Shri Narendra Modi,
Hon’ble Prime Minister,
Government of India,
New Delhi 110 001.
Subj: Complaint of the Goa Foundation against Dr. Pramod Sawant, Chief Minister of Goa, regarding corruption in mining-related issues in Goa
Dear Hon’ble Prime Minister,
This letter, which is in the nature of a formal complaint, is being submitted in connection with two serious issues relating to Dr Pramod Sawant and mining –including its re-start – in the State of Goa.
The Goa Foundation is an environmental NGO which moved the Supreme Court in 2012 to cure pervasive mining illegalities and loot of public resources in the State. The Supreme Court was moved again in 2015 for cancellation of 88 mining leases illegally granted for mining in the State. The Supreme Court called a halt to all mining by 15 March, 2018. The Foundation does not own any mining lease. It raises issues in public interest. This complaint is filed in public interest.
The first issue in this complaint relates to recovery of Rs.3431.31 crores from several former mining lease-holders.
- The Department of Mines & Geology, Goa, issued several show cause demand notices to former mining lease holders for recovery of various sums as per the report of the Team of Chartered Accountants submitted in 2016. The total in this respect is Rs.1,508.70 The Team was set up by the late Manohar Parrikar, as dues for excessive extraction in violation of environment norms.
- The Department of Mines & Geology thereafter issued several demand notices in 2017 for recovery of various sums under various heads as per the report of the Auditor General, Goa, in 2016. The total due in this respect is 1,922.61 crores.
Thus, the total recovery under both sets of notices is shown in the table below (if we keep out the duplication that might occur between the two reports):
|Reason for demand from lease-holders||No of Parties||No of Leases||Notices Issued||Amount
|Illegal mining (in excess of Mining Plan)||7||7||26-Sep-17||1,529.64|
|Illegal mining (in excess of EC Limit)||5||10||3-Oct-17||374.99|
|Short recovery of royalty||9||9||5-Oct-17||17.98|
|Chartered Accounts Report||2016||1508.70|
On 7.2.2018, when the Supreme Court delivered its judgement cancelling grant of second renewal to 88 mining leases by the Goa government, it issued a specific direction for expeditious recovery of these amounts for which demand notices had been issued. Para 149 (9) of the said judgement states:
“The State of Goa will take all necessary steps to expedite recovery of the amounts said to be due from the mining lease holders pursuant to the show cause notices issued to them and pursuant to other reports available with the State of Goa including the report of Special Investigation Team and the team of Chartered Accountants.”
Scandalous to report that till date (19.6.2020), the Goa government has recovered only a tiny sum of Rs.3.99 crores!
As you know, the State of Goa is bankrupt and Government of Goa is regularly issuing security bonds for raising money for salaries. It goes without saying that if the sum of Rs.3431.31 crores is recovered, many of the financial problems facing the State would find relief. Instead, the Goa government is getting ready to raid the funds of the District Mineral Foundations for removal of approximately Rs.60 crores. Demands continue to be made by the Chief Minister to the Central Government for more and more funds even while the movement of the files dealing with the recovery of Rs.3431.31 crores has come to a complete standstill due to the influence exerted by the mining lobby on the Chief Minister.
The second issue in this complaint relates to the restart of mining operations in the state and the specific role of Dr Pramod Sawant in ensuring this does not happen as per the requirements of law introduced by the central government when it amended the MMDR Act in 2015.
As this letter will show, the absolute onus for non-start of mining operations in Goa lies on Dr Sawant’s shoulders, and not on those of the Central Government.
Despite clear directions provided in three judgements from three different benches of the Supreme Court, Dr Sawant has successfully stalled the process of mineral lease auctions by lobbying for the former mining lease-holders.
Addressing a rally in Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh, in 2013, you are widely reported to have said: “Don’t make me the PM, make me the watchman. I will be the watchman who will never let anyone steal India’s treasure.” We were all in grand sympathy with this statement.
However, Dr Samant’s actions have promoted precisely the reverse as far as the Goa mining industry is concerned. They, in fact, violate the BJP’s 2014 manifesto which promised natural resource and minerals allocation through public auction.
As a result of the election manifesto commitment, in January 2015, your government pushed through a radical amendment to the MMDR Act. The amendment requires that henceforth all mining leases shall be granted only on the basis of a public auction.
As far as the state of Goa is concerned, the Supreme Court by a detailed judgement dated 21.4.2014 explicitly directed the Goa government to issue fresh mining leases and obtain fresh environment clearances for them, as all existing leases had expired on 22.11.2007 and that all mining thereafter was illegal. Goa had no option in these circumstances but to go for auction.
A second bench of the Supreme Court, by its judgment dated 7.2.2018, interpreted and endorsed the earlier judgment dated 21.4.2014, and directed the government to restart mining as soon as possible as per directions of the first judgment.
Subsequently, the Supreme Court of India, in its third judgment dated 30.1.2020, made it clear that except for one direction in the second judgement dated 7.2.2018 – which it modified – the specific directions to grant fresh leases and fresh environment clearances would have to be strictly implemented.
The first Supreme Court judgment was passed in 2014, the second in 2018, the third in January 2020. Six years have passed by since the Supreme Court directed the state of Goa to start mining on a clean slate but till today the Government of Goa, fully in league with influential and wholly corrupt private mining companies and former lease holders, has steadfastly refused to implement these directions. This is truly a scandalous situation and requires investigation.
On 20.1.2020, Hon’ble Lokayukta of Goa, after carrying out investigations, submitted a detailed report to the Goa government, recommending registration of an FIR against the three persons from Government responsible for approving the second renewal of 88 mining leases. These include former CM, Laxmikant Parsenkar; then Secretary (Mines) Pawan Kumar Sains, and then Director, Department of Mines & Geology, Prasanna Acharya. He also recommended that all three persons were not fit to hold public office. Dr Sawant, however, has for reasons best known to him, decided to protect the two government officials involved, and not to prosecute the indicted persons.
Instead of going in for auctions – the law of the land today – the Goa government has wasted precious time writing to the Union Mines ministry, and to the PMO, asking for a “legislative cure.” Three letters along these lines were written by the late Chief Minister, Manohar Parrikar, on 24.9.2018, 13.11.2018 and 2.1.2019. These letters sought a change in the law purely to enable the existing and influential private mining lobby in the state to bypass auctions.
Subsequently, Dr. Pramod Sawant has written two additional letters dated 23.7.2019 and 27.4.2020 to the Union Mines Ministry, essentially playing the same tune, and again asking for “a legislative cure.” He has also recruited the Goa Governor to write a letter dated 28.4.2020 to the Home Minister along the same lines.
To its credit, the central government has consistently refused the request for changes in either the MMDR Act or the Goa Abolition Act, as these are simply neither possible nor permissible. By its letter dated 17.1.2019, the Minister for Mines even suggested to the Goa government that it would be best if the latter filed a review petition instead in the Supreme Court.
The Goa government finally filed a Review Petition in the Supreme Court on 19.11.2019 – that too after a gap of nearly two years. The hearing of such petitions will further delay any hope of re-start of mining operations in the State.
Thus it is amply clear that from the day he took charge, Dr. Sawant has been pursuing a hopeless, dead-end strategy for restart of mining operations based on returning the right and privilege to extract minerals exclusively to former lease-holders – all of whom have lost total credibility. All have been involved in large-scale violations of both mining and environmental laws, and all have also fattened their bank accounts through loot of public resources. Most have, in fact, as per reports in the media, already transferred all their gains, legal and illegal, to banks in Singapore.
The Chief Minister is using his office only to promote their interests for reasons best known to him. All these actions are leading to enormous losses of public wealth.
The Goa Foundation has carefully analysed the benefits of 8 years of mining in Goa – from 2004 to 2012 (when mining was suspended). Approximately 282 million tons of iron ore assets were mined, and transferred to the miners in that period. The private mining lease holders walked away with Rs.51,655 crores. In return for this mineral wealth, the state received a mere Rs.2,387 crores as mines department receipts/royalties (4.6%). Total government revenue receipts from all sources for the same period of 8 years were only Rs.27,402 crores.
Thus, the bulk of the proceeds from the sale of iron ore from the state of Goa went to those who held the leases and who, in fact, had received them free of cost.
Dr Sawant’s efforts to restore the status quo ante would initiate another scandalous round of looting of public resources by the same lease-holders, when it is the state of Goa and its people instead who should benefit. (It is the same lease-holders who today owe the government Rs.3431.31 crores).
We therefore respectfully submit that this complaint may be examined and the Chief Minister be directed to disclose why he is still refusing or unwilling to recover the sum of Rs.3431.31 crores from mining lease holders. He also needs to be questioned on why he is refusing to implement the law and auction leases in the State for re-start of mining. The miners have no interest in assisting India’s development by ensuring use of Goa’s minerals ores in the country. All they are still keen on is continuing to sell these scarce ores to the China market. The state and the country are today unable to find even one reason to support their cause.
The priority of the Sawant government today is to be seen in recent orders of the Director of Mines & Geology, permitting transport and export of iron ore stocks upto July 31, 2020, directly favouring former lease-holders and traders who have spot contracts with China. Normally, all mining activity halts before the monsoon by May 15 every year. Dr Sawant ought to be directed to stop the export of Goa’s ore to China forthwith as it is entirely inappropriate when seen within the circumstances facing the country today.
Dr Claude Alvares