It was noon on a sunny day in February. Driving through the villages in the assembly constituency of Sanklim in north Goa, we reached Pissurlem constituency, where chief minister Pramod Sawant will contest in the upcoming election.
On the way, we passed trucks parked on the roadside. Ten years ago, these trucks transported iron ore from Goa’s iron mines. Now, thousands of them sit unused, growing layers of rust in the open air.
At the other end of Pissurlem village is a large iron mine. Owned by Damodar Mangalji and Co. Ltd, it’s been defunct for 12 years, like most of the iron mines in this part of the state. The mine’s massive crater, formed through the mining process, is now filled with rainwater. The entire area is cordoned off with barbed wire, while security guards are posted around the water body.
A few kilometres away, we met Shivaji Parab, who owns a dhaba in Navelim-Myna village. Shivaji’s is a riches to rags story: He once owned more than 20 trucks and was in the business of transporting iron ore. In 2011, he bought a new fleet of eight trucks after taking a hefty loan from a friend.
Business was booming, he said, and his family was happy. His largesse extended to helping poor girls in his village with their weddings and organising festivals at the local temple.
But in 2012, things took a turn.
In October that year, the Supreme Court iron ore mining and exports in Goa, though this was in 2014. But , as of today, “no entity holds a valid lease to mine iron ore in Goa”.
Shivaji struggled to repay the loan to his friend, especially considering mining stopped and, therefore, his income too.
He could have sold his trucks but there was now a problem of plenty; too many truck owners like Shivaji were suddenly unemployed and trying to sell off their vehicles. So, many of them lined the roads, gathering rust over the years.
“Fate took a turn for the worse after 2019,” he said, his voice filled with emotion. “I once had a gold chain worth Rs 10 lakh around my neck and wore a bracelet worth Rs 1 lakh. All the police stations in this area were in my pocket. Only a call was enough to get the work done.”
Desperate, Shivaji finally sold some property to pay off a portion of the loan. When one of his cheques bounced, his friend filed a case against him. He was jailed in 2019, he said, before he got bail.
“Now, I can’t even send my daughter to a good school,” he said. “I had not committed any crime but I had to go to jail, and no one was coming to bail me out.”
He finally set up the dhaba in his home in the village. But he believes god is on his side.
“He [god] has brought me up so far and he will take care of me in future too,” Shivaji said. “Now, I don’t even want to take the name of mining...But what happened to me should not happen to anyone.”
A multi-layered problem
Across villages like Kudne, Amona, Surla, Pali and Navelim are similar stories of locals who depended on iron mining for their livelihoods. Villagers told Newslaundry that if mining resumes, their lives will change.
This is why the issue is central to politics in the state. In their election manifestos, all the major parties – including the Trinamool Congress and Congress – have promised to resume mining if they are elected to power.
Intriguingly, so has the Bharatiya Janata Party, even though it’s already been in power in Goa for the last 10 years. During an event at Ponda assembly constituency, home minister Amit Shah that if the BJP wins in Goa, mining will start at “double force” through a transparent auction process.
Of course, the fact of the matter is that the decision to suspend mining was taken by the Supreme Court. None of the parties are offering up action plans on how to proceed.
Another aspect of the mining issue is whether it’s a sustainable model from an environmental point of view. Additionally, Goa’s mining industry had been monopolised by a handful of companies, whose work was arbitrary and whose profits ran into thousands of crores. A small part of it went to the government.
While the the conditional resumption of iron ore mining in the state in 2014, there was still a bar on illegal mining, and there was “no change in the status of the mining leases which have been declared illegal earlier”.
This includes several private mining companies that continued their work regardless.
Newslaundry reached out to Rahul Basu, research director of the Goa Foundation, which has helmed the fight against illegal mining in the state, to ask him what this means.
“The issue of mining has to be understood in five points,” Basu said. “First, the owners of the natural minerals are the common citizens of Goa. The government is only a trustee. Second, minerals are inherited by us. We have not created them, so it is our responsibility to pass them on to future generations. Third, we have to ensure zero loss in mining. Fourth, the mineral sale proceeds will have to be saved in a fund for the future generations of Goa – this happens all over the world. Fifth, the fund income should be distributed as a dividend among the citizens in Goa.”
On a sustainable mining model, Basu said, “The people dependent on mining should benefit. The people affected by mining should benefit as well. The government of Goa should benefit. The citizens of Goa should benefit. We have to save something for the coming generations too, so that they also get benefits. The mining company can be allowed to keep 20 percent of profits, but they cannot be allowed to loot freely.”
As things stand, the issue of mining is torn in multiple directions. This is why the wait continues for political parties to come up with a transparent, legalised mining model.
With inputs from Meghnad S and Lipi Vats.
This story was translated from Hindi by Utkarsh Mishra.
Update: Rahul Basu's quote has been updated to better reflect its translation into English.
This story is part of the NL Sena project which our readers contributed to. It was made possible by Abel Sajaykumar, Devaki Khanna, Subhrajit Chakraborty, Somok Gupta Roy, Sathya, Shubhankar Mondal, Sourav Agrawal, Karthik, Sudarshana Mukhopadhyay, Uma Rajagopalan, HS Kahlon, Shreya Sethuraman, Vinod Gubbala, Anirban Bhattacharjee, Rahul Gupta, Rejith Rajan, Abhishek Thakur, Rathindranath Das, Farzana Hasan, Animesh Narayan, A J, Nidhi Manchanda, Rahul Bhardwaj, Kirti Mishra, Sachin Tomar, Raghav Nayak, Rupa Banerjee, Akash Mishra, Sachin Chaudhary, Udayan Anand, Karan Mujoo, Gaurab S Dutta, Jayanta Basu, Abhijnan Jha, Ashutosh Mittal, Sahit Koganti, Ankur, Sindhu Kasukurthy, Manas, Akshay Sharma, Mangesh Sharma, Vivek Maan, Sandeep Kumar, Rupa Mukundan, P Anand, Nilkanth Kumar, Noor Mohammed, Shashi Ghosh, Vijesh Chandera, Rahul Kohli, Janhavi G, Dr Prakhar Kumar, Ashutosh Singh, Saikat Goswami, Sesha Sai T V, Srikant Shukla, Abhishek Thakur, Nagarjuna Reddy, Jijo George, Abhijit, Rahul Dixit, Praveen Surendra, Madhav Kaushish, Varsha Chidambaram, Pankaj, Mandeep Kaur Samra, Dibyendu Tapadar, Hitesh Vekariya, Akshit Kumar, Devvart Poddar, Amit Yadav, Harshit Raj, Lakshmi Srinivasan, Atinderpal Singh, Jaya Mitra, Raj Parab, Ashraf Jamal, Asif Khan, Manish Kumar Yadav, Saumya Parashar, Naveen Kumar Prabhakar, Lezo, Sanjay Dey, Ahmad Zaman, Mohsin Jabir, Sabina, Suresh Uppalapati, Bhaskar Dasgupta, Pradyut Kumar, Sai Sindhuja, Swapnil Dey, Sooraj, Aparajit Varkey, Brendon Joseph D’souza, Zainab Jabri, Tanay Arora, Jyoti Singh, M Mitra, Aashray Agur, Imran, Dr. Anand Kulkarni, Sagar Kumar, Sandeep Banik, Mohd Salman, Sakshi, Navanshu Wadhwani, Arvind Bhanumurthy, Dhiren Maheshwari, Sanjeev Menon, Anjali Dandekar, Farina Ali Kurabarwala, Abeera Dubey, Ramesh Jha, Namrata, Pranav Kumar, Amar Nath, Anchal, Sahiba Lal, Jugraj Singh, Nagesh Hebbar, Ashutosh Mhapne, Sai Krishna, Deepam Gupta, Anju Chauhan, Siddhartha Jain, Avanish Dureha, Varun Singhal, Akshay, Sainath Jadhav, Shreyas Singh, Ranjeet Samad, Vini Nair, Vatsal Mishra, Aditya Chaudhary, Jasween, Pradeep, Nilesh Vairagade, Manohar Raj, Tanya Dhir, Shaleen Kumar Sharma, Prashant Kalvapalle, Ashutosh Jha, Aaron D'Souza, Shakti Verma, Sanyukta, Pant, Ashwini, Firdaus Qureshi, Soham Joshi, Ankita Bosco, Arjun Kaluri, Rohit Sharma, Betty Rachel Mathew, Sushanta Tudu, Pardeep Kumar Punia, Dileep Kumar Yadav, Neha Khan, Omkar, Vandana Bhalla, Surendra Kumar, Sanjay Chacko, Abdullah, Aayush Garg, Mukarram Sultan, Abhishek Bhatia, Tajuddin Khan, Vishwas Deshpande, Mohammed Ashraf, Jayati Sood, Aditya Garg, Nitin Joshi, Partha Patashani, Anton Vinny, Sagar Rout, Vivek Chandak, Deep Chudasama, Khushboo Matwani, Virender Bagga, Keyur Gokhale, Shelly Singh, Goldwin Fonseca, Upasana Gupta, Leslie Isaac, Stephen, Anupam Kumar, Nishanth Perathara, Sudin, Bhavin Ved, Sriram Arthanari, Sanjit Mehta, Shashank Shekhar, Somsubhro Chaudhuri, Pallavi Das, Animesh Chaudhary, Dr Avishek Ghosh, Bharat Kumar, Renain Safi, Kanhu Kishore Nanda, Shubham Wankhede, Jagbir Lehl, Bharadwaj Upadyaya, Mohamed Suhair, Keith Rebelo, Saurabh, Aman Seth, Himanshu Singh, Malwika Chitale, Mohit Chelani, Abhishek Thakur, Utpal Kar, Abdul Aziz Abdul Gafoor, Aditya Kumar Tiwari, Chanchal K Mitra, Subhojit Bakshi, Jitendra Kumar, Subhransu Panda, Vaibhav V, Neerja Jain, Muzamil, Parminder Randhawa, Aishwarya Ghaisas, Siddharth Kulkarni, Fadil Sherrif, Jomy Mathew, Asim, Senthil Kumar Sakthivel, Abhimanyu Sinha, Srinivas Addepalli, Pratul Nema, Varun B Kothamachu, Aarushi Mittal, Sushil Gulati, George Isaac, Sameer Naik, Saurabh Naik, Ragesh Vyas, Vishal Sodani, Muhammad Shafeeque, Vivek Ashokan, Rachita Dutta, Sayani Dasgupta, Ashutosh Singh, Shrinjay, Siju Mathew, Paul Lazarus, Thufir Hawat, Kruttika Samant, Shireesh Vasupalli and other NL Sena members.
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