A Supreme Court-appointed committee has virtually confirmed the massive illegal mining scam in Goa, vindicating anti-mining activists who have been campaigning against the menace for over a decade.
After the central empowered committee (CEC) submitted a report to the Supreme Court last week, activists say their claims of illegal mining in Goa stand vindicated.
There are now two official reports, one by the SC-appointed CEC and the other by the Justice M.B. Shah Commission, which back the claims of the environmentalists.
The Shah Commission report was submitted to parliament some months ago.
"The CEC has outlined an excellent road map regarding capping, re-surveys, etc. but one thing I find amiss is that there is no mention of how to recover the estimated Rs.35,000 crore loss," Siddarth Karapurkar, secretary of the Goenchea Xetkaracho Ekvott, a grassroots traditional farmers organisation in Goa, said in a conversation with IANS.
The CEC in its report submitted after nearly two months of ground study in Goa, has indicted government agencies for their inability to curb blatant illegal mining in Goa.
The report submitted by the CEC secretary M.K. Jiwraka has also asked that 42 blatantly illegal mines in Goa be closed down, apart from suggesting that environment clearances (EC) granted to all mining operations be verified, to rule out fraud.
Goa has nearly 90 operational mines.
"Acute damage has also been caused to ground water aquifers due to indiscriminate mining below ground water level, which in turn has, in several areas, adversely affected agricultural activities," Jiwraka said in his report, apart from asking the state government to come up with norms and regulations to control illegal mining in the future.
"Goa may be directed to immediately notify comprehensive rules to regulate storage, transportation and shipment of mineral. It should provide for issue of transit permits before the mineral is permitted to be transported outside the lease area, and ensure verification in transit. Till such comprehensive rules are put in place, the resumption of mining operations may be not be permitted," the report said, buttressing the demands of environmentalists, who have been seeking just such a mechanism.
"It is a justice due to the people of Goa and the state. It was reckless and mindless mining that was being carried out all these years. The CEC has tightened all the screws and the loopholes making it next to impossible to start mining again," according to Ramesh Gauns, a school teacher, who has doubled as an activist.
Gauns has been pushed and shoved several times by the mining lobby, during his countless protests against illegal iron ore extraction and movement of ore to the ports for export.
Now with the Supreme Court set to decide the future of the multi-million dollar mining industry, and on course to bring the culprits of the Rs.35,000 crore illegal mining scam to book, Gauns's fellow-activists like Zarina da Cunha are only too happy.
"Now that the ball is in the court of judiciary, whatever they say is acceptable. Let the law take its course, I am confident it will," da Cunha said.