Law and Judiciary Minister Nilesh Cabral says that the Centre is working on an amendment to facilitate resumption of mining operations in Goa. In an interview with SOIRU VELIP, the two-time BJP legislator from Curchorem admits that the situation in the state’s mining belt is bad
Q: The state government has given various suggestions to the central government with regard to resumption of mining activity. For the last one year, time and again, the BJP has been assuring the people that mining operations would resume in the state. However, no concrete step is visible so far. How would you react to this?
It is a fact that the mining operations have been stopped in the state after the decision of the Supreme Court. Since the apex court is involved in the matter, there are some technical difficulties involved. However, a formula is being worked out by the Centre for resumption of mining. One thing we should keep in mind is that if the Centre amends the Goa Daman and Diu (Abolition of Concession and Declaration as mining leases) Act, it would make 543 mining leases alive. Though there were 543 mining leases in the state, only 100 to 120 leases were operational. So, the Act needs to be amended in such a way that only these 100-120 mining leases become alive and as per our information the Centre is working in this direction.
Q: As you are an MLA from mining belt constituency, how are you looking at the mining situation in your area? How has the mining ban impacted people from the mining belt?
The impact is serious due to the closure of mining activities since the last one year. It is not only the mining dependants, who were actually directly and indirectly depending on iron ore mining activity, but also the small-time businesses like hair cutting saloons, hotels, food grain sellers and other activities in the market areas besides the real estate business that have been affected terribly. The one-day bandh called by Goa Mining People’s Front on February 26 was supported by everybody including businessmen, as they have been affected. In short, I can see how mining dependants and people involved in allied business activities are suffering due to the closure of mining. I can feel the pain of all these people. The situation is bad. So far, Sesa Goa mining firm has not given a break to its employees. But if they take such a decision then it would lead to more problems.
Q: The mining dependants have expressed their anger through the day-long bandh on February 26 in mining belt areas. However, a couple of days back, you had made a statement that this would have no effect on the BJP in the ensuing Lok Sabha elections. Can you elaborate on your statement?
The mining dependants are fuming, as mining was a source of their livelihood. Secondly, it is also a fact that the government has to restart mining operations. One cannot deny that. But what I was trying to say was that Congress has no capacity to restart mining; it is the BJP which has been pursuing and will follow up with the Centre to restart mining in the state. Therefore, the people should vote for BJP in the ensuing Lok Sabha elections to see that mining operations restart. As per various reports, BJP will retain power at the Centre after the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. So, if people re-elect our MPs from Goa in the Lok Sabha polls, then we can tell our central leaders that people of Goa have reposed their faith in the party and you should restart mining in the state as soon as possible.
Q: According to you, who is responsible for this mining mess in Goa?
Obviously, it is the then Congress government, which was ruling at the Centre from 2012 to 2014. After, Manohar Parrikar became chief minister in 2012, then Congress leader and Union minister for environment and forests, Jayanti Natarajan, had withdrawn environmental clearances given to mining leases of Goa. During that period, the Congress government at the Centre appointed Shah Commission for inquiring into the alleged illegal mining and tabled the report of the Commission in the Parliament illegally. However, after the BJP government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power in 2014, the Centre renewed all the mining leases and we managed to restart mining. After that, one activist approached the Supreme Court against mining. Then the apex court quashed 88 mining leases renewed by the BJP government and mining operations stopped.
Q: Do you feel that mining operations will resume before the ensuing Lok Sabha elections? If not, then how will you convince the voters?
The operations may not restart before the Lok Sabha election, as the model code of conduct will come into force soon. The state government has been making efforts since the last one year. Our Chief Minister has written three letters to the Centre suggesting various options for the resumption of mining. So far, we have not received any communication from the Centre in writing as claimed by Congress party. After examining the matter, now we have come to know that there are some technical aspects involved in the matter. So we will explain these technical aspects to the voters during the campaign for Lok Sabha election. We will appeal to the people to repose faith in BJP once again so that we can pursue the matter vigorously with the Modi government at the Centre.
Q: As far as the governance is concerned, how do you look at it, as there is a general perception that the administration is not functioning as expected since the last one year?
I have been working as a minister since the last five months and I never encountered any hurdle in clearing proposals pertaining to my departments. It is not right to say that the administration is not functioning. The only thing is that the process for taking major policy decisions is at a bit slow pace. Most of the proposals are cleared during cabinet meetings. I never encountered any difficulty in the finance department.
Q: As a BJP leader, how do you look at the decision announced by the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party, an alliance partner of the ruling BJP, to contest the Mandrem and Shiroda bypolls?
It is wrong on the part of MGP to take such a decision. The MGP has supported the government led by Parrikar for five years. Hence, how they can contest elections against the BJP? And these Mandrem and Shiroda as well as Mapusa are BJP seats. The MGP says that the party has supported Parrikar as a leader, then how can it contest the bypolls when Parrikar continues to be the Chief Minister of the alliance government? One can understand if they contest elections independently once the tenure of the current government is over.