The Goa government on Wednesday announced the formation of a high-level committee, headed by retired Bombay high court judge RM Khande-parkar, to probe irregularities in iron ore mining pointed out by the Central government-appointed Justice MB Shah panel.
The committee, which will include officials from the anti-corruption branch of Goa police for criminal investigation against those found guilty, will submit its report in two months.
Besides identifying offences and illegalities by public servants in passing orders and making dead leases operational, it will suggest measures for control, supervision and regulation of the mining industry.
The government will start recovering money from mine owners involved in irregularities once it receives the committee’s report.
"There were also certain queries on contents of the Shah report from stakeholders. The state government therefore needed some guidance and clarifications on the basis of which action can be taken," Laxmikant Parsekar, BJP minister, told HT. "The committee has been given complete investigation and police authority."
The Shah Commission's final report, which pegged the mining scam at about Rs. 35,000 crore, criticised the former Congress-led Goa government and its various agencies for failing to contain illegal mining.
HT has, in a series of reports, revealed how illegal mining has cost Goa more than Rs. 3,000 crore, though some estimates put the losses at Rs. 10,000 crore.
The new committee will also investigate cess collection and losses to the state exchequer due to pilferage of royalty.
Activists, however, said the formation of the committee is a tactic by the government to delay the process of taking action against those who have violated laws. "The government does not want to book anyone and is not serious about violations and illegalities. This is a way of subverting a constitutional authority," said activist Ramesh Gauns.
The Goa Mineral Ore Exporters Association said in a statement that they were disappointed with the appointment of the panel as it "would further delay the process of restarting the mines."
The Goa government had suspended all mining activities on September 10.