In March 2018, the SC held “no public purpose behind mining; when it comes to mining, both the BJP and Congress parties have a similar stand.
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Goa Congress MLA and six time chief minister Pratap Singh Rane accused environmental activists in Goa for bringing “mining in the state to a halt”. He called for the banishment of such activists from Goa. He blamed activists for rendering more than 40,000 people in the state jobless! The former chief minister was speaking in the Legislative Assembly.
He said, “There are some unemployed fellows who go to court every now and then. Who gives them money? And they are bringing stay orders and all that sort of nonsense. So many people are without jobs. People have no money. Government no money.”
In a judgement dated February 7, 2018 the Supreme Court had cancelled all renewals of mining leases for iron ore extraction in the state of Goa and wiped the slate clean for a fresh beginning. The Apex Court of India delivered the judgement in SLA (civil) 32128 / 2015 (Goa Foundation vs SesaSterlite Ltd. &Ors, “Goa Mining Lease Renewal case”). The SC had said that “there was no public purpose behind mining operations.”
Earlier, a decision of the Supreme Court of 2014, the “Goa mining case”, Goa Foundation vrs. UOI &Ors, the Supreme Court had ruled that all iron ore mining leases in Goa had expired on November 22, 2007 and that mining after the said period was illegal. The SC then permitted the Goa government to resume mining after granting “fresh leases and fresh ECs”.
However, the BJP government led first by LaxmikantParsekar and later Manohar Parrikar, instead of prosecuting the illegal mining lease holders and going in for mineral auctions, renewed 88 mining leases indicating clear political patronage to private players. 56 of the 88 mining leases were renewed in the week between cabinet approval and promulgation of the MMDR Amendment Ordinance. Similarly, despite a finding that every single lease had violated the environmental laws, the MoEF& CC lifted the ban on 72 ECs.
But it appears that when it comes to mining, both the BJP and Congress parties have a similar stand.
Rane, who is the longest serving member of the Goa Legislative Assembly, said, “We have to take action against them banish them. Such people are not welcome to Goa. All they do is go to court get a stay order and stop work. Throw them outside Goa. They have destroyed Goa. They have ruined business in Goa. Such fellows should not be welcomed in Goa.”
He also demanded that the “law should be amended” so that the industry could start “again” and “people could get employed”.
The Supreme Court while passing orders on the petition filed by the Goa Foundation as well as an individual SudipTamhankar had directed the state government to grant fresh leases.As per a 2015 amendment, granting of leases involves a process of auction.
To avoid this process, the government has been seeking an amendment to the Act to do away with the process of auctionor alternatively, through a separate amendment to the Goa, Daman and Diu Mining Concessions (Abolition and Declaration as Mining Leases) Act, 1987 retrospectively extend the validity of Goa’s mining leases to circumvent the Supreme Court’s order.
This Act was enacted by the Parliament in 1987 to convert Goa’s mining concessions granted by the previous Portuguese regime ‘for perpetuity into leases as defined in the Mines and Mineral Development Act, 1957 with a fixed validity.