In the past two years Goa’s many attempts to restart mining operations have not yielded results and the various efforts to safeguard the waters of the Mhadei have also been met with a certain resistance from the Centre. As a result both these issues have remained without resolution for years.
Goa has been suffering constant setbacks where the Mhadei water diversion is concerned, on almost every issue that it has been taking up with the Centre. The latest rejection came through a letter from the Union Jal Shakti Minister to Chief Minister Dr Pramod Sawant stating that Karnataka and Maharashtra, which are upper riparian States of the River Mhadei do not need any consent from Goa, which is a lower riparian State, for the Kalsa-Bhandura project, though they require permissions as per law from different Union ministries and authorities. It further states that Karnataka has submitted feasibility reports of Kalasa Nala Diversion Scheme and Bhandura Nala Diversion Scheme to the Central Water Commission (CWC), and these are under appraisal as per the existing CWC guidelines and as per the directions/order given in the Mhadei Water Dispute Tribunal award.
Does this mean that Karnataka will get the Centre’s nod for the diversion of waters? It is clear that where the waters of the Mhadei are concerned, Goa has for long been fighting a losing battle. Representations from the government and all-party delegations have cut no ice with the Centre. The same is the case with the restart of mining operations in the State. Goa has pleaded with the Centre for a legislative cure, but the repeated pleadings have not swayed the Union government. There was even an attempt to make the Centre see the human aspect of the issue, when mining dependents went to the New Delhi in protests and a show of strength, but again there was no positive response. The fact that gets constantly underlined in all these issues is that Goa is too small a State for the Centre to sit up and take notice of, which of course is a reflection of the weakened leadership in the State.
As Goa is repeatedly leant a deaf ear by the Union government to all of its petitions, requests and entreaties, what happens to the various other issues that are plaguing the State and need New Delhi’s attention? Will they too suffer in similar manner? Currently, across the State citizens have taken up the defence of the Mollem Wildlife Sanctuary and protected forest areas that are facing the slaughter of trees for three Central projects. Will the Goa government be in a strong enough position to present an irrefutable case before the Centre on what the people want?
Going by past and also very recent experience, the government appear unable to convince the Centre of what the people want. While it may benefit in some ways to have the same party in power at the Centre and at the State, there are also certain drawbacks, where the State is at times unable to take a tough stance with New Delhi. Goa, is learning this by experience and to its disadvantage. It is not enough to have a huge majority in the State Legislative Assembly, if the leadership is unable to get the State what it needs. The political leadership in the State has to be able to face up to the Centre on issues that are dear to Goa and Goans. And Mhadei is one of them.