It’s not just Congress leaders who have been beneficiaries of the iron ore mining business in Goa. Affidavits filed with the Election Commission ahead of Assembly polls in 2012 have revealed that at least four sitting BJP MLAs are beneficiaries of the mining trade either as iron ore dealers or transport contractors.
Nilesh Cabral, MLA from Curchorem, the mining belt in south Goa, owns 15 trucks, four excavators and two barges. Subhash Phaldessai, MLA from Sanguem (south Goa), is a mining transport contractor and owns 18 trucks. Legislator Ganesh Gaonkar from Sanvordem (south Goa) has mentioned ‘dealer in iron ore and transport contractor’ as his profession in his affidavit, while locals allege that MLA from Sanquelim (north Goa), Pramod Sawant, owns two trucks that carry ore.
Another BJP man, Satyavijay Naik, who contested from Valpoi (north Goa) but lost, owns five trucks and is a dealer in ore and a transport contractor. While a truck could cost between R14 lakh and R16 lakh, one barge with a carrying capacity of 2,000 million tonnes could cost anything between R4 crore to R6 crore.
Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar had, as opposition leader, recommended in the PAC report that traders, transporters and contractors should be investigated. But he has since changed his stand.
Parrikar said, “Truck owners and contractors involved in mining cannot be an illegality because they only load and offload ore. Only those who own the ore and ‘raising contractors’ are involved in illegal trade.”
The SC, in October, stopped extraction and transportation of iron ore following a PIL filed by the Goa Foundation. In December, a court-appointed panel recommended a complete ban on mining. The apex court will hear the matter in the third week of January.