Panaji, March 3 (IANS) After duping the state treasury of billions of rupees, one would think illegal mining would be villain No. 1 for the Goa government and rapacious mining companies the faces of this brazen villainy.
But if one goes by the recent statements of Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar and the state government's communique to the Supreme Court of India, the blame for Goa's post-mining ban woes lies squarely on the shoulders of green NGO Goa Foundation, which has been locally spearheading the legal fight against illegal mining.
Parrikar's comments earlier this week only summed up the frustration of the ruling mining-friendly Bharatiya Janata Party-led dispensation towards Goa Foundation and its secretary Claude Alvares.
"How to give these people safety is my worry. Goans are normally cool, but things are boiling up. That is the police report we are getting," Parrikar told reporters, while speaking about public ire against those like Alvares and other activists, whose campaign against illegal mining and a subsequent petition in the Supreme court led to a ban on all mining in Goa since last October.
According to Ramesh Gauns, a tireless anti-mining crusader, Parrikar's publicly expressed doubts about Alvares's safety only showed that the state was trying to browbeat activists who are protesting against the rapacious mining operations, which are responsible for the multi-crore mining scam, as estimated by the Justice M.B. Shah commission of enquiry.
"The kinds of statements he (Parrikar) has been making are the most irresponsible by any chief minister since liberation (from the Portuguese in 1961). It is very clear that he is increasingly frustrated," Gauns told IANS.
A cue of Parrikar's "concern" for Alvares can be sourced from an affidavit filed by the Goa government's principal secretary (Mines) Rajani Kant Varma in the Supreme Court while making an impassionate plea to restart mining. The affidavit says that Goa Foundation had "unclean hands" and had "exceeded its limits" as an NGO in filing the petition with "suppressed facts".
"I further state that the petitioner's secretary has been found instigating and making press statements that it is the state government which is to be blamed for stopping the mining operations and that it is the state government which is responsible for complete halt of economic activities in the mining belt in Goa making politically unwarranted, uncalled for," the Goa government has claimed.
Admitting that the mining lobby in Goa was "powerful comprising rich and famous people", the affidavit claims that the Parrikar government through "bold and assertive" decisions had acted tough against the mining lobby at the cost of incurring its wrath.
Alvares, it says, had tried to convince the court otherwise.
"The petitioner made serious allegations against the state government and presented a picture as if the state government is in collusion with the mine owners in undertaking illegal mining operations in the state of Goa," the affidavit said.
Adding mystery to the Goa's governments attempt to nail Goa Foundation is a mysterious sealed cover submitted to the Supreme Court which it has requested to be kept secret from the litigants. The sealed envelope, the affidavit says, contains "a report received from state intelligence as regards certain situations and developments in the state, deeply concerning the present matter".
Alvares has refrained from commenting to the media, preferring to put forth his case before the apex court.
(Mayabhushan Nagvenkar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org))