Even as there is no clarity on how long the present lockdown in India could be extended to, its significant economic repercussions are now being felt by most states. The latest is Goa, which is now Covid free and has not had a single coronavirus case since April 3. It is pushing for an amendment in Union legislation to restart mining operations. Goa has sought the intervention of the Central government for changes in mining laws that can allow iron ore mining to resume in the state. Mining and tourism comprise the backbone of Goa’s economy and with resumption in travel unlikely soon, clamour to restart mining is growing in the state. Speaking to this correspondent, Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant said, “We have written to the Prime Minister and the Mines Minister to make changes to the law to resume mining since that will give us huge relief. Our case is pending in the Supreme Court but since it is not likely to be heard soon, we have requested for changes in law.”
The Goa government had challenged the licence cancellation in Supreme Court and the matter was scheduled to be heard on April 21, but since the apex court is currently hearing urgent matters only, the petition has been put on the backburner. Chief Minister Sawant has sought amendment to the Goa, Daman and Diu Mining Concessions Act of 1987, which will allow mining operations in the state to continue until 2037. It has been two years since the mining ban was imposed in the state on the back of a slew of litigations that led to the Supreme Court cancelling 88 iron ore mining licences renewed by the state government in 2014-15. Massive allegations of corruption and loss to the exchequer to the tune of over Rs 35,000 crore led the Supreme Court to ban mining in Goa, first in 2012 and then again in 2014 when the state government had hastily renewed licences retrospectively.
Recently, Goa Governor Satyapal Malik had also echoed similar concerns of the state’s finances being in the doldrums. There has been a loss of over 20%-25% to the GDP of Goa in the last two years, with three lakh direct and indirect jobs being lost. Due to the ban, the state’s debt has ballooned to over Rs 19,000 crore from around Rs 13,000 crore earlier. In fact, given the precarious state of its finances, the Goa government has also sought a financial package from the Centre. “Most states have sought financial relief from the Centre and we have also done so. We are a state that’s dependent on tourism and mining revenues and with both drying up right now, we have asked help from the Central government. Centre has always been helpful and we are positive our demands will be looked into,” Chief Minister Sawant said. In fact, with no fresh Covid-19 cases in Goa, the state has resumed operations in 80% of its industries as it looks to kick-start economic activity. But the crucial factor will be whether mining will get a green signal or not.