An early resumption of mining in the state has begun to sound more like an illusion than reality. The mining dependants have been knocking every door – and receiving words of deep sympathy, but only words of deep sympathies. They held protests in Goa; they held protests in Delhi; they are threatening to hold protests again in Goa. The latest to come out with a torch of hope to them is Public Works Department Minister Ramkrishna Dhavlikar who has said he would take their representatives to see Prime Minister Narendra Modi on January 16. The mining dependants have lost count of ministers and MPs who assured them an intervention by PM to get mining restarted. Though the mining dependants have decided to wait until January 16 before formulating their course of action, they are very sceptical and have warned they would mount fresh protests if nothing came out of the PWD Minister’s promise – which seems to be very likely, as Dhavlikar needs to have been granted a one-on-one appointment by the Prime Minister, something of which we have no confirmed news yet.
The mining issue is a creation of successive governments that failed to govern the mining sector according to regulations. Had the government ensured that mining was carried out in accordance with the rules and approvals, no illegal mining would have taken place and the court would not have ordered a shutdown. The total absence of governance that led to illegal mining boom has left such a big trauma that the government finds it hard to convince the Supreme Court of its ability to keep mining under regulation when it restarts. At the same time, the mining dependants, who include owners of businesses surviving on mining business activities and technical and general workers, are getting restive. They have also veered round to supporting idea of auctioning of mining leases, which the court and the central government also favour, but on which the state government has been in two minds. The Modi government has not taken the issue seriously, but the disappointment of the mining dependants can play a role in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections. The BJP-led state government needs to convince the central government to take whatever steps it has to in order to restart mining. With the mining dependants threatening a fresh series of protests from January 17 in case a decision on mining resumption was not announced, the state government would have to accelerate decision making at the central level.
The Centre has ruled out an ordinance to change the law to facilitate mining resumption. The mining dependants had pinned their hopes on the winter session of the Parliament, hoping the government would bring up a bill to amend the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) (MMDR) Act or the Goa Daman and Diu (Abolition of Concession and Declaration as Mining Leases) Act for the purpose. However, with the winter session over and there being no sign of the promised amendment, the scenario seems bleak for the mining dependants. Though nearly a year has passed since the Supreme Court order, Goa’s ministers and MPs have been making promises after promises but nothing concrete happened. It would have been better if the state government had followed the apex court directives and taken steps to auction the mines as by now the first phase of the process would have been completed. As the Centre too seems to be in favour of auction and mining dependants have also accepted it as an option, the state government should go ahead with the process and complete it.
Every political party has expressed solidarity with the mining dependants. They joined them when they organized protests in Delhi. Even the state leaders of the BJP went to express sympathy with the mining dependants, though they were protesting the indecision of the central government. It is now clear that the state leaders of the BJP totally failed in convincing the central leaders of the amendment of the MMDR Act or the Goa Daman and Diu (Abolition of Concession and Declaration as Mining Leases) Act being the best option for the state. Now, there is very little chance of the central government taking any decision to provide solution to the mining shutdown in the state. Soon the code of conduct is likely to come into effect in view of the elections to the Lok Sabha. The mining dependants would have to wait for a new government to take over at the Centre before they can hope for any concrete action for resumption of mining.