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No Mining Roadmap

Goa expected a concrete Proposal from PM Modi

In his Wednesday election speech at Panaji Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised to Goans that his next government and the state government will try to “remove the obstacles” on the way of resumption of mining. He did not give any concrete proposal for mining resumption as the mining dependants observing a protest at Jantar Mantar would have expected, though. Perhaps there is no clear way visible to his government yet because of the Supreme Court watching the scene in the light of massive illegal mining in the pre-shutdown years. But Modi gave hope: “We will certainly try to get the hurdles out of the way for restart of mining. The central government and the state government will try to do it in accordance with the law.” Modi’s words might lighten the pessimism of the Goan mining industry and the services industries and the people dependent on it about early restart of mining, but it is not like the light at the end of the tunnel. For the past few years the state leaders have been telling people the same thing what Modi said:  “We are trying to remove the hurdles in the way of resumption of mining.” A few months before the announcement of elections, a delegation of the Goa Mining People Front had met the Prime Minister in Delhi and he had said, “I will see what we can do.” Before the BJP manifesto was released, the state BJP leaders told the media they had suggested the manifesto committee to include restart of Goa’s mining as one of the issues. However, the manifesto when it came out did not contain anything about Goa’s mining. All it said about mining was raising national mining output.

The Goa Mining People Front is seeking to make mining resumption an issue in the election. There are mining dependant families both in the North Goa and South Goa constituencies. Both BJP MPs Shripad Naik and Narendra Sawaikar were part of the state efforts to put pressure on the central government to restart mining. It is another matter that they did not succeed. They have hopes that their engagement with the issue will be appreciated by the people affected by mining.  Naik and Sawaikar are going to see Modi’s assurance as a significant help. Modi pointed to issues involved in resumption of Goa’s mining: first, it was monitored by the Supreme Court; second, the mining laws were very old and needed to be changed; and third, corruption in the mining sector during the Congress regime had to be penalized. In reality these were old and known issues. These issues should have been tackled by the central government and state government in the last few years. Why were the mining laws not changed? Why has nobody been taken to task for corrupt practices in mining? The BJP has been in power in Delhi and Panaji. Why did not they put the guilty of illegal mining to trial? There was no dearth of legal experts. The central government had enough time since the apex court shut down the mining industry in the state to change the archaic laws to pave the way for mining resumption.

Though unemployment has been a major issue in the state as in the rest of the country there was not much clarity in the Prime Minister’s speech – neither on the size of the problem nor on the ways adopted to tackle it. Those sections of Goan youth that sees Modi as a doer would have liked him to tell them what they can hope for in his next term in terms of their employment, better employment and future. Among Goan communities Modi offered incentives to fishermen. The fishermen of Goa have been facing a host of problems. Among the major ones are illegal fishing, LED fishing and processing infrastructure. The fishermen’s issues cannot be entirely tackled by the central government. The state government has to play a strong proactive role. Their experience is that government assurances have not borne fruit. Modi’s remark that Goa has profited from his government policies on tourism, like e-visa and visa on arrival might earn appreciation. However, the number of foreign tourist arrivals in Goa is on decline because of high visa rates and related issues. The tourism sector is saddled with high GST. Election time is for promises. The next government must resolve the complexities.

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