts only after the intervention of the courts it reflects poorly upon the political will to act against the mining companies that have indulged in illegal mining.
As Goa Foundation takes upon itself the role of mining watchdog in the State – besides of course that of the environment in general that it has been doing for decades – civil society goes about its quotidian paying little attention to the fact that the State government coffers are empty, that there are bonds being sold to meet the financial obligations, and that the recovery of the mining losses could have lent the economy much stability. It could, for instance, restore the balance in the books, even allow for some money to be left over to meet the demands of the mining affected. But the will to act is absent.
Looking at it objectively, there are losses, there are directives from the Supreme Court to recover the losses, there are directives from the Union Mines Ministry to recover the full value of minerals extracted illegally or without EC. And what is the State government doing? The answer is precious little. There is a directive from none other than the Supreme Court that was incorporated in its order dated February 7 this year, when it ordered the closure of mining operations in Goa, where it also instructed the State to take steps to expedite the recovery of losses 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 including the report of Special Investigation Team and the team of Chartered Accountants. Over eight months later the recovery process continues at the same tardy pace, showing no burst of speed.
Goa Foundation, however, has made a pertinent suggestion that the assets, accounts, buildings, properties of the mining firms be attached. While this sounds radical, if Goa does so it won’t be the first State to resort to such an action. The Odisha government that has begun recovery proceedings in illegal mining has attached properties of the companies in the process. For Goa to resort to such an action would take huge political will, and it has been repeatedly seen that there is no government in the State that will act against the mining lobby. As Goa Foundation has alleged that the government is not willing to remove itself from under the influence of the mining lobbies. There is therefore little hope in expecting any strong and firm action from the government in the mining recovery process. The courts, therefore, appear to be the only alternative.
All that is being asked of the government is to comply by the directives of the court – in short to do its duty, something that should have been done even without court orders. But the government has failed to do so. The government must act if and bring back to the government account the losses that the State has suffered due to illegal mining. It is not much to ask for, but it appears to be much to expect.