The Goa church has taken the BJP-led government in the state head on over the issue of mining and demanded setting up of a PSU to take over the tainted and scam-ridden multi-billion dollar mining industry. The Council for Social Justice and Peace (CSJP), the social wing of the Roman Catholic Church in Goa, has demanded setting up of a public sector undertaking (PSU) in a letter to Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar.
The demand comes over a week after Parrikar, who is being accused by the opposition and civil society groups of being close to the powerful private mining lobby, outright denied any possibility of a government concern taking over the 100-odd mining leases, which were declared illegal by the Supreme Court (SC) last month. "The council is of the opinion that the state government constitute a PSU to operate all mining activities, utilizing the existing machinery and trucks that are owned by the concerned people," CSJP's executive secretary Fr. Savio Fernandes said in the letter sent Monday.
After it imposed a blanket ban on mining for over a year, the Supreme Court revoked it in April and ruled that nearly all mining leases in Goa were being illegally operated, thus expanding the financial scope of the scam from Rs.35,000 crore to many times that amount. Speaking to reporters after the apex court judgment, Parrikar ruled out setting up a government corporation to manage the mining industry, and claimed that corporations were prone to corruption. Parrikar was also non-committal about auctioning the leases to the highest bidder as an option.
The CSJP has called the Supreme Court verdict a "landmark historic judgment that vindicates their over a decade-long persistent struggle along with the victims of mining". The church body, which acts as a spiritual guide to over a quarter of the state's 1.5 lakh population, has expressed distress at the manner in which successive governments had been in cahoots with the mining companies and had "only lobbied and defended the interests of the 'mining lobby' instead of defending the larger interests of the directly affected people and the state". "Political parties, who have accepted funding from such mining companies during the said period, are morally bound to deposit the money in the state treasury," Fernandes said.
"Justice demands that the state government initiate legal action against all those who committed this fraud of illegal mining and recover from them over Rs.30,000 crore during the five years, since the ore was illegally mined, as also around Rs.35,000 crore earned on mining outside the lease areas," the letter said.