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'Human Rights Watch' report on mining rattles Goa exporters

PTI  Panaji, June 19, 2012
First Published: 20:49 IST(19/6/2012) | Last Updated: 20:50 IST(19/6/2012)

A report by the New York-based 'Human Rights Watch' on iron ore mining has ruffled feathers of the Goa mineral ore exporters, with its top functionary coming out in open for being "misquoted" over charge that offering bribe is a must to move the files in government offices.

The report titled 'Mining, Regulatory Failure, and Human Rights in India', was released last week in Panaji.

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"I was rather surprised to see that the extracts of my interview had been misquoted in your report," Goa Mineral Ore Exporters Association (GMOEA) executive director, Swaminathan Sridhar, said in his letter to HRW.

Urging to amend the report, Sridhar said that he was not quoted in context of what he was asked.

The report quotes Sridhar as saying that the mining firms need to bribe the government officials for expedite clearances; politicians getting into mining business and even on the statistics like 40 per cent of mines failing to comply with laws.

Sridhar has outrightly rejected that he ever advocated corruption to get mining clearances.

"What I recall is you mentioned to me that Industry persons have indicated that it was impossible to obtain necessary Government clearances in a reasonable amount of time without bribing officials to move the necessary paper work through the system. You asked me to confirm this," he said.

"(To which) I replied that if a company has to bear with delays in moving legally correct documents then they may be forced to pay a bribe...In fact it is a universal practice," Sridhar has said in his letter to HRW.

The executive director also rubbished the quotes attributed to him wherein he has confirmed that 40 per cent mining operations in Goa failed to comply with at least some laws and regulations, whereas five percent are entirely illegal.

"As far as I can recall, your question to me was on 'Whether the unclassified ore as published in our statistics book was illegal, and I clearly mentioned that the 'classified' Ore, indicating Iron Ore that was registered with the Association, the source of which was verified by us," Sridhar said.

He said that the association had no clue about the source of the "unclassified" (7 million tons) ore, referred to Iron Ore exported through Goa.

I also recall you had insisted on getting me to quote a percentage to illegal mining which I was unable to say. On your suggestion of 5 per cent, I said "maybe," he added.

Pointing out another quote, Sridhar said that the HRW representative asked him whether politicians are involved in mining, for which, he said "may be".

Sridhar said that the association has made its stand clear that if an applicant fulfills the conditions set by the association in issuing a contract, that is confirming the source of ore, then it does not mind giving them recognition.


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