Goa Cabinet to Legislate on Mining Resumption

The mining industry has come to a standstill since March after the Supreme Court set aside renewal of 88 mining leases for irregularities in procedure. Therefore, Goa cabinet decided on Thursday to step up the efforts to restart iron ore mining in the state.

Some members of the Manohar Parrikar-led cabinet are expected to visit Delhi in the next two or three days to push for a solution to the issue.

Parrikar, who has been operating from home owing to his illness, chaired the cabinet meeting at his private residence near here.

“The CM assured that all possible measures will be taken to ensure that mining resumes,” Power Minister Nilesh Cabral told reporters.

“In the next two to three days we might have to go to Delhi and see,” said Cabral.

Town and Country Planning Minister and Goa Forward Party chief Vijai Sardesai said the government is serious about the issue.

“A legislative solution” by amendment of relevant acts is being contemplated, he said.

Mining Dependants to Stage Protest on Khandepar Bridge Inauguration Ceremony

Goa Mining Peoples Front (GMPF) on Wednesday during their meeting held at Usgao, decided not to allow Union Minister Nitin Gadkari to inaugurate Khandepar bridge on December 23.

They also announced their plan to call for Goa bandh in the coming days.

The meeting was attended by around five hundred mining dependants under the chairmanship of Puti Gaonkar.

Goa Suraksha Manch chief Subhash Velingkar, Shiv Sena Goa President Jitesh Kamat, Congress officer bearer Khemlo Sawant and others were present to extend their support to the movement of the mining dependants.

During the meeting, the mining dependants expressed that “the government has done nothing to resume mining in the state for the past one year, and has only given fake assurances to the people.” “The agitations in the state and also in Delhi did not bear any fruit and it is clear that the government is not at all serious about the mining issue,” they added.

They then vowed to teach a lesson to the government.

“It is now the time to show power of the mining dependants to the government, and prove how badly we want mining to resume,” the mining dependants thundered during the meeting.

A decision was taken to protest against the government during the Khandepar bridge inauguration function scheduled on December 23, which Union Minister Nitin Gadkari is expected to attend.

“It will be first blow of the mining dependants to the government, wherein the mining dependants will not allow Nitin Gadkari to inaugurate Khandepar bridge at any cost,” said Gaonkar.  The mining dependants decided to block the entry of the bridge from both sides by gathering in large numbers and inaugurate the bridge at the hands of local senior citizen.

They also decided to call for a Goa bandh in next few days and close entry points to the state (Mollem, Pollem, Dodamarg and Chorla Ghat). Associations of taxi operators and others will be called to join the movement. The date for the bandh will be declared on  December 27 following statewide meeting of mining dependants at Ponda.

Goa Congress assured the GMPF to take responsibility of closing Pollem entry point, Shiv Sena assured to close Dodamarg point, and rest others will be closed  by the mining dependants themselves during the bandh.

“The bandh should be so effective that it should force government to act seriously on the mining issue,” said the GMPF leader.

Considering the demand of the mining dependants present for the meeting, GMPF also decided to write to the mining department asking it to stop the e-auction of the ore until the mining issue in the state is resolved.

Addressing the meeting, Velingkar blamed the BJP- led government for the mining crisis in the state.

If the BJP really wanted to solve the mining issue, it would have solved it as central government and state government is headed by the party, he said. “Even the MGP and Goa Forward are not serious about it, and if they really were, they would have withdrawn their support to the government or at least should have tried to pressurise it. But they didn’t do it,” he said and extended full support to the mining dependants in their fight.

BJP Didn’t Want Ailing Parrikar to Quit

Grappling with the chronic ailment of pancreas, BJP’s Goa frontman Manohar Parrikar wants to rest in peace back at home. Owing to this, the Parrikar wanted to resign from the party in midst of his tenure but BJP seems to hold on its adroit minister therefore the party high command exercised veto to hold back BJP’s exigent CM.

Goa Forward Party chief and Agriculture Minister Vijai Sardesai suggested on Thursday that “He wanted to give up the CM’s post altogether. He had even shown inclination to give away his portfolios (to other ministers) when he was admitted to a hospital during Ganesh Chaturthi festival.”

“But then several things happened. BJP high command stepped in….it (to resign or not) is not in his (Parrikar’s) hands entirely,” Sardesai told reporters.

Parrikar, 62, has been recuperating at his residence here since he was discharged from the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi on October 14. He is suffering from a pancreatic ailment.

Asked about independent MLA and Revenue Minister Rohan Khaunte’s remark that the administration has become sluggish in Parrikar’s absence, Sardesai said, “I have always been saying that CM’s ill-health has had some sort of impact, and it is showing.”

To a question on another alliance partner Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) filing a petition against two former Congress MLAs who joined the BJP, the minister said it was surprising.

MGP has moved the Goa Bench of Bombay High Court, seeking to disqualify Subhash Shirodkar and Dayanand Sopte, former Congress MLAs who recently joined the BJP.

“It is a matter between two constituents of the alliance — BJP and MGP. So we are not concerned with it,” Sardesai said.

“As far as MGP is concerned, its decision to go to the court is surprising….I can believe it is a preemptive move, they (MGP) have not lost anything, Congress has lost two MLAs,” Sardesai said in a cryptic remark.

Speculation was rife earlier that MGP MLAs might join the BJP which does not have a majority on its own in Goa Assembly.

BJP spokespersons were not available for comment on Sardesai’s remarks.

Opposition Demands General Consensus over Amendment to the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act

Soothing the petrified miners, Congress leader Chandrakant Kavlekar called for a one-day assembly to arrive at a general consensus over the amendment to the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act by the Centre, following State Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar’s letter to Union Ministry for the same.

Kavlekar was addressing over a thousand writhing mining dependants who visited the Congress House in Panaji under the banner of Goa Mining People’s Forum (GMPF) to seek the party’s support on resumption of mining.

“I will write to CM Manohar Parrikar, governor Mridula Sinha and speaker Pramod Sawant in this matter,” Kavlekar said.

“The government should take an all-party delegation together with mining dependants to meet PM Narendra Modi to resolve the issue. I will request BJP state president Vinay Tendulkar to arrange this meeting.” Referring to Parrikar’s letter to Union minister Narendra Singh Tomar requesting that the MMDR Act be amended, Kavlekar said there was no information about the reply received from the Centre.

Several delegations of ministers and MLAs have travelled to Delhi for the purpose, he said, but have returned to Goa without any results. “We have also seen photographs of the CM meeting the PM, but we still don’t know what assurances were given by the PM,” Kavlekar said.

The opposition leader said the Congress should support a bill seeking the amendment of the MMDR Act in Parliament, if such a bill was introduced by the Centre.

“We will meet Congress national president Rahul Gandhi in this regard,” he told the gathering, adding that Congress MLAs would even participate in a dharna in Delhi.

Union Ministry Dissents Over Resumption of Mining in Goa

Union Law Ministry expressed its dissent over the resumption of mining activity in Goa and persuaded Centre to decline the proposal of Goa’s government for revision of the Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act to resume mining activity in the state.

All the hopes for the miners in Goa were smashed by Supreme court in February this year with its blanket ban on all mining activities in Goa, notified Law Secretary Suresh Chandra informed the Mines Ministry last month. He advised that miners should directly approach the apex court for a review.

According to the Law Ministry, it would be pointless to approach the Attorney General for an opinion on Goa’s proposed amendment, which was “inconsistent” with Section 8A of the MMDR Act as well as the apex court’s judgment and directions.

Section 8A deals with the period of grant of a mining lease for minerals other than coal, lignite and atomic minerals, and limits the period for which existing leases may be extended depending on the nature of the mining lease — captive or non-captive.

Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar had requested the Centre to amend the MMDR Act to extend the tenure of mining leases to the year 2037 so that mining operations could resume in the state. Mining in Goa was stopped on March 15 after the apex court quashed the second renewal of 88 mining leases granted by the state government.

Pressure has been building up on the Parrikar government with Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party (MGP) chief Deepak Dhavalikar issuing an ultimatum that his party would withdraw from the ruling alliance if the mining issue was not resolved by December 15.

Parrikar had requested the Centre that Section 8A be amended to re-fix the official start date of the 50-year mining leases beginning 1987. This was perceived by the Law Ministry as altering the “very basis” of the Supreme Court judgment.

The Law Secretary was of the view that the issue relating to illegal mining in Goa was specifically dealt by the Court and “the attempt by the state government to validate their continuance de hors (outside of) the legal provisions occupying the field was rejected”.

His remedy is that the Goa government should ask stakeholders to seek a review of the February 7 order as the Court, while giving directions and cancelling the lease, had perhaps not considered the vested rights of the miners.

“The law laid down by the Supreme Court under Article 141 of the Constitution or the law made by the Parliament normally does not take away the vested rights. This may be a sufficient ground for seeking review of the Supreme Court order,” Chandra advised the Mines Ministry.

Dhavali Bypass Road Soon to be Completed

The four-lane Dhavali bypass road with a lump-sum cost of Rs 70 crore is close to its completion. The 3.83km-long Dhavali bypass leads upto Farmagudi to the Ponda road.

The Dhavali-Farmagudi bypass road was built around two decades ago to divert heavy national highway traffic away from the town. However, it soon was fraught with problems. The accident-prone Dhavali-Farmagudi bypass road has led to a number of fatal mishaps due to several sharp turns along the route. What had also added to the danger is the haphazard parking of trucks by the roadside.

The widening of the bypass was taken up during 2015-16. The four-laning of the bypass was undertaken as part of the ongoing highway expansion project of the Union ministry for road transport and highways. The bypass includes two flyovers along the stretch and is expected to relieve commuters of the present woes.

Earlier, July 2018 was set as the deadline for the completion of four-laning of the Dhavali bypass, but March 2019 has been set as the new target for the contractor carrying out the work.

Also, work is currently going on on a new road from Dhavali bypass to Baichikud and from Baichikud to Sarkari Petrol Pump at Curti. The new alignment has been worked out from end of the Dhavali bypass till Angdi in Loutolim. The new road on NH-17 links Ponda to Salcete, and includes the new Borim bridge. The Borim bridge on NH-17 is one of the links across River Zuari.

Mopa Airport Construction to Get Underway

Goa government has ostensibly given the security clearance for construction of GMR Goa International Airport Limited (GGIAL) in North Goa.

The state government had sought approval of central agencies for Megawide Construction Corporation, one of Philippines’s leading engineering and infrastructure developers, and Dubai Consultants, both engaged by GMR for the upcoming greenfield airport at Mopa.

Officials said that construction of the airport had started and the state government has appointed Engineers India limited (EIL) to monitor the construction.

The Philippines-based company was vetted at the time of tendering, but once the contract was finalised and they engaged the services of a Dubai-based consultant, there was need for a second round of security clearance. “Inputs from Intelligence Bureau and Research and Analysis were sought and conveyed to the state government and Ministry of Civil Aviation,” an official added.

Refusing to elaborate on any objections raised by the agencies, the official said that if there is any feedback from the agencies on the grounds of national or economic security, the concerned ministry is informed. “At the time of vetting, the agencies examine the role of the company, its promoters, directors and key executives. The security clearance procedure took into account their involvement, if any, in any case that might have adverse implications on national security,” he said. While the decision of granting or denying security clearance remains with the MHA, inputs are shared with concerned administrative ministries to enable them to take an appropriate decision, as deemed fit, in accordance with their rules, policy, procedure, guidelines, he added.

The GGIAL, an SPV formed by GMR Airports Limited, signed the concession agreement with Government of Goa for development and operation of the Greenfield International Airport at Mopa in 2016. Two years later, Megawide was selected as it was the lowest bidder. As per the concession agreement, GGIAL will have the right to operate the business for 40 years, extendable by another 20 years. The estimated cost of Phase I of the project is Rs 3,100 crore. It will be completed in four phases, and work on the first phase is expected to be completed by 2020, an official said.

Goa Assembly to be Dissolved Soon?

No sooner the Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar arrived on the scene after his treatment from AIIMS, Delhi than the allied parties use the situation for their own end.

A minister of alliance partner of ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has warned it against dissolving the state assembly. A day after Parrikar’s return, Goa Forward Party leader and minister Vijay Sardesai released a video statement asking the BJP to keep its ‘word’ to ensure that the government lasts the full term of five years.

Sardesai’s comments come at a time when opposition Congress has already staked claim to form the next government. Parriakr, who returned to Panaji on Sunday, was being treated for a pancreatic ailment at the Delhi hospital. Although doctors have advised him rest for a week, the CM has started interacting with his family members.

In the video statement, Sardesai said, “The onus is on them (the BJP) and they will have to fulfil their commitment that this government will complete its full term and get the continued support of the Central government as was seen in the past.”  He added that BJP chief Amit Shah had assured him that the BJP national leadership was not interested in having a mid-term poll or to dissolve the assembly.

He added, “As such, when our commitment is there and their commitment is also there, the onus of this government continuing for the full five-year term lies with the central BJP leadership.”

Parrikar’s leadership in the state was one of the major conditions for the coalition partners – Goa Forward Party, Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party and three independents – to ally with the BJP to form the government.

Fresh Elections or New Government; Congress to Take Advantage of Parrikar’s Failing Health

Due to the prolonged illness of Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar and his inability to continue his service has paved the way for the dissolution of the existing BJP led coalition government in Goa.

However, on Monday Congress leader Mr. Kavlekar along with his 15 other MLA’s grasped the opportunity and submitted a proposal in a letter to Governor Mridula Sinha’s office. In the letter “We have requested the Governor through our letter that the Assembly should not be dissolved and fresh election forced on the State. We have also asked her not to impose President’s Rule or keep the House in suspended animation. People have elected us for five years. Pushing for an election after a mere 18 months is not good for anybody,” Mr. Kavlekar said.

BJP on the other is looking for holding fresh elections in the state. Parikkar not only enabled the BJP’s growth and success in an unlikely state (think of its cultural roots and plural religious mix) but was the reason the party could form the government at all in 2017 despite losing its majority and coming second. Smaller parties and independents were willing to back the nimble-footed and resourceful BJP, while the Congress was caught napping despite being the single largest party, but on one condition: Parikkar’s return to the state from Delhi. This suited the then defence minister, who was always itching to get back home.

As Parikkar’s health remains fragile, Goa will continue to be politically turbulent. From the continuation of a government with a leader who is unwell to a change in power equations, from President’s Rule to early elections, all options are on the cards. But the decision will finally boil down as much to the machinations in Panjim as to the state of a man in a room in Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Sciences. Sometimes then, leaders do determine the fate of the organisation.