he Aam Aadmi Party in Goa has accused the state BJP-led coalition government, of trying to 'help' private mining companies in its bid to restart the industry, while using the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic as cover.
"The mining lobby in Goa is conniving with the BJP government in Goa to restart the industry, under the cover of the coronavirus crisis," Goa AAP spokesperson Valmiki Naik said in a statement issued on Thursday.
The AAP comment comes at a time when Chief Minister Pramod Sawant, Governor Satya Pal Malik as well as iron ore exporters in Goa, have insisted that restarting the mining sector at the earliest is the only key to reviving Goa's economy, which has had to face the brunt of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially the loss of tourism sector revenue.
"The common language used by the Chief Minister, the Governor and the Goa Mineral Ore Exporters Association in their frantic appeals to the Centre to find a 'legislative cure' to the mining ban, once again demonstrates the vice-like grip that the powerful mining lobby has over a supposedly democratically elected government," the statement also said.
The mining has long been a contentious issue in Goa, ever since the apex court banned extraction and transportation of iron ore from 88 mining leases from February 2018, while also directing the state government to re-issue mining leases.
This is the second time in less than a decade that all mining in the state has come to a standstill. It was banned the first time in 2012 after a judicial commission exposed an Rs. 35,000 crore illegal mining scam, indicting top mining companies as well as politicians and bureaucrats.
Till some months back, the state government had been actively contemplating the formation of a state-run mining corporation as a nodal body to relaunch and oversee mining operations in the state.
AAP said, that the switch in the argument from a government corporation to handle the state's mining sector, to the pursuit of a legislative cure -- which would ensure that the mining leases would be handed back to the private leaseholders -- to restart the mining industry would be detrimental to the interests of the state's economy.
"This option of a government-run corporation had even gained traction in the months before the coronavirus crisis, but now it appears that the state's mining lobby is working through the government to push legislative amendments that would undermine the SC verdicts and retain its own influence to pillage Goa of its resources again," the AAP spokesperson said.