Panaji, April 8 (IANS) A Goa government-run minor port at Panaji, which has allegedly been the clearing house for millions of tonnes of dubiously sourced iron ore, could be back in the news again.
A top official of Goa's only major central government-run port said that on Monday, at a meeting with Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar the latter would be implored to hike the "accountability" norms at the Panaji minor port, which official records show has exported nearly five million tonnes of ore in the last few years.
"We will be speaking to the chief minister about a lot of issues... including this," said P. Mara Pandian, chairman of the Mormugao Port Trust (MPT), which operates Goa's only major port located in Mormugao, 40 km from here.
Rejecting outright the possibility of illegal ore being exported out of MPT premises, Pandian also said there was an urgent need to increase accountability of the Panaji minor port's operations.
"Not a single gram of iron ore has been exported from our port... But the accountability of the minor port has to be improved. We have put all these issues before the state government. We will take these up again with the chief minister," Pandian told IANS.
The official had earlier engaged with the previous Digambar Kamat-led government informing of illegal export of ore from the minor port and seeking setting up of checks and balances and a surveillance system to stop the pilferage. Pandian had implored the Goa government to suspend the operation of the Panaji port in "national interest".
"It is estimated about five million tonnes have been exported through the Panaji Port as unaccounted iron ore... As far as the Panaji Port is concerned, the whole operation is falling within the administrative ambit of the state government from the point of licensing mines, movement of iron ore by trucks to the loading point, loading of iron ore into the barges, movement of barges through the rivers and thereafter loading into the ship," Pandiyan had said in a September 2011 letter to the chief secretary Sanjiv Srivastava.
"Mormugao Port Trust has been examining the operational requirement of Panaji Port for quite some time. Panaji Port exists only for namesake on record. It does not have any berth. It operates as an 'outer anchorage port' wherein any exporter can load anything to the ship, and does not follow the security norms," he added.
Goa's illegal mining scam has been pegged at Rs.10,000 crore by ruling Congress legislator Dayanand Narvekar during his deposition to the Justice M.B. Shah commission appointed by the Supreme Court to probe illegal iron and manganese ore in the country.
Goa extracted nearly 54 million tonnes during the last financial year according to official data.