Goa politicians involved in mining operations: Rights group

June 14th, 2012 - 8:06 pm ICT by IANS  

Panaji, June 14 (IANS) The active involvement of politicians in Goa’s multi-crore mining business has come to the fore in a report released by an international rights watchdog.

The 70-page report titled “Out of Control - Mining, regulatory failure and Human Rights in India” is liberally peppered with the ‘P’ word, which crops up often when Human Rights Watch (HRW) interviews people soliciting their view on indiscriminate mining in Goa.

“Politicians have entered into this mining business and are spoiling the names of established mining companies. Their actions tar the reputation of the whole industry,” the report states, quoting an official of a mining company based in Goa.

Quoting another mining company official, HRW said that contractors are hired because of their contacts with politicians, which make them better able to either navigate or evade the regulatory framework, not because of their competence or reputation for responsible operation.

“Sometimes you proactively go to a politician and say, ‘Look, let’s do this together’, so you get it done faster,” the report, quoting another anonymous mining company official states.

The report also mentions former “politically influential” urban development minister Joaquim Alemao, whose company Rhissa Mining Services does not do mining business itself but “purchases heavy machinery and rents it out to established mining firms”.

According to the report, farmer Rama Velip alleged in an interview that the minister had even approached him to abandon his opposition to mining operations.

Goa’s former environment minister Aleixo Sequeira defended the rights of other government officials to enter business.

“You talk in terms of wanting a clean government, but how am I supposed to look after my family if you say I should not do business?” he told the HRW.

Senior HRW researcher Chris Albin Lackey said that the involvement of politicians added to the mess that is the mining industry in Goa.

“You have a situation where the government is already weak. Then you have powerful political figures entering the business which creates further pressure on the oversight agencies,” Lackey said.

The report also quotes S.Sridhar, spokesperson for the Goa Mineral Ore Exporters Association (GMOEA), an organisation of mine owners in Goa, which controls the bulk of the iron ore extraction in the state, as saying: “Naturally, if a politician is there, I will give him a contract if it is economical to me. It happens everywhere.”

Goa exported 54 million tonnes of iron ore in the last fiscal, of which, activists allege, nearly 43 per cent was extracted from illegal operations.

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