A division bench comprising Justice M.S. Sonak and Justice Dama Seshadri Naidu passed an order on 25.8.2020 directing all parties to file an affidavit in respond to a PIL filed by Sudesh Narayan Gaonkar of Velguem and Nilesh Harishcnadra Velip of Collem, together with the Goa Foundation, drawing the Court’s notice to the non-functioning of the two District Mineral Foundations.
Both Sudesh Gaonkar and Nilesh Velip are from mining affected villages. Their associations have filed detailed proposals for improvement of their village assets (including water resources and agricultural fields). There has been no response from the DMF to the proposals.
The PIL writ petition states that both DMFs have accumulated funds to the tune of approximately Rs.90 crore each. These are spending funds. They must be spent for the welfare of people affected by mining in mining talukas.
The PIL also states that more than 40 proposals have been received for financial support including for rehabilitation of productive assets like irrigation sources and paddy fields by one DMF alone. However, despite the conditions of distress in the mining belt due to non-start of mining, the two DMFs have simply abandoned their statutory responsibilities and the applications remain pending.
It appears that the Goa government is only desirous of returning mining leases to illegal miners but is wholly unwilling to invest any time and effort in the rehabilitation of productive assets damaged by past mining activity, despite adequate funds being available.
Worse, without even attending to these primary objectives for which the DMFs were set up, there is now a proposal to divert upto 30% of DMF funds for Covid19 relief in the state. The persons for whom DMF Funds have been set aside by Parliament have suffered the ill-effects of mining activity for more than two decades, when compared with the Covid19 epidemic of just 6 months’ duration. Such diversion of DMF funds is not only contrary to law, but is immoral. The petition has challenged the legality of the circular issued by the Ministry of Mines, recommending such diversion of funds.
The PIL has also demanded an exclusive website for achieving total transparency relating to DMF functioning. The present website which is part of the DMG website does not provide any worthwhile information.