Victory a reason to loot?

GMM member Laura Bush writes about how the people of Goa lose substantial amounts every time minerals are extracted under the current unfair mineral lease system. Do read Sale of Goa’s Kohinoor—minerals, which appeared in the Herald newspaper on April 23, 2017. Read more …

How our elected representatives are ransacking the Motherland

Victorious armies commonly loot newly subjugated territories, but who expected this same barbaric behaviour from our politicians in the aftermath of Goa’s recent elections?

The Goenchi Mati Movement created a simple manifesto with reference to mining, for the incoming government to adopt. The framework likens minerals to family gold, a shared inheritance. When we mine, we are effectively selling the family wealth.

Just as Nadir Shah infamously plundered Delhi’s wealth, including the Peacock throne with its Kohinoor diamond, our newly appointed Goan ‘rulers’ are selling off our minerals at an alarming rate. Financial rewards are being granted to the favoured few, and assets are being sold off for a pittance like in a fire sale. The public receives mere trifles labelled “windfall income” and all the while Goa’s future is being frittered away. Even a child understands that only fools, knaves, drunkards or ruthless addicts would behave in such a depraved manner. How is it that we the public simply stand by and witness the brazen desire to plunder by our supposed leaders?

The mineral lease system is undoubtedly confusing. The State is the owner of the minerals as trustee of the people, particularly future generations. However, mining laws are controlled by the Center. Under earlier mining lease structure, a lessee only paid a royalty as decided by the Center. This royalty could only be increased once in three years. The PMO evaluates the Union Minister for Mines on the amount of minerals extracted. As a result the Ministry of Mines is keen to price the minerals as low as possible to encourage extraction.

In 2015 mining laws were amended to provide for mandatory new leases by way of auction. This was a result of Supreme Court judgements in the 2G spectrum, coal and Goa mining PILs. The mechanism of auctions was selected because minerals belong to the state, and as scarce resource with many potential miners, auctions are used to select between bidders. Auctions have been tremendously successful. In the initial iron ore lease auctions in Chhattisgarh and Karnataka, the auction amounts that will be received by the states are five times the amount of the royalty. In this scenario if 15% of the iron ore value is being paid as royalty, the winning mining lessees are happy to pay an additional 75% of the value (15% x 5), adding up to a total of 90% of the sale value.

Unfortunately Goa has adopted a different method to decide the ongoing rights of ownership of the minerals. The earlier BJP government under Parrikar and Parsekar renewed 88 mineral leases with lessees that were ruled by the Supreme Court to have illegally mined over a period of at least five years. Controversially, 56 of these leases were renewed in the seven days between the cabinet approval of the amendment mandating auctions, which was widely reported in the press, and the actual notification of the ordinance. An unbelievable 31 leases were renewed on the actual day the ordinance was notified.

What is the scale of the financial loss to Goans? Goa Foundation calculated that after the additional new charges (contribution to the Permanent Fund, the District Mineral Foundation, National Mineral Exploration Trust), the average loss per ton is in excess of Rs. 1,500. In other words, for every ton that mining lessees extract, the people of Goa lose Rs. 1,500. This is equivalent to a loss of approximately Rs. 10,000 per person per million tons. For every million tons of mineral assets extracted, Rs. 150 crores of Goa’s ‘family gold’ is lost forever. With the Supreme Court cap currently set at 20 million tons per annum, Goa lost approximately Rs. 3,000 crores in 2016: a loss of Rs. 20,000 per person. If the extraction limits increase by 10 million tons, we will lose approximately Rs. 1,500 crores: Rs. 10,000 per person every year.

The only ethical route which is in the public’s interest is for the Government to cancel all existing mineral leases. At the time of the elections, four parties accepted and endorsed the Goenchi Mati Manifesto. Cancellation of the existing leases is first and immediate action stipulated by the manifesto. The parties that supported the manifesto were: Goa Su-Raj Party, Aam Aadmi Party, Goa Forward Party and Goa Vikas Party. We urge all parties to adopt the manifesto and stop this persistent rapacious assault on Goa.
Our sacred duty must be to safeguard our children’s inheritance. Our children and all future generations rely on us to protect their rights and ensure that they inherit a green and fertile Goa, the same way we did. We are already on course for the title of ‘Worst Generation Ever’. Perhaps, we can find some redemption by taking to task those who would subjugate us and plunder our family ‘gold’.

This sustained and vicious attack on our society must be defeated.

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