The genie is out of the bottle – Cauvrem villagers decide to petition Supreme Court

April 19, 2016

There are two issues in the Cauvrem crisis. Cavrem-Pirla panch, Ravindra Velip and the Cavrem villagers allege that much before mining in the state came to a halt, even before 2012, 8 lakh tons of iron ore were fraudulently covered with reject and hidden. The ore that Fomento is currently transporting is that hidden, therefore illegal ore, and not e-auctioned ore.

The second issue is that Velip wants to set up a village cooperative for transporting the ore, so that the villagers can benefit from the extraction of natural resources and also keep an eye on it to prevent overexploitation and to prevent destruction of their own environment. The mining operations have destroyed their agricultural lands.

But systems have already been put in place. The Timblos own Fomento and remember the first list of Indian citizens with slush funds abroad? It was a Timblo who was in the first list. Ore hidden under reject is a simple idea to save ore for a rainy day. But the government and Fomento officials say Velip and the villagers are lying. All their ore is legitimate, e-auctioned ore and it is the Cavrem villagers who are indulging in illegal, criminal behaviour trying to stop the transportation of what perfectly legal ore.

The government has ranged loyally alongside the Timblos and the villagers have accepted that they cannot hold out against the sustained harassment by the police. “The women in our village have been severely harassed as a result of police filing complaints against them. We don’t want them to be further harassed, for which we have decided not to stop transportation,” said Velip.

Instead they have decided to approach the Supreme court to point out loopholes in the transportation, which allows Fomento to transport unaccounted ore under the garb of e-auction.

The Director of Mines and Geology Prasanna Acharya says he is not convinced about the claims of Velip and the villagers of Cauvrem. He has asked them not to make an issue out of it. He says his department knows how to monitor ore transportation and Velip and the villagers are wrong in their claims that the ore being transported is illegal.

The villagers say Acharya is not cooperating. Acharya asks them not to misguide the people. Instead he said, they could get proactive, station someone outside the mine and make a report and submit it to him, if they are sure that something illegal is going on. He asks why Fomento would cover up and hide ore when they could have sold it at that time when the international prices were high.

He said after 2012, mining had become transparent and that this was legal and not illegal mining. He said the ore was transported according to inventory and grading of the ore and that the protesters should not call legal mining, illegal.

Acharya also pointed out that the villagers could not form a cooperative, so if any of them wanted to be a raising contractor, they were free to apply and he would process their registration within two days, but he would not get them contracts; they would have to get their contracts on their own. Ouch. No wonder then, that the villagers say the government and bureaucrats are hand-in-glove with the mining company.

But no matter what counter arguments are given — the genie is out of the bottle and if it is the Supreme Court that takes up the issue, Goa mining could be hit once again. Which is not a very big deal since international prices are still low. But it becomes a very big deal if the Supreme Court steps in and enforces Goa Foundation’s idea of the State taking over mining and villages in the mining belt forming cooperatives.