Panaji: Goa's multi-million rupee illegal mining scam may cause material harm to two former chief ministers. (Agencies)
The current BJP-led state government, under pressure to act against those responsible for Goa's mega mining scandal, has said in a communication to a Supreme Court-appointed panel that it would be filing first information reports (FIRs) against former chief ministers Pratapsing Rane and Digambar Kamat for their alleged complicity in the mining scandal.
Drafted by Chief Secretary B. Vijayan, the 68-page letter says decisions taken by Rane and Kamat - both from the Congress - in connection with condoning delays in renewal of mining leases merited the registration of FIRs against them.
Kamat was Goa chief minister from 2007 to 2012, while Rane was the chief minister from 1980 to 1989, 1994 to 1999 and from 2005 to 2007. Kamat was also the state's mines minister.
According to the Justice MB Shah commission report, which exposed the scam, and as reflected in Vijayan's letter, the delay in renewing the mines' leases was allegedly improperly condoned by Kamat and Rane in their respective tenures as chief ministers.
Vijayan's letter is addressed to the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) in New Delhi appointed by the apex court to physically probe the scandal. The Supreme Court, hearing public interest litigation, has banned all mining activity in the state from October.
Rane and Kamat are responsible and have taken these decisions and therefore the state government has decided to file appropriate criminal proceedings against them, Vijayan said. The FIRs, he said, would be filed under laws governing graft as well as under relevant sections of Indian Penal Code.
Rane said that he was not aware of any such letter and that all decisions taken by him as chief minister were "legal"."I have nothing more to say. All my decisions were legal and above board," he said. Kamat was unavailable for comment.
The sincerity of the incumbent BJP government in bringing the guilty to book has been criticised by civil society activists and opposition parties. After protesting and campaigning against illegal mining in Goa for nearly a decade as opposition leader, Manohar Parrikar, now chief minister, has gone out of his way to back the mining industry, his critics have alleged.
Congress spokesperson Reginaldo Lourenco has repeatedly accused Parrikar of attacking the small fry involved in the mining scam and allowing the big fish to go scot-free.
"Has he really taken action against any big person yet? All this while, Parrikar has only been running after the small fry like a junior government officer (Dattatray Bhave), who committed suicide because of the harassment," Lourenco said, cautioning Parrikar against a witch-hunt against Congress leaders.
Vijayan's letter to the CEC also follows recent critical statements made by Justice Shah, whose voluminous report exposed the mining scam, that the Goa government was giving wrong mining-related facts to the commission.
The chief secretary's letter also points to a nexus among politicians involved in the scam, a fact underlined in the Shah Commission report too. The letter states that several ruling politicians and ministers had "proactive participation" in the scam and would regularly direct officials to committee illegalities in the mines department.
Until last year, Goa's 90 odd operational mines extracted and exported nearly 50 million tonnes of iron ore annually, the highest output in the country. Over a third of the exported iron ore was alleged to have been illegally sourced, according to Parrikar, who was opposition leader at that time.
Panaji: Goa's multi-million rupee illegal mining scam may cause material harm to two former chief ministers.