Almost all the newspapers in Goa had revenue earning advertisement from Dempo Mining Corporation Pvt. Ltd. on 14th August 2008 - just one day before on its 61st Independence Day. It is also the day when mine operated by another mining firm Fomentos - notorious for environmental violations collapsed in Advalpal, Bicholim at around 3.00pm.
The advertisement reads as follows with 'NOTICE' as its header and signed by P.K. Joshi, Dy. General Manager (Mining) with 13th August, 2008 as notice date:
“This is for the information of the general public that, the Bicholim Iron Ore Mines of M/s Dempo Mining Corporation Pvt. Ltd., bearing T.C. Nos. 11 of 1941, 12 of 1941, 13 of 1941 and 15 of 1941 had been accorded Environmental Clearance from the Ministry of Environment & Forests, Govt of India, vide their letter No. J-11015/45/2005-IA.II (M) dated 17th November, 2005, for a period of two years from the date of grant. This was also displayed on the website of the Ministry of Environment and Forest, http://www.envfor.nic.in/
Further, upon fulfilling the submissions of requisite details the Ministry of Environment & Forest vide their letter No. J-11015/45/2005-IA.II(M) dated 17th September, 2007, deleted the said period of two years from the aforesaid clearance. As such the clearance is for the life of the project.
The copy of the clearance letter is available at the office of the Goa State pollution Control Board, Dempo Towers, Patto, Panjim, Goa and this information was also displayed on the website of Ministry of Environment & Forests http://www.envfor.nic.in/”
The notice – that strangely mentions common reference for both the cited letters - in a flash of a second transferred the entire discourse of Public involvement with regard to Industry and mining to the pre Environment Protection Act, 1986 era. That was a time when the country’s industry was under heavy assault from public, intelligentsia and media thereby earning increasingly intolerable public notoriety to industry. The Indian State-Industry nexus then came out with Environment Protection Act, 1986. The passing of this act served double purpose then: it earned back the lost legitimacy of the Public, Intelligence and Media, and secondly it institutionalized protests within state frameworks by inventing “Public Hearings” mandatory under the Act. Time and again the public affected by projects were dished out with illusions that their say is being ‘heard’ and actively under consideration of the government of India.
But soon public Hearings became a nuisance for the State-Industry nexus and “Public hearings were – legally as well as out of legal bounds - sent through transformations. Oppositions to the large number of projects were ignored and Ministry of Environment and Forests cleared the projects through its ‘Environmental Clearances’. Sometimes at the Public Hearings armed policemen were stationed in order to prevent known opponents of the project from getting access to the authorities. One group – Bindrai Institute of Research Study and Action’s Mines Monitoring Centre (BIRSA-MMC) in Jharkhand even has referred to these phenomena as ‘Gun Sunvayi’ (Gun Hearings) as against ‘Jan Sunvayi’ (Public Hearings). In Polavaram Dam Public Hearing case in Andhra Pradesh and neighbouring States, five Public Hearings were conducted by the State on the same date and time simultaneously so that forces opposing the project get effectively fragmented on the day of the Public Hearings. After Jharkhand movements began effectively blocking government officials from entering the villages to conduct public hearings, State then modified the law that mandated clearances of the project in case Public blockade to the Public Hearing venue. One Public Hearing was organised inside the company premises in Jharkhand!
The Goa Scenario
Public hearings for mining projects are held in Goa over the past one decade. Initially there was very little awareness about this in Goa. However once the awareness slowly began rising, modalities of Public Hearings began changing too. Today in Goa we have several models of Public Hearings ranging from total support to mining industry to total opposition. At a time when Public Hearings were becoming popular in Goa mining industry sought to mobilize unruly groups mostly consisting of truck drivers and truck owners to shout down those who would be opposing mining projects including Goa Foundation. However in all the cases objections of those opposing mining industry has been overruled and 73 mining projects has been given Environmental Clearance and several more are in the pipeline to get the same.
Rising protests against mining however has gone one step forward and challenged clearance given to one mining project of Zantye Company that was strongly opposed by the villagers in Sarvona, Bicholim. The challenge is being waged by Ramesh Gauns, a teacher from Bicholim and Best Teachers’ awardee for 2008 at the appellate authority in Delhi and that in the meanwhile that has prevented commissioning of the project for over one year there by depriving heavy revenue to the company considering that the per tone cost of Ore at International market is over Rs.80 thousand. That works out to Rs.8 Crore per smallest barge of 1000 tonnes and Rs.20 Crore for bigger barge of 2,500 tonnes that navigates under the Mandovi and Zuari bridges. Mining industry can hardly afford such lethal delays in their digging, washing and selling missions on Goa’s lush green mountains.
On the othersider the public discontent against mining is increasing with the passage of every new day. The villages affected with mining are networking amongst themselves and mining industry is clearly going to be under increasing pressure in the future. The recent Public Hearings in Quepem and Sanguem talukas has made it very difficult to mobilize support in its favour. The news about Indian Ministry of Environment and Forests got published in Goa in this context.
Mining industry think tanks that cares a hoot for people of Goa and its Environment did sense all this, it did anticipate increasing public hostility to its ecological crimes on Goa and that’s why Dempos and other mining companies has opted for convincing Environment Ministry in various ways – legitimate and illegitimate - in doing away with the need for fresh EIA studies and holding of fresh Public Hearings and getting Environmental Clearance for the life of the project.
Implications: Goa as India’s Internal Colony
There are several implications of this ‘Life long Environmental Clearance’. In the first place along with the mining industry it is the Ministry of Environment and Forest that has clearly exposed its nexus with each other. Henceforth, increasing public anger is likely to get directed- along with the mining industry – towards Ministry of Environment and Forests. Secondly, legitimacy the Ministry of Environment and Forest as well as State of India to uphold constitutional duty as well as directive principle stands muzzled by its own action to support the marauding mining industry in Goa. Ministry of Environment and Forests is answerable to the People of Goa as to what crimes they have committed for which they are being environmentally ruined?
The mindset with which it has given life long clearances to the mining companies in Goa is a colonial mindset. Goa is fast being converted into internal colony of India ruled through briefcases from mining industry – the same way Portuguese rule Goa during its last 30 years from 1930s to 1950s ending in 1961. Portuguese gave patrimonial rights to mining companies. It was and is life long too, Life long of all future generations of the mining companies. Indian government though its Environment and Forest Ministry’s licence to plunder Goa’s mineral wealth to handful of families at the cost of its people, agriculture, water bodies, forests and fresh air has exposed itself as internally Colonial State; it will remain so until it revokes lifelong Environmental Clearances granted to Dempos and other mining companies in Goa. If the Central government does not revoke its decisions then we may as well witness anti-Colonial movement emerging in Goa in future.