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Submerged in illegal mining'

Print edition : Nov 18, 2011 T+T-
Manohar Parrikar: "There is nothing imaginary reported."-SHANKER CHAKRAVARTY

Manohar Parrikar: "There is nothing imaginary reported."-SHANKER CHAKRAVARTY

Interview with Manohar Parrikar, Leader of the Opposition and Public Accounts Committee Chairman, Goa Assembly.

THE leaked report of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) of the Goa Assembly has sought an inquiry into the various aspects of illegal mining in the State. Excerpts from an interview with its Chairman and Goa's Leader of the Opposition, Manohar Parrikar:

The PAC report was not allowed to be tabled. What is your reaction to this?

I did my duty. I did it with honesty, sincerity, and I did it for the State. No MLA would have spent that much time on one subject, taken time to hold 28 meetings of one to two hours each. We have given a factual report based on documents given by the government. Even if a single fact is proved wrong, I will go home. All the facts are disclosed by the Assembly, by the government's Departments of Mines, Transport and Forests. There is nothing imaginary reported, it is totally true and I am quite satisfied.

What are its major findings?

This government is completely submerged in illegal mining, including most of its Ministers, through a variety of fraudulent practices. Illegal mining cannot flourish unless there is a godfather. The godfather can be a local police officer, a revenue official, a mining official or his staff, a forest official or his staff. Even if the total local-level bureaucracy is involved, illegal mining can go up to 20,000 tonnes. If the leakage goes up to 1.5 crore to two crore tonnes, it means somebody bigger is involved.

Payment of royalty alone does not make a mine legal. If you steal ore and offer to pay royalty to the department, it does not make it legal. There are those who have legal mines, forest and other clearances including environmental clearance, and pay royalty, but do not extract any ore, or [extract] very little ore. They sell the royalty and excess capacity at a premium. This is illegal and it is happening. But it came to our notice very late, so we could not go into it. But if a commission of inquiry goes to a site, it would be able to see this.

The report refers to a lot of cases but only seems to have nailed down a few, and has asked for further investigation.

It has nailed down the government very hard. When I blame the government, it means the Minister for Mines. There may have been multiple Ministers. In 1995 it was Pratapsing Rane, then Luizinho Faleiro, then someone else, then there was President's Rule. After 1999 it was Digambar Kamat. The major illegality began in 2005.

What is the level of political involvement?

Politicians get involved in four or five ways. Involvement does not mean he has a lease. Leases are age-old, granted by the Portuguese, so it cannot be retrospective.

One method is to directly purchase a lease, in the name of a dummy company which gets aggressive in the industry, the file starts moving while others are stuck. The second method is they become raising and extracting contractors. A machine contractor becomes the de facto owner, shares some profit with the mine owner. When the mine is not strictly legal, the contractor has to be powerful, strong politically or financially. He takes speed money or protection money for taking the risk.

When you start working a mine, people object; the politician ensures protection so that the police and the Mines Department do not interfere. And the third category is transportation.

Most politicians are involved in the second and third category. The fourth is running barges, where they can use their influence to get orders, which is morally wrong but difficult to pin down legally.

The report stops short of naming names.

I have named the government clearly. I can prove so many illegalities taking place. I have made a lot of inferences. People can use the PAC document; it becomes a record in itself. I have brought to notice how illegalities take place.

Your report seems to favour traditional mine owners.

I am not favouring traditional mine owners. I am saying legal mining should continue as long as it does not violate laws. I support sustainable mining. There should be a cap of 30 million tonnes per annum. Once you exceed 30 million tonnes, it becomes chaotic.

What is your approach to the industry? Should it be closed down?

How can you close the industry down, many livelihoods depend on it. I have never opposed legal mining. Even though it damages the environment, you require it. The report is very clear, it says the overburden of illegal mining is harming legal mining. Secondly, allow systematic dump handling instead of extraction and destruction of agriculture; dump handling is beneficial. You will get rid of those huge dumps.

You have been charged with pulling your punches these past five years and bringing it up now before the elections.

What is wrong with that? I am a politician. And you have to understand that as a government gets older, the scams increase. No Minister begins his corruption from day one, unless he is an experienced person.

It takes a Minister one to two years to begin his scams, in the third year he gets complacent, starts making mistakes, and fights break out and details leak out either in the Assembly so we get to know of it. That is why the attack happens in the fourth and fifth year.

What is your definition of illegal mining?

Anything which is not done with proper sanctions. All formalities have to be complete for any mine to operate.

You seem to be targeting only Congress Ministers and politicians, not some of the big players who may be equally or more culpable.

It is the media who only focus on politicians. I have equally targeted others in my report. I have given the names of the companies and the leases. I cannot go on interpreting every chart. I have only given the most blatant examples.

Digambar Kamat was the Minister for Mines when you were Chief Minister.

That is true. Most of the illegalities happened in the 1995-98 period and in 2005-2011. No condonations were given when I was Chief Minister, barring one which was given in the last month when I was Chief Minister, perhaps because I was busy with IFFI [International Film Festival of India] and could not pay attention, not that the file came to me.