Parrikar U-turn on royalty evasion?


By Shweta Kamat
PANJIM: In what appears to be a dramatic U-Turn, the Manohar Parrikar-led government has in its response to the Supreme Court appointed central empowered committee (CEC) said categorically that “no illegal iron ore from Goa was exported without paying royalty to the State in last few years.” This, when Parrikar, during his tenure as the Leader of the Opposition, had castigated the erstwhile Congress government on a near-daily basis over the illegal export of iron ore from the State and had in the findings of the Public Accounts Committee on mining headed by him had stated that “iron ore worth Rs 3,500 crore was exported from Goa without paying royalty to the government over the last five years”.
The State government’s submission to CEC appears prime facie to be in direct contradiction to the findings of the PAC submitted in October 2011, which had also pegged the quantum of iron ore exported without payment of royalty at 1.52 crore tons.
The government has now told the CEC that the gap between the production and export, as pointed by Justice MB Shah Commission and petitioner Goa Foundation, could be either due to “ore imported from other States or ore from other States exported from Goa’s ports, which are not accounted for in local production”. The CEC had sought the government’s clarification on the large difference between production and export of iron ore.
It is also interesting to note that government seems to have no issues about excess production, as according to them it is “ore retrieved” from old dumps and not fresh extraction. The State is of the view that following demand of low grade ore from China, the dumps maintained by the lease holders were accessed. “A careful study of trends over last few years reveal that in some years the export of ore from Goa’s ports has exceeded local production. While there is nothing wrong if sales or exports exceed local production or extraction limit during a year, apprehension however has been expressed that this gap in a year suggests rampant illegal mining,” government said, adding:  “These apprehensions are without any basis. It would be unfair to attribute any mismatch between production and export to unauthorized mining.”
The government has informed CEC that it has, though, decided to undertake a detailed audit of all working mines to assess any over extraction. The audit would be undertaken by a panel of chartered accountants and geological experts. Appropriate action would be initiated based on the audit report, the State government has told the CEC. [H]