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Last Hope Of Goa’s Mining Dependants

Let us hope the latest overture by the BJP at last brings some cheer to Goa’s mining belt. BJP president Amit Shah has assured a delegation of the Goa Mining People’s Front (GMPF) that the Centre would resolve the mining impasse soon. The GMPF delegation, which met Shah in Delhi recently, was not told how the central government intends to help the mining dependants who have been running from pillar to post seeking early solution to the mining issue. The GMPF had been promised a meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi more than once, but that did not materialize. The most recent was Public Works Department Minister Sudin Dhavalikar’s promise to take them to Delhi to see the Prime Minister on January 16. We have not heard from Dhavlikar anything on that. The GMPF meeting with BJP president Amit Shah was never planned, for after all he is party president, not concerned with governance or policies. However, in this era, we are back to highly influential and strong party chiefs, such as they used to be in communist countries or in the earlier avatars of the Congress party. So, everybody in the Goa Mining People’s Front is presuming that talking to Amit Shah means talking to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. They are also presuming that since he has said the central government would find a way to resolve the issue, the Prime Minister would find a way indeed.

If the BJP president has given the GMPF an assurance with any political intention – that is, just to keep the families of mining dependants from voting against the BJP in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections – the GMPF would feel they have been denied justice once again, a feeling that may work against the BJP. As of now the GMPF is optimistic, though they are not sure what measure the central government is going to take. The Centre ruled out amendments to the two laws – Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act, and Goa, Daman and Diu Mining Concessions (Abolition and Declaration Mineral Leases) Act – to facilitate early resumption of mining. The only option left is auction of mining leases, which could take months to be completed and years before mining resumes. In such an eventuality the mining dependants would find it difficult to sustain themselves and their families. The GMPF has urged Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar to auction the ore mined before the closure of mines and lying at the lease areas to pay salaries to the laid-off mining workers. There being no takers for the low grade ore produced in the state, the idea of selling the ore may not be easy to work out. The government on its own does not have money to provide any succour to mining dependants.

Ever since mining was closed down on March 16 last year, those depending on it have been seeking help from the authorities for its resumption, but all they got was promises and assurances and more promises and more assurances. Every time the mining dependants threaten to agitate and shout, the lollipop of a promise is handed to them. The BJP president has advised the mining dependants to have patience which is running out due to the continuing stalemate. Given the sensitivity of the case any attempt by the BJP top leadership to hoodwink them could lead to a serious law and order situation, which should be prevented by timely action. So far the mining dependants have chosen to exercise restraint and followed the petitioning route, but with no resolution coming forth there is every possibility of them resorting to protests, which could turn violent.

The solution to Goa’s mining issue has to come out at the earliest as there is possibility of code of conduct in view of by-elections to two seats of the state legislative Assembly coming into force any time now. The code of conduct could continue for at least four to five months as Lok Sabha elections are due in less than three months. The last session of the present Lok Sabha, a shorter one, is scheduled to begin in less than two weeks from now during which the amendments or new legislation could be brought and passed. Any proposed law regarding resumption of mining in Goa should withstand scrutiny of the Supreme Court which had ordered the shutdown. The BJP leadership should work out a practical solution in a sincere manner in the next few days.

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