Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Is demand for State Human Rights Commission will solve mining created problems in Goa?

Few days back Dr. Nandkumar Kamat from department of Botany at Goa University made a poignant suggestion to begin solving of woes of Goa’s mining affected region in one of his mails to goanet mailing list. He pondered whether mining generated problems can be interpreted as Human Rights issue. If yes then why then cannot be addressed as such. Further he said that it is important that there lobbying work must begin to set up State Human Rights commission as a first step towards finding legal way out of the imbroglio. This is a very interesting interjection in the ongoing discourse on mining in Goa. This article is an attempt to explore this further.

In mining generated hardships to people in Goa a human rights issue?

To reply to this would be: Mining generated hardships in Goa is also human rights issue but in no way only human rights issue. It is directly human rights issue in a sense that there are over 50 instances of police repression on people resisting mining wrath in various parts of Goa. Some of the cases have also been referred to National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) by people in mining belt of Goa. The rest of the aspects relating to water, air, traffic, forest, land, fisheries very tricky to interpretation as Human Rights issue simply because these are grey areas still being debated in various case laws. The large focus is still on the first generation of Human Rights. We in India have still a long way before dust settles down to recognize second and third generation Human Rights. Surely it would as the jurisprudence finds itself robustly grounded in near future.

It is not the only human rights issue largely because there is large number of government agencies – central as well as state agencies involved in the perpetuation of mining industry in Goa in the manner it is proceeding currently. Also lager number of dimension involved besides Human rights. There is an important dimension of security of country at risk with continues depletion of minerals due to exports. The country in near future will be left with very little mineral if every reserve is exploited for exports. There is sober silence on this aspect from intellectuals in Goa. Why? There is also dimension of conservation of minerals for domestic use in future. Our current rage of exploitation is reckless. We are in a mighty hurry to fill up coffers of British Vedanta (that owns Dempo mining company in Goa and Sesa Goa mining company in India) and rest of the brutish mining companies in Goa, build up economy of Japan (as we done it since 1948 after it was reduced to ashes after Hiroshima and Nagasaki nuclear bombings by USA in 1945), and massive fuelling of economic growth of China. Our intellectuals in the centers of higher learning are yet to apply their minds to this aspect. They are yet calculate what is the cost of ore that we exported over the past 60 years, to which countries, which companies exported how much, how much companies profited, how much foreign exchange Indian government earned? How much Goa government earned as revenue since its liberation? How much colonial Portuguese colonial government benefited from mining industry so as to continue retaining Goa as its colony till 1961? What was role of mining companies in colonial state? What is the role of mining companies in governance of the state of Goa since 1961 till date?

It is not the only Human Rights issue also because almost every major aspect of Goa’s life influenced by mining industry. We hardly have proper audit done in this regard. We only have propaganda of the mining companies that reinforces hegemonic dominance of mining industry over Goa. As a result our minds are constantly filled with negative entropy. Our intellectuals in the centres of learning instead of countering this have involved in furthering this proliferation of confusion to the infinity. One of them Dr. Nandkumar Kamat has been circulating extracts of mining companies welfare work besides flamboyant sarcasm in prose as well as poetry full of innuendos on people involved in resisting mining industry (without naming them) as well as praises to politician from mining company. Another one Dr. A.G.Chachadi from department of Earth Sciences, Goa University in his reply to PIL at Bombay High Court at Panaji has heaped nasty sarcasm on people of Sirgao who has been active in their struggle for survival from mining industry. He carried on number of studies for mining industries and details ware furnished by Goa University in rely to RTI. Third one Dr. Untawale , former director of National Institute of Oceanography, Dona Paula publicly scolded Villager from Pissurlem who demanded that mining companies supply water to their paddy fields. This was on 1st April 2001 at Old Goa Panchayat Hall, Tiswadi. Later on he went to sign the report that in Panchwadi there are no mangroves even though it is densely mangrove populated. He did this in order to back up Sesa Goa’s plans to build exclusive road for mining through Panchwadi. This way scientist has been playing the role of traitors to the people of Goa recently. So mining hardships are faced by people of Goa are not only Human Rights issue it is more importantly issue of unethical practices by Intellectuals that includes scientists such as the above named.

Mining is also the issue of serious crimes committed by the economically powerful people in mining industry. It is also the issue of governance: how tiny minority has totally hijacked governance of State of Goa for its vested interests. It is also the issue of how certain projects are allocated in certain areas and others are rejected. For example why mining lobby did not like Konkan railway to go through hinterlands, why did not want Nylon 6,6 in Keri, Ponda; its all because it would have disrupted prospects of mining in these areas. That’s how you have mining companies’ eyes set on land in Keri, Ponda that is rich in iron ore. Mining is also the issue of power relations between communities. It is tug of war between money economy and natural economy. It is tussle between mining companies and Goa’s tribal people as their land is directly under threat and State government has bothered to demarcate tribal areas as constitutional requirement after the tribal communities were declared as Scheduled Tribes (Gawdas, Kunbis and Velips). It is struggle of survival for them as mining companies has been chocking any efforts to implement Forest Rights Act 2006 providing distribution of legal titles over lands to tribal people and forest dwellers. It is either political immaturity or outright co-option by mining companies that is preventing our scientists in Goa to articulate the way they are doing at present. It more likely that these scientists are on the pay roll of mining companies then any other reasons.

It would be tremendously amiss if one has to ignore the dimension of cumulative effect of mining in Goa. It is very important to asses over all effect of mining on the small state of Goa. Mining is just not the issue of people in the mining belt. People in the mining belt are the only first line of defense of the planet earth. They are not just struggling for their rights. They are struggling for the welfare of entire state of Goa who depends on water from the mining belt. They are struggling to maintain well being of every visitor to Goa so that she can breathe its air afresh without any kind of dust in their lungs. They are struggling for the rights of their children still tiny tots in nurseries, schools and wandering in nature. They are struggling to pass on their inheritance of the planet in all its bounty to the generations yet to be born. They are struggling to maintain and propagate the life style that needs negligible amount of metals and hence need for mining. They have an example of how to life that is one with nature and would never need machinery from Volvo, Hitachi and Tata-Hitachi to reap the planet apart. They are fighting not to get the scrums from the State of mining companies. They are struggling to build their power. They are struggling to build a new society that is already born and kicking with power its own formation. That’s what currently giving sleepless nights to the mining companies. They are enacting their planetary will in motion. They are not dependent upon scientists like those named in this article. They are full of compassion and will simply forgive these erring scientists as mischievous toddlers who are yet to learn how to walk some distance of quality life. I can say this confidence simply because after over instances of violent police repression on them they have never retaliated with violence. They simply went ahead with their life as usual, their struggle as usual. They have been distracted in their struggle. They have hundreds of years of experience of life and they have not lost their memory. It is continues motion of life in transition for centuries together.

Mining companies are unwarranted intruders in Goa who will meet their destined fate in the times to come.

About campaigning for State Human Rights Commission

I have been raising this issue on number of occasion in number of platforms. I did get some interesting revelations as to why it is not set up by the Goa Government. Once I raised this with officials from National Human Rights Commission at the one of the consultations organized in Bangalore in 2007 by MCRG, Kolkata. I was publicly replied that it is not set up in Goa because Goa government did not want it. I believed it was true because Ravi Naik had publicly declared this when he was Chief Minister. The one expert on law told me that this is not set up in Goa because there are no retired High Court Chief justice from Goa except one who would be its statutory chairperson. And if he rejects then it would render it non-functional. I support this demand but it is not the only forum where mining would be relegated for the redress of the problems. Problems have to be redress principally by those who has created them: mining companies, state government and global consuming classes. State Human Rights Commission if at all set up cannot become Jantar Mantar of mining affected people of Goa. For if this happens then it would be setting the unhealthy precedent of ghettoization and only mining companies stand to benefit from this. Mining issues will continue to resound its echoes in most unlikely forums and most unlike times as this is the current trend.

Central government (MOEF) already set up the round table on mining issues in Goa consisting of Mining Affected People, Mining companies and the officials from Goa government. It has also set up Western Ghats expert panel and Dr.Nandkumar Kamat is one the members of the same. It is important that these existing forums must be utilized to the fullest to solve the problems of mining in Goa rather than going for new forums. However it is important for Dr.Nandkumar Kamat to keep the interest of ecology as a priority over mining of Western Ghats. Dr.Kamat is responsible panel member who is to supervise brainstorming session on “How to manage mining projects so as to minimize ecological damage, and possibly generate positive outcomes”. This session is to take place at CES, IISc, Bangalore as per the minutes of the second meeting of the Western Ghats Ecology Expert Panel held on 7th May 2010 at 10 am at BSI Coimbatore and chaired by Prof. Madhav Gadgil. Dr.Nandkumar Mukund Kamat as well Dr.Ligia Noronha both the members from Goa are recorded as absent for this meeting in the minutes.

I am not sure if Dr. Kamat continues on this panel. If he continues then he should severe his ties with mining companies immediately or it would be interpreted that he is representing interests of the mining companies the way he has been conducting himself over the past few weeks on Goanet. My good wishes are with Dr.Nandkumar Kamat whom I admired during my university days for his studious habit (he is one of the few faculties in Goa University that visit library very frequently), interdisciplinary approach (I publicly admired in his presence during one of the local history seminars), his ferocious argumentative style, for his public interest of causes in various fields, for his relentless writings, and for his courage in the face of daring foe. I hope and wish that Dr.Nandakumar Kamat that I knew in my university days comes out unscathed in the face of alluring mining industry. That would be the first step in solidarity with mines affected people of Goa. Demand for State Human Rights Commission comes subsequent to this.

Sebastian Rodrigues

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