With the Supreme Court hinting at early hearing of the interlocutory applications challenging the Goa, Daman and Diu (abolition and declaration of mining lease) Act, 1987, a new hope appears to have been rekindled about resumption of mining in the state. A civil appeal filed in 1998 by a mining firm has been pending for more than two decades. Seeing an opportunity in the particular litigation the Goa Mining People’s Front (GMPF) has demanded that the state Chief Secretary file a supporting affidavit before the Supreme Court within 15 days to seek amendment to the 1987 law. The GMPF has called for appointment of a new senior counsel to plead for the state’s interests, alleging that Additional Solicitor General of India Atmaram Nadkarni, who has been representing Goa in the mining case, had pleaded for auction of mining leases as the only way to restart mining. The state government needs to weigh all the possibilities and take action in this regard, as mining resumption is crucial to the state’s economy.
Aggrieved by the decision of the central government to abolish the mining concessions granted by erstwhile Portuguese rulers, a mining company from the state had challenged the 1987 law. Agreeing to hear the appeal after over 20 years the Supreme Court has directed the listing of the appeal and all other similar appeals after the Union ministry for mines submitted an interlocutory application seeking an early hearing of these appeals. The appeals will be heard by a nine-member bench of the apex court and the decision could be expected sooner than later. Even as the mining dependants are hoping for a miracle of sort, Atmaram Nadkarni has said that the interlocutory application filed by the Union ministry of mines will have no impact, positive or negative, on the Goa mining issue. However, even before the matter is taken up by the Supreme Court the matter has become sensitive with the GMPF putting up its demands before the state government. The state government and political leaders need to explain to the mining dependants the implications of the case in the apex court.
After the flip-flop on the exploration of ways to restart mining BJP leaders have been quick to take credit, claiming that the state government has been successful in convincing the Centre to request the Supreme Court to decide the two-decade-old case. Power Minister Nilesh Cabral has gone to the extent of saying that following the Supreme Court decision on the issue the state government would take all steps to restart mining. He has astounded everyone by claiming that the state government has not one but 10 different options to resume mining in the state. It appears from Cabral’s claim that the solution to the mining imbroglio depended on the appeal filed by the mining company about which nobody had ever said anything in the past years. If that was so, why did the BJP governments in the state and at the Centre wait for so long to appeal to the apex court to hear the two-decade-old matter? Rather than trying to take advantage of something in which they had no role, the state government and its ministers should go on seeking options for resumption of mining that are in the best interests of the Goan mineowners and smaller businesses that survive on mining.
Elections to Parliament and three Assembly constituencies have been announced. The issue of mining resumption should not be used for electoral gains. Given the seriousness of the matter any attempt to derive political mileage from the Supreme Court case could create problems for the BJP in the future in case the court order does not open up a new way of restarting mining. The mining dependants would be disappointed and there could be a backlash. After all, the Supreme Court case is an accidental case. It is not the fruit of any efforts put up by the state government. The solutions that were discussed in the past couple of years were amendments to the existing legislation – or an ordinance in case an amendment was not possible to be passed or was to take long to be passed – but that did not happen, though the mining dependants were kept waiting for that. The issue of mining resumption should not be taken frivolously and casually. It is necessary that all stakeholders sit together and join hands to find a way forward by examining how best the petition in the Supreme Court can be used to advance Goa’s case for restart of mining at the earliest.