Goa CM faces flak on illegal mining
Goa chief minister Digambar Kamat, who has held the mining portfolio in his state since 1999, finds himself swamped by a rising tide of criticism from anti-mining activists and Congress colleagues. Ketaki Ghoge and Snehal Rebello report.india Updated: Sep 21, 2011 23:00 IST
Goa chief minister Digambar Kamat, who has held the mining portfolio in his state since 1999, finds himself swamped by a rising tide of criticism from anti-mining activists and Congress colleagues.
The Public Accounts Committee of the state legislature was asked to probe illegal mining last year following consistent demands from the Opposition and a Comptroller and Auditor General report that mentioned how the state lost revenue because of the way mining was being handled by the state administration.
"I have seen his (Kamat's) signature on every mining file, accessed through the Right to Information Act," said Claude Alvares, director of the Goa Foundation.
Kamat was with the Congress till 1994. He then switched to the BJP, and stayed with the party till 2005. He then returned to the Congress.
The chief minister said the allegations were baseless. "In my entire tenure, I have not cleared a single new mining lease. Mining leases are regulated by eight to ten agencies," said Kamat.
But it's not merely civil society. Some of Kamat's party colleagues are blaming him. "The current situation in Goa is such that probably only a handful of mines are legal. Someone in government is guilty. How can the head of the government not accept that responsibility?" asked Dayanand Narvekar, former Goa finance minister and Congress MLA.
Sources in the government said Kamat faced criticism on two counts: First, for having allegedly not offered a level playing field and having favoured certain mine owners while extending the deadline for renewing licences that had lapsed.
Kamat refuted the charge. "There is a provision in the law that allows for it. It is not illegal."
The second criticism of the chief minister is that he has allowed mining leases to be worked by contractors – persons other than original leaseholder.
Kamat said: "The person who holds the mining lease often hires someone else to help out with and monitor operations."