Panaji, Nov 30 (IANS): Newly appointed Trinamool Congress Rajya Sabha MP Luizinho Faleiro on Tuesday demanded recovery of Rs 35,000 crore illegal mining loot by the mining companies in Goa, while also demanding scrapping of road, rail (expansion) and power projects in protected forest areas along the Goa-Karnataka border in his debut speech in the Upper House on.
Speaking during Zero Hour, Faleiro also demanded the immediate resumption of mining activity in the state, which has come to a standstill following a Supreme Court order in 2018, which exposed irregularities in the state's mining lease renewal processes.
"Mining sector is the backbone of Goa's economy. Successive governments have stopped mining which has affected nearly 2.5 lakh people who are now on the roads... Rs 35,000 crore of illegal loot which was mentioned by the Justice MB Shah Commission report hasn't been recovered so far. I request the government to ensure that this money is recovered as per the assurances given to the Supreme Court," Faleiro, a former Goa Chief Minister said further.
Appointed by the central government, the Justice Shah Commission which was tasked with probing illegal mining in the state exposed a Rs 35,000 crore illegal mining scam in which top mining companies in the state, Chief Minister Digambar Kamat as well as top bureaucrats were indicted. Kamat has claimed that he was not involved in any illegality related to the mining sector.
Faleiro also accused the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party-government in Goa of trying to destroy the state's environment by permitting the destruction of protected forests to make way for three linear, road, rail and power projects.
"The Goa government has undertaken major projects which have not only destroyed but devastated the economy, ecology, environment and livelihoods of the people of Goa. The BJP government has signed for the transportation of 13 million tonnes of coal through Goa to Karnataka. Goa is an international tourist destination, not a coal destination. It is a health hazard and Goans are suffering due to this," Faleiro said.
"The three linear projects are three cardinal sins on the people of Goa. They were mainly proposed to transport coal from Goa to the hinterland. This has not only devastated our forests but also wildlife sanctuaries which have been the sanctum sanctorum of Goa," he also said.
The three projects include rail track expansion by the South Western Railway from Castlerock railway station in Karnataka to Tinaighat railway station in Goa, the National Highway - 4 four-laning and drawing of a power line. All the three projects run through the protected forest areas in both Goa and Karnataka territories which are a part of the UNESCO-endorsed Western Ghat region.
A total of 50,000 trees in and around Mollem, a village located along the Goa-Karnataka border, have been slotted for felling to make way for the three government projects, which have been cleared by the state and the central government's Ministry for Environment and Forests.
Activists as well as opposition politicians in Goa have been demanding a review of the three projects, claiming that they were hurriedly granted permission during the pandemic, without due diligence.
Opponents of the projects had alleged that the doubling tracking of railway tracks and expansion of the National Highway 4 would lead to increased transportation of coal imported to the Mormugao Port Trust in South Goa to steel mills in Karnataka's Bellary region.