Goa villagers for resumption of mining in the state

New Delhi, Oct 31 (IANS) Village headmens from Goa's mining belt Wednesday knocked the doors of the prime minister seeking "resumption of legal mining" in the state, saying as it has led to "unemployment". The Supreme court has banned mining in the state following a Rs.35,000 crore scam.

"Our appeal through the present representation may not be mistaken as supporting illegality. Our concern is only shutting down of legal mining activity based on stray cases of illegality," village headmen have said in their memorandum, which was submitted to the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's office as well as to the Supreme Court.

"I went jobless within a day, after the government announced the mining ban in Goa. It has been over a month now and I am still finding another way to earn a living. If the ban continues, my family will die out of starvation. The government cannot ignore the consequences we are facing due to the ban," Sirish Desai, 38, sarpanch of Sakoda village in Goa, one of the authors of the representation, said.

Mining was banned in Goa for a month by the Supreme Court Oct 5, after a petition filed by civil society activist Prashant Bhushan alleged large scale illegalities in the mining sector here.

The ban comes on the heels of a Rs.35,000 crore mining scam unearthed by a judicial commission headed by Justice M.B. Shah.

After the report was tabled in parliament, both the Congress-led coalition government in New Delhi as well as the BJP-led government in Goa, both of which had turned a blind eye towards large scale illegal mining, "temporarily" halted mining activity in the state.

The mining industry, has now unleashed a public relations blitzkrieg, starting with the Goa Mineral Ore Exporters Association (GMOEA) claiming that the Rs.35,000 loss estimated by the Shah Commission was only "notional".

GMOEA president Shivanand Salgaocar has also said that a huge chunk of Goa's population depends on mining, a sentiment which mirrors the views of Kirlapal Dabal, a sarpanch of the Dharbandora, another village in south Goa, surrounded by mining activity.

"The workers do not have an alternative means to livelihood and they fear their families may now starve to death. Unable to cope with this, they have threatened to commit mass suicide if there is no improvement in the situation," he has said in the memorandum.

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