Panaji, May 1
The mining industry in Goa is lawless, promotes jobless economic growth and is so powerful the state government has made no effort to recover the Rs.35,000 crore looted in an illegal mining scam, according to noted ecologist Madhav Gadgil.
Gadgil, in his article published in the latest edition of the Economic and Political Weekly (EPW), also said the “unholy hurry” to sell ore to China was hurting the Indian economy.
Gadgil earlier headed the Western Ghats Ecology Experts Panel (WGEEP) which compiled an exhaustive report on the conservation of the mountain range that stretches from Kerala to southern Gujarat.
“At the heart of the Western Ghats is the charming state of Goa with a relatively high per capita GSDP (Gross State Domestic Product) and thriving mining enterprises. But behind this facade is what may aptly be described as lawless and jobless economic growth; not a trickle-down, but a suck-up process of development,” the Padma Bhushan award winner has said.
Gadgil and Justice M.B. Shah, a former Supreme Court judge, who as head of a commission of inquiry unearthed the Rs.35,000 crore illegal mining scam in Goa, have been repeatedly targeted by ruling politicians in Goa, who accuse them of halting the state’s illegal mining industry.
Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar has criticised the Gadgil Committee report that has passed severe strictures on the mining industry operations in the Western Ghats.
Gadgil, in turn, has accused the state government as well as the union ministry of environment and forests of hiding data from the WGEEP, while it was compiling its report.
“The government of Goa also refused to provide the WGEEP its detailed Google Earth-based database on land use in the state prepared for the Goa Regional Plan 2021 (RPG 2021). Subsequently, using such data, the Shah Commission (2012) estimated that illegal mining in Goa was worth Rs.35,000 crore between 2006 and 2011,” Gadgil said.
He added the MoEF also suppressed data in order to “facilitate the continuing proliferation of polluting industries”.
Gadgil, in his article, also accuses the government of colluding with the mining industry to keep protected areas in Goa out of the purview of a declaration which was aimed at making certain areas in the Western Ghats as natural heritage sites under the Unesco programme.
The intent behind this, he claims, was to protect the mining industry and to enable it to carry out operations in the Western Ghats.
“The Shah Commission on illegal mining pointed to several cases of mining close to or inside PAs (Protected Areas) in Goa, and it would appear that the state’s PAs have been scrupulously kept out of the proposal to shield these mining interests,” Gadgil has said.
Gadgil’s article comes a few days after Parrikar wrote to Minister of Environment and Forests Veerappa Moily, making a strong pitch for mining in the Western Ghats.
Accusing those wielding power today having little stake in the health of the ecosystem, Gadgil claimed the government has not even attempted to “recover any of the unlawful Rs.35,000 crore, but has meekly allowed the industry to lay off workers”.
He has also questioned the contribution of Goa’s mining industry to the Indian economy, especially when they are “selling our ore in unholy hurry at very low rates to China to produce steel that we then buy from it”.