MLAs mainly divided on party line over auction; Next meeting on February 24
PANJIM: The first round of consultative meetings between Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar and MLAs from the mining belt, to chalk out a roadmap for the sector, remained inconclusive on Tuesday. Another meeting is scheduled on February 24.
The Chief Minister and the Additional Solicitor General of India Atmaram Nadkarni are of the view that mining leases have to be auctioned as per the Mines and Minerals Development Regulation (MMDR) Act to ensure smooth functioning of the industry. During the meeting, the Chief Minister said that if required he will approach Prime Minister Narendra Modi to expedite the process.
Speaker and Sanquelim MLA Dr Pramod Sawant, South Goa MP Narendra Sawaikar, Leader of the Opposition and Quepem MLA Chandrakant Kavlekar, Poriem MLA Pratapsingh Rane, Valpoi MLA Vishwajit Rane, Bicholim MLA Rajesh Patnekar, Mayem MLA Pravin Zantye, Sanvordem MLA Deepak Pawaskar and Curchorem MLA Nilesh Cabral attended the meeting, which went on for more than an hour.
Sources present at the meeting said that except for Cabral and the Congress MLAs, the others agreed to the auction of leases. Cabral was not clear in his opinion, while Congress MLAs felt an auction will open the doors for outside parties to bid and there would be no job security to locals.
Speaking to media persons after the meeting, Parrikar said he heard the views of MLAs and also put up his personal opinion. “Every MLA had different views. We have not reached any decision,” he said refusing to comment anything further.
However, Nadkarni, who is representing Goa in the Supreme Court, said, “In 2014 itself I had opined that government go for auction of leases and I still stand by that. I have given my opinion to the government that auction is the only option before us as per the MMDR Act.” He added, “It will take at least two months to work out legalities and modalities of auction.”
The Supreme Court on February 7 quashed second renewals of 88 mining leases in Goa while directing that operations be stopped from March 16 onwards. The Court has asked the government to initiate the process for granting fresh leases as per the MMDR Act.
Sawaikar confirmed that the meeting remained inconclusive and that the second round of consultation will take place on February 24. “No decision was taken in today’s meeting,” he said.
Cabral refused to comment, while Sawant said, “Auction is not the only option, and the government will have to explore other modes by seeking further legal opinion”.
However, MGP MLA Pawaskar gave clear picture of what government intends to do. “Government wants to go for auction mode. I am with the government as are majority of the MLAs. We want mining operations to continue,” he said.
He added, “Chief Minister has even said that if needed he would approach the Prime Minister to fast track the process.” The MGP MLA said the government will set conditions for the bidders that locals should be absorbed in the industry.
It was clarified at the meeting that the government cannot restrict outside firms from bidding in the auction as the government has to earn maximum revenue and there cannot be any loopholes in the process, which can be challenged later.
“We MLAs are of the view that mining should continue as it is an important part of the economy. We want the government to think how best the business can work,” senior Congress MLA Rane said.
Kavlekar, refraining from commenting, said that he would consult his legislative wing before speaking. “We have another meeting on February 24. I will tell you that time,” Kavlekar said.