Panaji, Jan 26 (IANS) Former Chief Minister late Manohar Parrikar erred in temporarily closing down the mining sector in 2012, Goa’s Ports Minister and BJP MLA Michael Lobo said on Tuesday.
Lobo’s comment is the first instance of a ruling Bharatiya Janata Party leader publicly blaming the former Defence Minister for the current impasse in Goa’s mining industry, which has been largely non-functional since 2012.
“Former CM Manohar Parrikar is my guru and I have learnt a lot from him. But what decision he took at that time was a mistake and we should accept it,” Lobo told reporters in the Parra village, when asked about the prolonged crisis which faces the mining industry in the coastal state.
“Although I was not from the mining belt, I had told the then CM (Parrikar) not to close the mining business. The present CM Pramod Sawant and (Power Minister) Nilesh Cabral had also requested Parrikar not to shut down mining then. We had asked him to curb illegalities in mining, but not close it down,” Lobo also said.
Goa’s mining sector, which contributes around 20 per cent to the state’s Gross Domestic Product has been plagued by controversy for nearly two decades now.
In early 2012, a judicial commission had exposed a Rs 35,000 crore illegal mining scam in the state’s mining sector, indicting the then Chief Minister Digambar Kamat and other officials.
When the BJP-led coalition government assumed power in March 2012, Parrikar ordered a temporary suspension of all mining activity in the state, pending verification of mining leases.
Days after Parrikar’s decision, then Union Minister of State (independent charge) for Environment and Forests Jayanthi Natarajan cancelled all environment clearances granted to the 90-odd mining leases, before the Supreme Court in the same year imposed a ban on mining, while hearing a petition.
The mining sector resumed once again in 2014 with a 20 million ton cap on extraction of ore, but came to a standstill once again in 2018, after the apex court found glaring irregularities in the lease renewal processes.
The Goa government as well as private mining firms have currently filed a review petition before the Supreme Court, urging it to relook the 2018 order.