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High-pitched parties mum on mining

Goa is more known for its scenic beauty than the luridness associated with mining activities. Yet this activity, legal and illegal, has begun to change the landscape of the state, and its politics too.

india Updated: Mar 02, 2012 00:23 IST
Ramesh Babu

Goa is more known for its scenic beauty than the luridness associated with mining activities. Yet this activity, legal and illegal, has begun to change the landscape of the state, and its politics too.

Potential tourists see mining as a major threat because it endangers the state's environment. But for insiders other issues are at work.

Despite the high-pitch campaign, not a single party is prepared to take on the powerful mining lobby.

"We admit some lapses have taken place but we should be more careful in future," said Congress spokesman Ramakant Khalap.

Refusing to comment on illegal mining in Goa, a senior HRD ministry official said the state government, not the Centre, gave mining leases. "There are already cases against some mining firms in courts," said the official, requesting anonymity.

The BJP too is careful about not rubbing miners the wrong way. "We are not against mining. At least 30,000 families are involved in it. We can't take away their livelihood all of a sudden. We have to reduce export and keep a vigil on illegal mining," said the party's chief ministerial candidate, Manohar Parikkar.

Anti-mining activists differ.

"At least 60% of drivers and labourers are from outside, mainly Bihar and the north-east. Since the state has mined enough ore for the next 20 years or so, how does one cap after exceeding the maximum level," asked Ramesh Gauns, an activist who is at the forefront of the anti-mining movement.

Agreed environmentalist Claude Alwaris, who has moved a public interest litigation at the Bombay high court, seeking a ban on mining in Goa: "About 43% ore exported last year (54 million tonnes) was illegal. No temporary mechanism will work here.

We can't destroy the fragile ecology, citing some job opportunities."