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Nobody To See Or Hear Goa’s Mining Dependants

WITH the state government having failed to keep its promise of getting mining restarted, the mining dependants have organized protests at New Delhi to draw the attention of the central government. Ever since mining was shut following the orders of the Supreme Court the state government has been assuring the mining dependants that the resolution to the issue would come soon, but little has changed. Though the state leaders took up the issue with the central leaders on different occasions, the matter remained stuck. None of the central leaders have taken a concrete step to end the misery of the mining dependants. A three-day protest organised by the Goa Mining People’s Front (GMPF), an umbrella body of mining dependants, began in Delhi on Tuesday. The protest coincided with the beginning of the winter session of Parliament. The mining dependants were hoping to draw the attention of the central leaders and get concrete assurance on legislative measures for facilitating resumption of mining.

The mining dependants have been demanding an amendment to the Mines and Minerals Development and Regulation (MMDR) Act to facilitate resumption of mining. The Bharatiya Janata Party leaders in the state and at the Centre have been promising them that the issue was being seriously considered by the central government. However, they have failed to come up with a roadmap for resumption of mining. As the mining issue is being directly monitored by the Supreme Court the central government does not want to take short-cuts that might earn the ire of the top court. While the mining dependants want the Centre to amend the MMDR Act, the central government is of opinion that the best way forward for resumption of mining was to auction the leases as per the apex court ruling. As such the fight for resumption could go on for years unless extraordinary steps were taken to end the imbroglio. Had the state government and the Centre been truthful in their approach to resolve the issue and made efforts to convince the mining dependants that the top court order on auctioning of leases cannot be wished away the answer to the issue could have been found and the process completed by now.

Given the fact that those directly employed in the mining sector and those dependent on it were significant in numbers, almost all political parties from the state have supported their cause and decided to participate in the Delhi protest. Perhaps realising that they would not be able to fool people anymore, the leaders, especially from the ruling side, have called upon the Centre to find an early solution. Power Minister Nilesh Cabral wondered why the Narendra Modi government cannot find a way out for the mining resumption. Like other politicians he feels that the solution could be found only at the highest level. The mining dependants were told that the concerned file is in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), which aroused great expectations. However, it turned out that there was no file in the PMO concerning amendment to MMDR Act in PMO. The Goa Forward Party chief and Agriculture Minister Vijai Sardesai has asked BJP leaders to stop dilly-dallying and ensure that mining, which was one of the mainstays of the state economy, was restarted forthwith. He wants the BJP to spell out its stand on the issue and issued indirect threat that if the issue remained unsolved his party would take appropriate action in the interest of Goans.

It would have been better had the state government and BJP leaders in the state and at the Centre been truthful to the mining dependants. The Union law ministry has expressed a negative opinion with regard to MMDR Act amendment. There is no bill for amendment listed in the agenda for the winter session of the Parliament. The falsehood that the file had reached Prime Minister’s Office made the mining dependants believe that a solution would be found soon. As they say, misfortunes never come alone, so have they come to the mining dependants. Their Delhi protest is not going to draw the attention of anyone in the Modi government or the central BJP leadership, as they are not accessible or in a mood to talk about anything but the reasons for the loss of the elections to the Congress in the three major states of the Hindi heartland – Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. The mining dependants had hoped to make themselves seen and heard by the central government by organizing their protests at the Ramlila Grounds and Jantar Mantar. Nobody has time now to see or hear them.

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