Wednesday 19 September 2018

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Economy | Mining

Is mining lobby losing hold over Goan polity ?

 

The 'economics of politics' is changing, thirty seven years after liberation of Goa. Over 40-year old business lobby, which was powerful even during the Portuguese regime, is now slowly losing its hold over the local polity.

It's a lobby of mine owners, comprising handful of business houses like Chowgules, Dempos, Salgaoncars and Timblos, which has remained dominant throughout, no matter which party came to power. They adopted a policy of equality while opening bags at the time of elections, though the Congress always remained little more equal than others. Of course, this does not count the 17-year rule of the Maharashtrawadi Gomantak Party, since Goa's first chief minister Dayanand Bandodkar and his daughter Shashikala Kakodkar, who succeeded him till 1979, were themselves belonged to the all-powerful mining lobby.

Public issues like dust pollution, water pollution, air pollution or ruining the fields, rivers and forests of the interior Goa due to mining could thus never be debated in the Assembly. Mining remained backbone of Goan economy till recently, after which emerged the five star tourism lobby, builders lobby or the industrial lobby of several multinationals.

Mining is still a force in Goa, though the new coalition government led by Dr Wilfred de Souza has dared to raid their mines and catch their illegalities red-handed. The issue is not that big, except that the transport department officials raided eight mines of five mine owners simultaneously and found 64 mechanical vehicles non-registered, duping the state for a life-time vehicle tax of Rs 30,000 each.

"There would be hundreds of vehicles like this, the amount of which may run into crores of rupees", says transport minister Fatima D'Sa. She has refused to succumb to any pressure and has warned that raids would continue till all the vehicles are duly registered.

But what is the signal the new coalition government is trying to send ? "It's very clear", says the chief minister, "we will not tolerate anyone going out of their way to dupe the state." It appears that he has waged a war against the mine owners, ending their four-decade hegemony.

But the inner political circle has a different story to tell. The mining lobby, close to the Congress, was feeling little uneasy after their good friend Pratapsing Rane was toppled. While reportedly sponsoring first trip of Congress legislators to Delhi to persuade Sonia Gandhi to topple the de Souza government, they were even preparing for a split in the present government.

Thus, Dr Willy, bulldozed into their plans by raiding non-registered bulldozers of the mine owners and roared his transport minister : "I would not succumb to any pressure and nobody can control my government." Ultimately, it's 'politics of economics' !






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