Goa election office red-flags mining lease with Vedanta, refers case to ECI | Latest News India - Hindustan Times
close_game
close_game

Goa election office red-flags mining lease with Vedanta, refers case to ECI

ByGerard de Souza
Apr 18, 2024 02:10 PM IST

Goa’s additional chief electoral officer Sunil Masurkar said the state government was mandated to obtain prior permission of ECI before signing the lease deed

PANAJI: Goa’s additional chief electoral officer has referred to the Election Commission of India (ECI) a complaint against the state government for signing a mining lease deed with Vedanta Ltd on March 22 allegedly in violation of the model code of conduct (MCC).

Goa Foundation complained that the mining lease agreement was being cited in the election campaign to demonstrate that the government has restarted mining in the state (Hindustan Times File/Representative Image)
Goa Foundation complained that the mining lease agreement was being cited in the election campaign to demonstrate that the government has restarted mining in the state (Hindustan Times File/Representative Image)

In response to a notice earlier, the department of mines defended its decision to go ahead with the agreement, saying that signing the lease deed was a “contractual obligation” as part of the ongoing process to restart mining via auctions. MCC came into force on March 16, the day general elections were announced.

Unlock exclusive access to the latest news on India's general elections, only on the HT App. Download Now! Download Now!

In the communication to ECI, the chief electoral officer disagreed with this contention.

“It is observed that the mining lease deed executed by the department, though may [seem to] be part of the same contractual commitment, however, it is an independent agreement and since it was executed during the MCC period, it is binding on the part of the department to obtain prior permission of the Election Commission of India and hence contravenes 21 (f) of the guidelines,” Goa’s additional chief electoral officer Sunil Masurkar said in his reference to ECI on April 15.

Goa Foundation, an environmental activist group, flagged the lease deed, pointing that this agreement was signed without the ECI’s approval as mandated under the model code of conduct and was being cited in the election campaign to demonstrate that the government has restarted mining in the state.

In its complaint, the foundation’s director Claude Alvares said the timing of the lease was aimed at helping the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) benefit rather than starting mining operations on the ground. Mining activity in the state is bound to stop by May 15 due to the monsoons and can resume only in September. “The purpose of signing the lease deed is purely to allow the ruling party to take advantage,” Alvares said.

The complaint added that since the Goa government had been repeatedly promising the start of mining operations, “the agreement is now being used by the government during the poll campaign to win votes by informing voters that mining has resumed in the state of Goa”.

In his response, Mines department director Narayan Gad had sought to argue that the signing of the lease deed was a “contractual obligation” as part of the ongoing process to restart mining via auctions that started way back in September 2022 and an auction was held on January 14 in which Vedanta Limited emerged as the preferred bidder for Block I - Bicholim Mineral Block for Iron Ore mineral in North Goa District.

The letter of intent was issued on January 13, 2023 and the Goa Cabinet on February 23, 2024, approved the Mine Development and Production Agreement (MDPA) and the Mining Lease in favour of Vedanta Ltd for the Bicholim Block.

“The execution of the mining lease was a direct consequence of the MDPA, which was executed prior to the enforcement of the Model Code of Conduct,” he said, underlining that the MDPA was a legally binding agreement and the government was obligated to execute the mining lease within a stipulated time frame of 30 days upon Vedanta’s payment of the third instalment under the Mineral (Auction) Rules.

Tell us what your First Vote will stand for in a short video & get a chance to be featured on HT’s social media handles. Click here to know more!

Get Current Updates on India News, Elections 2024, Lok Sabha Election 2024 Live, Election 2024 Date, Weather Today along with Latest News and Top Headlines from India and around the world.
SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Share this article
SHARE
Story Saved
Live Score
OPEN APP
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Thursday, May 23, 2024
Start 14 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now
Follow Us On