Posts Tagged ‘Panaji’
Panaji, Dec 10 (IANS) A Supreme Court-appointed committee has virtually confirmed the massive illegal mining scam in Goa, vindicating anti-mining activists who have been campaigning against the menace for over a decade.
After the central empowered committee (CEC) submitted a report to the Supreme Court last week, activists say their claims of illegal mining in Goa stand vindicated.
There are now two official reports, one by the SC-appointed CEC and the other by the Justice M.B. Shah Commission, which back the claims of the environmentalists.
The Shah Commission report was submitted to parliament some months ago.
“The CEC has outlined an excellent road map regarding capping, re-surveys, etc. but one thing I find amiss is that there is no mention of how to recover the estimated Rs.35,000 crore loss,” Siddarth Karapurkar, secretary of the Goenchea Xetkaracho Ekvott, a grassroots traditional farmers organisation in Goa, said in a conversation with IANS.
The CEC in its report submitted after nearly two months of ground study in Goa, has indicted government agencies for their inability to curb blatant illegal mining in Goa.
The report submitted by the CEC secretary M.K. Jiwraka has also asked that 42 blatantly illegal mines in Goa be closed down, apart from suggesting that environment clearances (EC) granted to all mining operations be verified, to rule out fraud.
Goa has nearly 90 operational mines.
“Acute damage has also been caused to ground water aquifers due to indiscriminate mining below ground water level, which in turn has, in several areas, adversely affected agricultural activities,” Jiwraka said in his report, apart from asking the state government to come up with norms and regulations to control illegal mining in the future.
“Goa may be directed to immediately notify comprehensive rules to regulate storage, transportation and shipment of mineral. It should provide for issue of transit permits before the mineral is permitted to be transported outside the lease area, and ensure verification in transit. Till such comprehensive rules are put in place, the resumption of mining operations may be not be permitted,” the report said, buttressing the demands of environmentalists, who have been seeking just such a mechanism.
“It is a justice due to the people of Goa and the state. It was reckless and mindless mining that was being carried out all these years. The CEC has tightened all the screws and the loopholes making it next to impossible to start mining again,” according to Ramesh Gauns, a school teacher, who has doubled as an activist.
Gauns has been pushed and shoved several times by the mining lobby, during his countless protests against illegal iron ore extraction and movement of ore to the ports for export.
Now with the Supreme Court set to decide the future of the multi-million dollar mining industry, and on course to bring the culprits of the Rs.35,000 crore illegal mining scam to book, Gauns’s fellow-activists like Zarina da Cunha are only too happy.
“Now that the ball is in the court of judiciary, whatever they say is acceptable. Let the law take its course, I am confident it will,” da Cunha said.
Panaji, Dec 8 (IANS) It is as if some evil eye has been cast on Goa’s golden goose – its beaches – which year after year harvest tourists by the hundreds of thousands.
If natural threats like erosion weren’t serious enough, the latest threat for Goa’s golden beaches comes from greedy land-hoggers who, the Goa government believes, are steadily encroaching on the beaches, all of which are state-owned.
Alarmed by this, the Goa Tourism Development Corporation (GTDC) is now in the process of commissioning a survey which will identify the encroached beach land before a legal move is calibrated to wrest it back.
“It has come to our attention. We have come across several instances where the beach land is being encroached upon. Since the commercial value of the land along the coast is high, we want to exactly know what the position is,” GTDC managing director Nikhil Desai told IANS.
Desai’s concern stems from the fact that most of the encroachments have occurred in Goa’s two prized coastal sub-districts – Bardez in north Goa which is home to some of the most popular beaches like Calangute, Baga, Candolim, Anjuna and Vagator and Miramar and Salcete in South Goa with beaches like Colva, Betalbatim and Benaulim.
Property prices in these sought-after areas have already hit the roof, especially along the coastline. Encroachment of prime government land, especially the sandy beaches, would not only dent the pockets of the tourism ministry, which is the custodian of the property, but also has potential to derail Goa’s tourism gravy train due to over-exploitation of the area.
Tourism department officials claim that private hoteliers and real estate speculators were found changing property markers and encroaching on government-owned land, but the biggest violators were found to be private shack owners, who are a powerful political lobby.
“Every year, the dimensions of these shacks increase and we lose more land every time. This has to stop some time. It is worst in places like Calangute and Baga, where some of the shacks operate all year round,” a tourism official said.
Over 2.6 million tourists visit Goa’s beaches annually and more often than not it is these shacks which provide handy refreshments and alcohol right by the surf’s edge.
Encroachment apart, Goa’s beaches are already losing the battle to rapid erosion, where rising sea levels are eating away at the sand, shrinking the width of the beaches.
The worst hit is Goa’s tourism mecca – the Candolim-Baga beach stretch – where a majority of Goa’s tourists, both domestic and international frolic.
Government data suggest that over 25 percent of Goa’s coastline is already under threat of erosion. The state government’s water resources department (WRD), which has been entrusted with the task of restoring the eroding beaches, claims that erosion was a global phenomenon and that it was doing the best to arrest the sand slide.
“We might go in for new technology to reduce the effects of this erosion. The geo-tubes which we used last time have had limited success. We should have an answer to this problem soon,” Water Resources Minister Dayanand Mandrekar said.
(Mayabhushan Nagvenkar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Panaji, Dec 8 (IANS) Goa Police have extended their patrolling from beaches to hill slopes used by tourists to trek from one beach to another after two foreigners were molested by domestic tourists on one such route.
The Australian tourists were molested Friday evening by two separate groups of domestic tourists, who tried to waylay the women and fondle them while they were walking from Anjuna beach to Baga beach in north Goa connected by a scenic hill slope overlooking the sea.
“They were walking from one beach to another when they were accosted by these two groups. We are investigating the matter,” police inspector Vishwesh Karpe said.
He said hotels and lodges in nearby areas were being scanned to look out for the four attackers, based on the identity described by the victims.
The two 24-year-old tourists from Australia told police that while in the first instance, they had to push aside one of the attackers to make a getaway, in the other case, a group of unidentified Indian tourists ringed them and tried to fondle them while they were walking from Anjuna to Baga.
This is not the first time friction between domestic and foreign tourists has led to police complaints being filed.
Cases of male domestic tourists harassing sun-bathing foreign women or even those dressed in beach wear are often reported through the tourist season which begins in October and stretches till March.
Panaji, Dec 7 (IANS) Out migration patterns of Indians in general and Goans in particular will now be tracked and studied with the Goa University establishing a chair for diaspora studies for the forthcoming academic year.
According to Rajeev Verma, secretary to Goa Governor B.V. Wanchoo, a Rs.2 million grant has already been allocated and has been accorded approval of the University Grants Commission (UGC).
Speaking to reporters here Friday, former commissioner for Goa’s Non-resident India (NRI) cell Eduadro Faleiro, said: “It would deal with issues concerning the Indian diaspora in general and the Goan diaspora in particular along with the study of migration in other countries. It will explore the relationship that the Diaspora people have with their homeland.”
The former minister of state for external affairs said that this was the first such chair in the country which had been specifically set up to study migration and that it would throw light on consistent migration of Goans to other parts of the country as well as the world.
“The study of migration is one of the most fascinating areas of academic research and it is particularly relevant to Goa since over the centuries a significant number of our people have migrated to other parts of India and abroad for various reasons,” said Faleiro, who had been pursuing the matter of the chair with the union human resource development (HRD) ministry.
“It will also undertake research studies pertaining to migration of Goans to the neighbouring areas of north Karnataka and south Maharashtra in the 16th and 17th century due to religious, cultural and economic reasons,” he added.
In the recent past, Goa has seen out-migration to Britain, Africa and especially to the Gulf countries and with a huge non resident population, was the second state in India after Kerala, to conduct a scientific study on migration.
Panaji, Dec 7 (IANS) The Goa float at the Republic Day parade, which has often won prizes in the past, may not make its presence felt at Rajpath this year, an official said.
A defence ministry’s panel, which oversees and clears the themes of the floats to be paraded Jan 26, has rejected Goa’s theme of the ‘jagor’, a multi-religious wake carried out in most villages, where ancient talks and folk stories are narrated.
The art form is fading out and conscious steps are being taken by the state government to revive the same as part of state heritage.
Congress Rajya Sabha member from Goa Shantaram Naik said efforts made to lobby with the ministry of defence, which largely conducts the celebrations, had failed to find favour with the screening panel.
“We have asked them to review the decision,” Naik said, adding that according to the panel, changes it recommended had already been incorporated by the Goa government in its float.
“New drawings on jagor were presented whereupon the expert committee suggested some major changes,” Naik said.
“There were 15 states, out of which 14 have been cleared except Goa. And among nine floats of ministries, five have been cleared.
“A total of 19 floats are presently cleared,” Naik said.
Speaking to IANS, Sushant Khedekar, vice president of the state-run centre for performing arts, who is in charge of putting together the float said: “Artistes had put in a lot of strain in creating the decorations and the theme for the jagor float.”
“This is really sad. We will try and appeal once again. The state government will officially take the matter up with the ministry of defence,” Khedekar said.
Panaji, Dec 6 (IANS) Goa will soon have a prison exclusively for women convicts and undertrials, Deputy Chief Minister Francis D’Souza said Thursday.
Speaking to reporters in Porvorim, D’Souza said the move was in sync with prison reforms and added that efforts would be made to ensure that young criminals and undertrials would be kept away from hardened criminals in Goa’s prisons.
“The Aguada central jail will soon be dedicated to women only. The move is based on recommendations made vis-a-vis judicial reforms. All women undertrials and prisoners from other prisons in Goa would be shifted there,” D’Souza said.
The Aguada jail, located 20 km from here, is one of the oldest prisons in the country and is housed in a 17th century fort which overlooks the Arabian Sea and the most popular beach stretch in the state, Calangute-Baga stretch.
The jail once used to house freedom fighters, who were arrested over the years before 1961 protesting against the colonial Portuguese regime.
D’Souza also said a move to segregate young criminals and undertrials aged between 18 and 21 from hardened criminals had been started by the government and a dedicated jail had been identified for it.
“The Mapusa sub jail will only have these young boys, who often get mixed with hardened criminals and ruin their lives further. This segregation will only enhance the efforts of correcting them,” he said.
There are nearly 500 undertrials and prisoners in Goa’s three major prisons.
Panaji, Dec 5 (IANS) Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar said Wednesday that he would love to do a doctorate in Physics if life gives him another opportunity.
“If I was given an opportunity again in my life to select a course probably I would select a Ph.D. in Physics,” Parrikar said.
Parrikar, who is India’s first IIT-educated chief minister, was speaking at the fag end of INSPIRE (Innovation in Science Pursuit for Inspired Research), a programme organised by the Goa-based National Institute of Oceanography to popularise science in the state.
The chief minister said that India needed nationwide awakening to revitalise the manner in which professional education is conducted.Parrikar, a graduate in metallurgy from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Mumbai and a self-confessed lover of science, also said that quality education in basic sciences was imperative for India.
“There is a need for the nation to create a pool of talent in pure sciences,” said Parrikar, who’s is also Goa’s education minister.
Panaji, Dec 5 (IANS) The famed Goa carnival is opening up to neighbours and others. In a major break from tradition, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led government has opened the carnival to participation by neighbouring states like Maharashtra and Karnataka as also Gujarat.
According to Tourism Minister Dilip Parulekar, the opening up of the carnival, being held in February 2013, to other states would help expose Goa’s unique culture to the rest of India.
“The intention is to make sure that people understand and not misunderstand our culture. The more we reach out with the carnival the better it is,” Parulekar told IANS.
According to Parulekar, the three states would be officially asked to send across floats for the carnival parades during the next festivities.
The Goa carnival is similar to the one in Rio de Janeiro and not unlike the Mardi Gras celebrations in New Orleans. Citizens pour out into the streets to watch the colourful marchers prancing around in abandon led by ‘King Momo’, a gregarious personality chosen annually, who is given the key to the celebrations in town.
Goa’s colourful carnival processions, which are normally held in February before the holy season of Lent, are symbolic of Goa’s unique colonial Portuguese legacy. The three invitee states, of course, were governed by the British.
When asked if bringing in other states, which do not share the same cultural moorings, would end up diluting the ethos of carnival, Parulekar said: “There is no question of dilution. The floats from the other states will only add to the colour of the carnival. Goa’s culture will get better promotion this way.”
For nearly a week, Goa revels in carnival activity as one city after another hosts the festive parades. The event is so popular that it is a major ‘to do’ gig listed on the Goa Tourism calendar. During the carnival period, the hotel rooms are full, restaurants busy and alcohol flows like water. Not something of an everyday scene in Gujarat, where prohibition rules the roost.
But Gujarat is already preparing for a carnival spin. For the 2013 carnival, a special train has already been scheduled to arrive in Goa.
“The special package will include a to-and-fro ticket, air-conditioned hotel accommodation, vegetarian meals, tourist escorts and sightseeing. The Ahmedabad-Vadodara-Surat-Mumbai-Goa and back-to-Ahmedabad package begins from February 20,” according to Pravin Parmar, chief regional manager of the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC).
So will this coming together of popular cultures, vegetarians and teetotallers blending with sorpotel lovers and feni lovers bode well for the carnival? The Goa tourism minister thinks so.
“What’s wrong with calling our own countrymen for the carnival? We have had foreigners participating in carnival for years now. It is a fun festival,” Parulekar said.
The move has, however, begun to create a stir, even within the Christian legislator
set-up in the BJP camp.
“What is being showcased during the carnival was Goan culture as has been practised for centuries and anything else imported from other states would be unacceptable,” BJP MLA Michael Lobo told a local newspaper recently.
A sign of the brewing uneasiness over the Goa tourism ministry’s move can be gauged from posts on Ami Niz Geonkar, an active Facebook group, which owes its origin to “love and dedication of our motherland Goa”.
“.. bringing troupes from other states will not only dilute our spirit but also tax the state exchequer a heavy amount – which can be used for more developmental works. Hope better sense prevails and the idea of troupes from other states is finally dropped,” said Ponda-based Vrushali Kelekar.
(Mayabhushan Nagvenkar can be contacted at email@example.com)
Panaji, Dec 4 (IANS) Goa’s multi-million rupee illegal mining scam may cause material harm to two former chief ministers.
The current BJP-led state government, under pressure to act against those responsible for Goa’s mega mining scandal, has said in a communication to a Supreme Court-appointed panel that it would be filing first information reports (FIRs) against former chief ministers Pratapsing Rane and Digambar Kamat for their alleged complicity in the mining scandal.
Drafted by Chief Secretary B. Vijayan, the 68-page letter says decisions taken by Rane and Kamat – both from the Congress – in connection with condoning delays in renewal of mining leases merited the registration of FIRs against them.
Kamat was Goa chief minister from 2007 to 2012, while Rane was the chief minister from 1980 to 1989, 1994 to 1999 and from 2005 to 2007. Kamat was also the state’s mines minister.
According to the Justice M.B. Shah commission report, which exposed the scam, and as reflected in Vijayan’s letter, the delay in renewing the mines’ leases was allegedly improperly condoned by Kamat and Rane in their respective tenures as chief ministers.
Vijayan’s letter, to which IANS has access, is addressed to the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) in New Delhi appointed by the apex court to physically probe the scandal.
The Supreme Court, hearing a public interest litigation, has banned all mining activity in the state from October.
Rane and Kamat are responsible and have taken these decisions and therefore the state government has decided to file appropriate criminal proceedings against them, Vijayan said.
The FIRs, he said, would be filed under laws governing graft as well as under relevant sections of Indian Penal Code.
Rane told IANS that he was not aware of any such letter and that all decisions taken by him as chief minister were “legal”.
“I have nothing more to say. All my decisions were legal and above board,” he said.
Kamat was unavailable for comment.
The sincerity of the incumbent BJP government in bringing the guilty to book has been criticised by civil society activists and opposition parties.
After protesting and campaigning against illegal mining in Goa for nearly a decade as opposition leader, Manohar Parrikar, now chief minister, has gone out of his way to back the mining industry, his critics have alleged.
Congress spokesperson Reginaldo Lourenco has repeatedly accused Parrikar of attacking the small fry involved in the mining scam and allowing the big fish to go scot-free.
“Has he really taken action against any big person yet? All this while, Parrikar has only been running after the small fry like a junior government officer (Dattatray Bhave), who committed suicide because of the harassment,” Lourenco said, cautioning Parrikar against a witch-hunt against Congress leaders.
Vijayan’s letter to the CEC also follows recent critical statements made by Justice Shah, whose voluminous report exposed the mining scam, that the Goa government was giving wrong mining-related facts to the commission.
The chief secretary’s letter also points to a nexus among politicians involved in the scam, a fact underlined in the Shah Commission report too.
The letter states that several ruling politicians and ministers had “proactive participation” in the scam and would regularly direct officials to committee illegalities in the mines department.
Until last year, Goa’s 90 odd operational mines extracted and exported nearly 50 million tonnes of iron ore annually, the highest output in the country. Over a third of the exported iron ore was alleged to have been illegally sourced, according to Parrikar, who was opposition leader at that time.
(Mayabhushan Nagvenkar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
Panaji, Dec 4 (IANS) Goa can’t afford the social and political unrest that may arise due to the Supreme Court imposed ban on mining, the state’s chief secretary has said in a letter to an apex court-appointed committee.
In one of the several missives sent by the Goa government to the committee probing illegal mining in the state, B. Vijayan has also argued for resumption of “sustainable mining” in Goa.
“The state would rather forego the revenue that accrues from mining. However, it is afraid of serious threat of social and political unrest which the state is in no position to afford,” the chief secretary has said in his latest communication to the Supreme Court-appointed Central Empowered Committee, which wound up its probe in Goa a few weeks ago.
IANS is in possession of a facsimile of the letter.
Vijayan has also given a detailed breakdown of the direct and indirect impact which could be caused to Goa’s economy in view of the mining ban.
The top bureaucrat said that while the state government would suffer a direct revenue loss of Rs.930 crore, the “total cumulative income loss to the economy of the state” would amount to Rs.17,600 crore, which is more than double the state’s revenue expenditure for the 2012-13 fiscal.
Spelling out a possible unemployment scenario, Vijayan has said that over one lakh people would be rendered jobless if the ban on mining continued, almost echoing the sentiments of the Goa Mineral Ore Exporters Association (GMOEA), which last week quoted a similar figure of projected unemployment.
“The state is totally against reckless mining at the cost of ecology and environment but sustainable mining in the state cannot be stopped,” the chief secretary has said, adding that mining as an economic activity had been going on in Goa since the Portuguese times and it was the mainstay of the state’s economy.
Incidentally, Vijayan has also pointed in his letter that the contribution of the mining sector to the state domestic product almost doubled from 9.36 percent in 2006-07 to 18.06 percent in 2011-12.
The Justice M.B. Shah commission, which probed illegal mining in Goa and put a figure of Rs.35,000 crore on the scam, had identified the years from 2006 to 2011 as the period when the bulk of the scam took place.
The letter also says that the Goa government would not even resume mining in the state, even if the Central Empowered Committee and the Supreme Court sanctions approval, until an effective regulatory mechanism is put in place to check rampant and excessive mining.
Panaji, Dec 3 (IANS) The Goa government is in overdrive to attract new industries to Goa, even as the Supreme Court-enforced ban on mining in Goa nears two months.
According to Industries Minister Mahadev Naik, the state government was looking to up the number of small to big industrial estates from 20 to 40, in a bid to ensure that people dependant on mining in Goa are not left jobless.
“Setting up new industrial estates is the need of the hour. We are looking to start one industrial estate in every constituency,” Naik told reporters here Monday.
There are 40 assembly constituencies in Goa, but the industrial estates are presently located in places in the hinterland and away from coastal Goa.
Naik said that the ban on mining could be telling on the several thousand people dependant on the industry like truck owners, mechanics, bulldozer operators, and technicians who would be rendered jobless if the ban persisted.
“We have to overcome the crisis of the moment which is unemployment caused due to the mining ban,” he said.
The Supreme Court ban in October, follows a public interest litigation filed by civil society activist and lawyer Prashant Bhushan, who used data from an explosive report by Justice M.B. Shah, that has exposed a Rs.35,000 crore mining scam in the state.
The industries minister also said that the Goa government was tinkering with a policy, which aimed at deterring migrant labour from coming into the state.
“It is a step we have to take because of the conditions right now. As per the forthcoming industrial policy, we will try to ensure that we will not have too many migrants coming into Goa,” Naik said.
Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar is already looking to work a consensus over a possible freeze in in-migration numbers in the state, which he said is essential to ensure the unique identity of the state.
The upcoming industrial policy is likely to put an emphasis on non-polluting and non-labour intensive sectors like moderate-sized IT and ITES firms, pharmaceuticals and tourism related industries.
Panaji, Dec 1 (IANS) A cash-strapped Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led Goa government is not only playing killjoy in Goa but appears to be hammering the last few nails in the travel industry’s coffin, the beach state’s tourism stakeholders say.
After the long and painful delay in the allotment of temporary shacks on the beaches this season and curbs on beach beds on popular beaches, a sudden increase now in the excise fee for parties and celebrations that serve alcohol has had the tourism industry gasping for breath.
Cheap alcohol and parties, musical celebrations and other public events involving music and entertainment are some of the top tourist draws for Goa, which attracts 2.6 million tourists annually and the more than 100 percent hike in excise fee for large parties and functions will hit hard businesses involved in organising such gigs, the stakeholders said.
Sean Faia, who runs a firm called Muzic Matters, organises music events, often involving DJs, which see several hundred people. He said the hike is unjustified.
“Something like a 10 percent hike would have been fine, if the government wanted to increase the rates, but a hike like this will make matters extremely difficult for us,” the Panaji-based event manager told IANS.
The Goa government announced out of the blue, that events which see 500 to 1,000 patrons would have to pay Rs.50,000 as excise licence fee per day, while those which attract crowds of over 1,000 would have to shell out Rs.100,000 per day. This is more than 100 percent of what the state excise department used to charge.
The excise department functions under the finance ministry, which is controlled by Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar.
Parrikar has been under pressure to shore up revenues, especially after a ban on the state’s cash-rich mining industry has set back Goa’s revenue by nearly Rs.600 crore. While the chief minister has promised to make up the lost revenue through innovative means, the tourism industry is hardly impressed by the excise hike move.
“It’s hard for the tourism industry,” said Manguirish Pai Raikar, president of the Goa Chamber for Commerce and Industry (GCCI), a top trade organisation here.
The hike is also expected to affect organisers of mega events like Sunburn, a three-day music festival, as well as other dance parties, which rank high in Goa’s tourism portfolio, because these events attract thousands of young music lovers from the Indian metros as well as other affluent tier-II towns.
“The increasing cost this year to set up a simple tourism-related enterprise has escalated manyfold. First they delayed the shack allotment, then they reduced beach beds, then they wanted CCTVs in all shacks and now this excise fee issue. We will have to pass on this burden to the tourists who come here. That’s not fair on them,” Cruz Cardozo, spokesperson for the Shack Owners Welfare Society (SOWS), told IANS.
(Mayabhushan Nagvenkar can be contacted at .email@example.com)