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Activists pleased at proposed mines policy

Panaji, June 30 (IANS) Activists against illegal mining have welcomed a proposed central mines and minerals policy that will ensure 26 percent free equity, employment and assistance to people whose land is being acquired for mining.

The Rs.6,000-crore mining industry in Goa is, however, circumspect in its comments on the bill, which is likely to be introduced in the winter session of parliament.

‘These are very nice steps provided they are implemented in letter and spirit by the government. Many times laws are passed but they have no effect. The last time the government came up with the Tribal Act, giving tribals rights over the lands they were living on, but till today tribals in Chhattisgarh are suffering,’ green activist Rajendra Kerkar, who has spearheaded several agitations against illegal mining, told IANS.

‘The rights should be bestowed to the real owners. These people have protected the land for so many years. They should get their due. The initiative is positive,’ he said.

Illegal mining has been a contentious issue in Goa’s hinterland which are ravaged by largescale indiscriminate mining, both legal and illegal.

There are nearly 100 operational mines in Goa, which exports nearly 40 million tonnes of iron and manganese ore, primarily to Japan and China.

About 105 more mining leases have been sanctioned in the last few months, a move which has been vehemently opposed by the local populace.

Glenn Kalavampara, secretary of the Goa mine owners exporters association (GMOEA), an organisation which represents the collective voice of the state’s mining industry said the body would not prefer to comment on the proposed bill, just yet.

‘It is still a draft. I can’t comment. The government is still open to suggestions from all parties before finalising it. Prima facie, this (26 percent) appears extremely steep. I don’t know how and where it was discussed,’ Glenn said.

Glenn, however, said the mining industry had unanimously called for handling on an urgent basis the issue of illegal mining, which is rampant in Goa.

‘The state needs to tackle this issue very strongly. Illegal operators who ruin the name of the entire industry should be dealt with strictly,’ he said.

Activist Ramesh Gawas also called the proposed changes a step in the right direction.

‘It will bring an end to all the wrongs and nonsense that the mining companies are doing and the nuisance value which they bring with themselves to villages where they mine,’ Gawas, who is part of Goa mining affected people (GoaMAP) said.

‘I have sent to New Delhi a list of 30 objections to the new law. For example, the new provision has a penalty of Rs.25,000 fine for false complaints. This is absolute nonsense. The government is hand in glove with the mining lobby and this will deter people from filing complaints. There will be no one to protect the whistle-blowers,’ Gawas said.

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