The Goa Assembly passed a unanimous resolution demanding an amendment to the Abolition of Concessions and Conversion to leases Act in 1987, which in effect will extend the life of all iron ore mining leases from 1987 to 2037, including technically those whose renewals were cancelled by the High Court. The Goa Foundation has decided to challenge any such legislation and it’s still a long way before there’s any hope of a mining re-start. In this episode of Coffee with Spotlight, SUJAY GUPTA speaks to mine owner Haresh Melwani on the ramifications of today’s Assembly resolution
Groups within Congress will not let it form the government: Subhash Shirodkar
Former GPCC president and cabinet minister Subhash Shirodkar ended his 38-year-old political journey in Congress when he joined BJP. Hours after he switched over, The Goa Spotlight met him at his residence at Shiroda to understand what prompted him to take the step. And also what are the undercurrents in Congress party.
RUPESH SAMANT/ Team Spotlight
The Goa Spotlight: First question, what was the deal that you struck with the BJP
Subhash Shirodkar I don’t believe in deals. I have been on my own in political and social life. I never asked for a ministerial post in the past. I have got whatever I am owed rightfully
TGS: From 1987 till now you were in the congress. What made you shift?
SS: I was in the Congress from 1980. I campaigned for Congress in 1980 for Babai (Vishwanath) Prabhu. I got a ticket later and then have been contesting elections on the Congress ticket. I have taken the decision after proper thinking and study. I considered factors like whether the current BJP government in Goa is stable and what is the fate of BJP-led government in centre. The need to have development in my constituency was the prime factor which was behind my decision to join BJP.
TGS: When did you decide to join BJP?
SS: I have been seeing, how, in the last two to three months, four to five former chief ministers have been fighting amongst themselves ( to become chief Minister) That was the reason why we could not form the government. Even in 2017 we could not form the government. Some of the senior party leaders were responsible for this situation.
TGS: Is the congress serious about forming the government?
SS:They are seriously trying to form the government. But the groups within the party are not letting them form the government.
They will continue making attempts but they will not be able to form the government. I don’t think anyone is talking to them. Even if there are any talks, they are just superficial. I have been a politician for 38 years. I know that to keep on giving hopes is a part of strategy.
TGS: How many want to be CM
SS: As far as I know there are 3-4 people who want to be the chief minister.
TGS: When did you finally decide to leave the Congress and join the BJP?
SS: Almost 15 days back I decided to shift. I need Rs 100-150 crore for the development of my constituency. I lost the election in 2007-2012 and my opponent was ruling the constituency. But he did not focus on the development of the constituency, due to which the people suffered. They, in reality, to be in opposition.
TGS: Do you feel that BJP does not do development in constituency of opposition MLAs?
SS: It all depends on your attitude. An opposition MLA can get work out of a government. But the pace of development will be less. I could not expect the government to give government jobs to my constituency when I was in the opposition. Before taking the decision I had also considered issues like mining closure, which can be solved by BJP. Congress cannot resume mining. Only BJP can do it because they have the government in the centre.
TGS: What was your reaction when Vishwajit Rane left the Congress?
SS: I think he was ten steps ahead of me. He took an immediate decision and left. I feel that I should have gone with him. I also feel that I should have contested election on a BJP ticket. I lost 18 months. People gave us majority but we could not take benefit out of it. Selfish thinking of Congress leaders led to this. For a greater cause, some leaders should have sacrificed (their desire to become Chief Minister)
TGS: Did you take voters into confidence?
SS: I had meeting of the workers on Sunday. I explained to them about the national level politics and also what is happening in Goa. We also discussed whether Congress can form the government. I also raised the issue of mining and unemployment.
We have the numbers- Chella Kumar sings along
Congress has been frequenting Raj Bhavan these days with the claim to form the government in Goa. But does this party with 16-legislators have right numbers with them? Are they serious about their claims? RUPESH SAMANT caught up with AICC’s Congress Goa In-charge A Chellakumar to know more.
Q. Are you still optimistic about forming the government in Goa?
Last time after the Goa Assembly election, after people had given a clear mandate for the Congress and absolutely rejected the BJP government, even after that we could not form the government, is purely because of two individuals who have backstabbed the people of Goa and particularly their own voters.
We, as a congress party, trusted them because their previously tenure as a public representative was one of the reason to trust them. They had projected themselves as they are the clean, principled politician for the people and also against corruption and against the communal politics. Some of them tried their level best to project Congress as a team B of the BJP. They had told that they will never ever join communal party and will never ditch their people. As a political party, we too trusted them.
With the larger interest of the State we trusted them. They have exploited it. I am not worried about exploiting the congress, but they exploited people of Goa.
Q. Would you name those two?
Why should I name them? Their own people and people of the State know who are they. I feel ashamed of even naming them. I don’t want to go to that low level by naming them.
Q. Does it mean you will never trust them again?
You will come to know about my action and I have told very clearly in my first interview with some journalists that we want to remove this government with communal agenda. But at the same time, I am not at all ready to compromise the interest of the people of the state. Also, I am not ready to compromise ideology of Congress party.
Q. Does this mean you are forming the government
We will form it
Q. When exactly will it happen?
I cannot reveal the time frame. Why should I reveal all this now.
Q. You will have to bank on Independents or GFP or MGP to form the government
You cannot expect me to reveal my strategy.
Q. Some of your own MLAs are remaining abstain from the House or remaining absent during the crucial time
I know why you are putting this question. Two of them are out station but they have gone with the knowledge of the congress party. When there will be a need, when we are forming the government at the interest of the people of Goa, I don’t think any of our congress MLA will abstain or leave the Congress party. I don’t think that anybody prefers to backstab their voters for their personal greediness for money.
Q. Is leadership within your own party is also an issue
The leadership issue does not arise at all. There is no issue within the Congress party. Even at the time of the 2017, leadership was not the reason. They projected it like that. When somebody has cheated the people, they diverted the attention by saying that the Congress failed to elect their leader. Can anybody debate with me on that subject.
Q. So, you are not projecting you CM candidate
We will decide when the time comes. That time we will decide
Q. Will you wait the government to get toppled or you will try to topple it
The current government is in the course of dying a natural death. This government was formed by those who sold the ideology and the sentiments of their voters for their personal greediness, both for power and money and those who surrendered ethics of politics. Now in this one-and-half years time, the sufferers are not the MLAs but it is the people of the Goa.
One and half lakh people, which means more than 10 per cent population of the State are struggling for their livelihood. Mining affected people are on the street because of one individual’s false propaganda as if he is the straight, honest statesman. Today he may be in the hospital. In his entire political career, he tried to project that Congress has looted exchequer of the people by illegal mining. Today the truth has come out very clearly. It is not my Congress, it is nobody other than their own party ex-chief minister Laxmikant Parsekar has told very clearly that it is not he but Parrikar is a cause for looting Rs 1 lakh 44 thousand crore. Now I want to put a question to this government, why the government is silent by not filing complaint in the police station. Why they have not filed the charge-sheet. Yes, I too pray to God that let Parrikar get well soon as a father to some family. I want to know that, suppose something happens to him, because life is unpredictable, who will return Rs 1 lakh 44 thousand crore rupees?
By sitting in the ICU, you are calling MLAs, you are blackmailing them also. You are involved in Horse-trading and everything. Why don’t you put inquiry committee? You can also form Assembly committee and inquire. He should say that if committee finds that I am looted, you can attach my property. It is need of the hour. People of Goa has given everything to you. At least, now be little truthful to the people of the State.
Q. Do you foresee early election in Goa
BJP is planning for early election. That is why Congress legislative party has given memorandum to Governor not to dissolve the assembly. We are ready to face the public but we are against the early elections. We are the single largest party. We have the mandate to form the government. Once they have denied the opportunity of the Congress.
Forget about Western Ghats report, implement the laws: Madhav Gadgil
While Kerala has been witnessing century’s worst ever disaster, there was one person who had predicted this almost seven years back. Madhav Gadgil, who headed the Western Ghats Ecology Experts Panel (WGEEP) said that human intervention in the nature has resulted in Kerala floods, which are serious disaster. Prof Gadgil spoke to RUPESH SAMANT of The Goa Spotlight
The Goa Spotlight: Are the current floods in Kerala, a man-made disaster?
MADHAV GADGIL: There are two components. One is the intense rainfall event of a higher level than the normal. One of my students has done a thesis on intense rainfall events in Kerala. I spoke to him. He says certainly this year it is quite intense but it is not unprecedented. His family comes from Kerala, he says earlier there was intense rainfall but there was never this level of flooding or so many landslides.
TGS: What are the reasons for such a disaster?
MG The flooding has definitely brought to light large number of illegal stone quarries or large number of illegal construction in the river bed and so on. In this sense it is definitely a man-made calamity in which the intense rainfall and human intervention has made it serious disaster.
TGS: Is it time for the Kerala government to adopt your 2011 report on Western Ghats which was rejected by them?
I have again and again asked people. Nobody has been able to show any factual mistake in the report. The facts that are mentioned in the report are all correct facts. The recommendations are entirely within our constitutional provisions and our various laws. Implementing the report means the government stopping flouting our own laws and suppressing our own people.
But for arguments sake, let’s forget our report. The Government still must begin to behave lawfully and then automatically it means our report will implemented.
TGS: Are these warning signs for other states like Goa which are in the Western Ghats?
MG: Over the years what has happened is very clear. It is the case in Goa also. The reason for not taking any environmental precaution is purely greed for unlimited profits. You have seen it in Goa also. MB Shah commission has estimated illegal profits of Rs 35,000 crore of mining. And also in stone quarries there is enormous profit. There is very little investment and there are enormous profits. This has been allowed to go on which has actually worsened the economic disparity in the society so now those who are making money through these means are even more effective in getting the government to allow this kind of rampant illegal behavior .
TGS: What role are the governments are playing?
MG The governments are actually going backwards. The central government is actually bending backwards to make sure that the National Green Tribunal does not function. Their influence is increasing. They are able to suppress people more effectively. In goa you must have heard the story about Kavrem village (adivasis fighting to save their land from mining) or Fr Bismarque Dias who was fighting real estate on the island across river mandovi (and found dead). The powerful are able to suppress people. They are able to flout laws and the situation is getting worse. In coming years there will be worst disasters all over, the trend is very clear.
TGS: Do you foresee such kind of a situation in Goa?
MG In Goa they had asked me to look into the environment impact assessment reports submitted by the mining firms. Every EIA suppresses the correct fact about the hydrological impact of mining. On the sadas (plains) of Goa there are lot of streams which are originating but they don’t make mention of that. They simply claim that there no streams, water etc. all the false statements. Certainly all sorts of problems are beginning to surface. Goa of course does not have ghats as high as in Kerala, but I am sure Goa will also experience all sorts of problems.