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Newsletter. Issue 07. March 29, 2014

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News Clips from Goa
Rs 48, 000 cr went into pockets of few mining companies' - Exclusive interview with Dr Claude Alvares in Herald (March 16)
Posted on Goanet | roger dsouza rdsg2000 at gmail.com | Mon Mar 17 2014

*Rs 48,000 cr went into pockets of few mining companies'*
Note 1 cr ~ $184,000 Can
Rs 48,000 cr ~ $8.8 billion Can

*DR CLAUDE ALVARES, director of the action group Goa Foundation, has built a never- say- die reputation for taking up environment causes, spending much of the last 25 years in and out of the courts. *

*In this exclusive and exhaustive interview with DEVIKA SEQUEIRA, his first since the Supreme Court banned mining in Goa after the non- profit filed a petition for action on the Shah Commission findings, Alvares delves into the complexity of the mining issue in Goa, the future of the industry, and what he thinks should be the way forward for the state which has relied so heavily on iron ore exports in the past. *

*Given the public engagement with the mining debate, Herald Review is giving the interview as much space as possible.*

*‘ Rs 48,000 cr went into pockets of few mining companies’*

Post monsoon, it would be two years since the ban on iron ore mining in Goa came into effect. A recent Reuters report said the Goa ban and the clampdown on exports from Karnataka have cut the country’s iron exports by 85 per cent— or 100 million tonnes— and have cost India more than $ 17 billion in foreign exchange earnings. What is the way out of the current impasse? The way out will come only with the judgement of the Supreme Court. The Expert Committee which is going to recommend the quantum of ore that could be removed on annual basis from Goa— without damage to its environment or society— would have submitted its report to the court on March 14.

This report will be taken up by the apex court for consideration on March 24.

Thereafter we expect that the court will issue its judgement, and only then will the situation become clear. Till that time all discussions are only speculations.

But isn’t the export of iron ore a valid economic activity? Why do you favour a ban? India’s exports were constantly overstated, as much of the mining in Karnataka, Orissa and Goa was illegal, and these exports should not have happened.

However, Goa has not lost anything due to the stoppage, because the ore is still in the ground and is still worth that much. Or probably more. We can take it out whenever we want.

Serious challenge to exports of ore has come from the Lok Sabha’s Standing Committee on Coal and Steel in its report of August 2013. The committee has members from all parties, yet it has come to a unanimous conclusion that exports must be banned. The committee concluded that India has iron ore stocks to last only for 40 years based on usable reserves of 18 billion tonnes.

If there is large scale growth in the iron ore and steel industries, the same stock will be adequate for only 25 years.

What about the argument that we should make the most of the current demand from China for Goan ore? China has 200 billion tonnes ore stocks. So why are they importing ours? Why are we exporting ours? Few people ask these questions. Mining companies the least. The government of course always acts as if it has no brains. It is common knowledge that exporting a finished product like iron and steel brings more money and jobs than exporting a basic commodity like ore. Exporting ore, in fact, is exporting jobs and added value. The Chinese need to be starved of ore, since their industrial production has become a major threat to the health of the planet and China’s citizens. It therefore does not disturb me that instead of sending ore to China for its industrial development, we are now deciding about keeping the ore for ourselves and for our own children.

The Goa Chief Minister appears to hold environmentalists squarely responsible for the current situation.

He said in his budget speech that the state was “being pushed into an economic turmoil of human making”. The state’s GDP is down 20 per cent because of the mining shut down, Mr Parrikar says.

Holding environmentalists responsible is ridiculous. Who started illegal mining which he as chairman of PAC documented with zest and which he said involved a theft of Rs 3,500 cr? Do environmentalists own mines and do illegal mining? Do truck owners do illegal mining? Such statements are meant only for the media. They do not disturb me in the least.

In fact, the chief minister has held, at one time or the other, environmentalists, the Supreme Court, traders, the Congress party, everyone, responsible for the mining situation he faces. We all know however that the first order to suspend mining in the state was issued by his government on September 10, 2012 and on the same day and the next, his Collectors issued orders prohibiting road transport of iron ore in the entire state. This was done after the revelations of the Shah Commission Report.

Obviously he was seriously disturbed by it, because it more or less confirmed his own earlier findings. Since the Shah Commission findings have largely been confirmed by the subsequent report of the Central Empowered Committee, it appears that there were very good grounds for taking the action that the CM did. The Supreme Court has in fact expressed approval of that decision and rejected any challenges to it.

What about the argument that the state’s economy has been badly hit? The CM is not an economist, so maybe he does not understand what the real state of the economy is. As per his budget speech that the state was being pushed into economic turmoil, the same speech provides contrary data. First of all he reports a GDP growth rate above 8 per cent in the last two years which is above the 5 per cent growth rate of the country as a whole and far better than the 1 per cent or minus 1 per cent GDP of some of the industrialized countries. Having a growth rate of 8 per cent and above is something very remarkable and he should take the credit for it. This growth rate has come without recourse to mining. I am therefore perplexed that instead of taking credit for running one of the most successful economies on the planet, he is saying the economy is in a state of turmoil! It is obviously because the state has adequate funds that he is able to set aside funds for purchasing the debt of truck owners and providing subsidies to taxi operators. He could not have done this if he didn’t have the money.

But the government keeps harping on the loss of the Rs 1000 cr or so it was getting from mining royalty.

Mr Parrikar forgets that the Rs 900 cr from mining royalties which went into the state budget in 2009- 2010 and 2010- 2011 came because of the pressure of the Orissa government for increase in royalty. Before that, the Goa government had never asked for increase in royalty and was satisfied with annual measly royalty of not more than Rs 30 cr. Income from iron ore sale is not revenue in a conventional sense. It is money that we get from sale of our permanent assets, like our gold. So to claim that the State’s GDP went down by 20 per cent is only partly correct. It went down because it was artificially inflated by excess mining and windfall gains. All that extra growth did not go to Goans but to mining companies. Nearly half of it went to one company, Sesa Goa, which is controlled by Anil Agarwal in London. So it was only that part of the state GDP which was going to the wrong persons that has come down.

The government has also argued that it is in fact the “mining dependent” ( over 150,000 people, directly or indirectly involved in the sector according to official data) who are paying the heaviest price for the closure of the mines, and not the rich mining barons.

I agree. The worst hit are those who made the maximum investments in the industry in good faith. I know truck owners who sank their gold and VRS into trucks. They were not protected.

They are being given doles when they need protection from harassment and rightful assistance. I do not feel that the mining dependent persons have been treated with any respect by the present government. We have insisted that their debt should be purchased at discount, an idea which Mr Parrikar has borrowed now in the budget and we have also demanded that the losses suffered by them should be compensated. We are saying this because the people involved in mining— particularly the truck owners— made the maximum investment in the mining industry— approximately Rs 1,400 cr. Another Rs 800 cr was put in by the barge owners.

Only Rs 620 cr was put in by the mining companies. Yet the mining companies polished off Rs 48000 cr ( from 2004- 2009, for which we have figures), which are legitimate assets of the Goan population, giving the government Rs 426 cr, which is less than 1 per cent of total earnings ( while even the Central government took 30 per cent).

You had recently highlighted the kind of profits raked in by mining companies in the ‘big league’. In 2010- 11, when the export was 54 million tonnes, mining companies made a profit of Rs 11,000 cr when the budget of the Goa government was less than Rs. 6,000 cr. The profit of Sesa Goa itself was equal to all the revenue receipts of the Goa government.

So it is clear that the wrong people have had to suffer because of mining closure. They did not illegally extract ore from the mine. However, those who did the illegal extraction have not been touched till date. This clearly shows on whose side the government stands today. It is apparent that the state government is reluctant to go after those most responsible for causing the Rs 35,000 cr loss from the illegal mining between 2007 and 2011.

The CM is even disputing the Shah Commission figures. Do you see a closing of ranks in this between those in power and those who are “powerful”? I do not see any need for “closing of ranks” between those in power and those who are powerful— they have always been together whichever government comes to power! Sesa Goa's Annual Reports for three years showed they had made contributions of more than Rs 1 cr to the BJP, Rs 55 lakh to the Congress, Rs10 lakh to the MGP, even Rs 1 lakh to the Shiv Sena.

All these are in violation of the FCRA Act. The huge profits made were used by the mining companies to intervene in democracy and politics. We had the illusion that the present government would break that nexus. That's the permanent fate of the voting class.

Some would argue that the prevailing system of mining leases that began under the Portuguese is perfectly valid in a mixed economy with our free- market principles. But you don’t agree, why? There is no question of a mixed economy in the state of Goa in respect of mining. Mining in Goa has been 100 per cent privately done. Because of this, large scale violations have occurred.

It is therefore time to terminate this arrangement since companies which have done such large scale violations should not be permitted to mine in the state of Goa again. I think the wholly private nature of the mining trade in Goa has shown the people of this country that the private sector can be more corrupt than the government.

Your lawyer, Prashant Bhushan, has argued for the Supreme Court to consider the principle of intergenerational equity for the future of mining in Goa. Can you explain the concept and where this derives from? The iron ore belongs to the Goan public. The Goa government captured only 1 per cent of the value of this ore annually, whereas in better managed countries, public revenues from sale of natural resources is as high as 90 per cent. We calculated that Rs. 48,000 cr— belonging to the people of Goa— went into the pockets of a few mining companies and a couple of offshore accounts in just five years alone. We do not think there is scope for extending that kind of arrangement again. In future, we want all the money from mining to go to the Goan public and to future generations of Goans. The Shah Commission estimated that permissions had been granted in Goa for extraction of approximately 66 million tonnes of ore which would completely exhaust the ore stock in the state in nine years. Let alone future generations, even this generation would not have any ore left! But how many generations should benefit from it? What we have argued in the Supreme
Court is that the ore must last at least three generations and not just one generation. We looked at other countries selling natural resources and we found that countries which are thinking of the future generations are extracting their mineral resources very carefully and depositing the earnings in a separate fund.

Thus for every rupee that is obtained from the sale of the natural resources like ore, one rupee is put aside into a separate fund which cannot be touched by the government. By this means, every time ore is sold, though income is generated and the ore gets depleted, the value of the ore is not lost since the government is forced to put aside an equivalent amount of money in a separate fund.

For example, even if half of the Rs 48,000 cr had been kept in such a fund ( a corpus of Rs 24,000 cr), and we earned only 3 per cent ( after inflation), the Goa government would still be receiving Rs. 720 cr each year in perpetuity. Without any further mining at all! But can this work for Goa? Yes, it can. Permanent funds are now working very well in Norway which has a permanent fund of USD 830 billion set aside for a population of 6 million from sale of its oil reserves. Similarly there are permanent funds in Alaska ( US) and Alberta ( Canada) which are provinces like Goa in a federal set up.

Mr Parrikar said in an interview to PTI in Delhi last month that if he did not get interim relief in the case from the apex court, he would “go to (Narendra) Modi for amending the law” to allow him to restart mining.

How would you respond to this? First of all, the issue is not restart of mining. Even we want mining to restart in some way. But we want mining to restart so that the main beneficiaries are not those to whom the leases were given and who misused them, but those who have made the most investments in mining: the truck owners, the heavy equipment owners, the barge owners, the villages that have been compelled to sacrifice their environment, their fields, their water, their health and now their investments.

Hence we are opposed to restart of fresh extraction from the ground. Ore should be removed from dumps (750 million tonnes spread out across the mining areas) and there should be simultaneous use of the dumps to refill mining pits. This will give jobs to truck owners and their families and it will also restore the ecology in the mining areas which has been badly damaged.

I do not doubt that governments have the power to bring in laws to nullify the effect of judgements. The last time this was done in Goa was in the Cidade de Goa demolition case. In India, the last time this was done was with the Supreme Court judgement disqualifying MPs and MLAs indicted by the courts. The uproar against that was so fierce, the government had to withdraw the ordinance.

You’ve spent years fighting environment issues. When you look back, was this the most challenging case? Yes, because after this case, I plan to retire! We commenced filing writ petitions before the Bombay High Court from 1992 onwards against several mining companies. We clubbed them all together in one major petition in the Supreme Court and this enabled us to put all our demands in one single place before one single bench which appeared to be convinced that we had legitimate grievances. We were pitted in the Supreme Court against a huge battalion of lawyers including the most expensive members of the bar.

The counsel of the Goa government was being paid Rs 7.5 lakh per day.

On our side there were only two lawyers including Prashant Bhushan.

I think he was more than a match for the entire bar those days, as he was perfectly convinced with our point of view. In that sense, it was an extremely challenging case.

ORE RESERVES
  • Lok Sabha’s Standing Committee on Coal and Steel says India’s iron ore stocks to last only 40 years
  • Large scale growth in the iron ore and steel industries will render stock adequate for only 25 years.
  • Shah Commission said at rate of permissions granted Goa ore would have exhausted in nine years.
  • China has 200 billion tonnes ore stocks, yet imports from countries like India ( and Goa in particular).

China’s industrial production a major environmental threat Holding environmentalists responsible is ridiculous. Who started illegal mining which he ( the CM) as chairman of PAC documented with zest and which he said involved a theft of Rs 3,500 cr? Do environmentalists own mines and do illegal mining? Do truck owners do illegal mining? Such statements are meant only for the media.

To claim that the State’s GDP went down by 20 per cent is only partly correct. It went down because it was artificially inflated by excess mining and windfall gains. All that extra growth did not go to Goans but to mining companies. Nearly half of it went to one company, Sesa Goa, which is controlled by Anil Agarwal in London.

HOW OTHERS DO IT I do not doubt that governments have the power to bring in laws to nullify the effect of judgements. The last time this was done in Goa was in the Cidade de Goa demolition case. In India, the last time this was done was with the Supreme Court judgement disqualifying MPs and MLAs indicted by the courts. The uproar against that was so fierce, the government had to withdraw the ordinance

INVESTMENTS & RETURNS

  • Truck owners invested Rs 1,400 cr
  • Barge owners Rs 800 cr
  • Mining companies only Rs 620 cr
  • 2004- 2009 mining companies made Rs 48,000 cr ƒ Goa govt Rs 426 cr, less than 1 per cent of total earnings;
  • Central govt took far more— 30 per cent

Some countries selling natural resources think of future generations and extract very carefully. Among them Norway, which has a permanent fund of USD 830 billion for a population of 6 million from sale of oil reserves.

Similarly there are permanent funds in Alaska (US) and Alberta (Canada) which are provinces like Goa in a federal set up.

 
Gujarat priest sounds a wake-up call for Goans (Herald)‏
Posted on Goanet News | March 20, 2014 | Team Herald | teamherald@herald-goa.com

Gujarat priest sounds a wake-up call for Goans Says Modi as PM will curb freedom of religion

Margao: Exhorting Goans to awake before it is too late, Ahmedabad-based Jesuit priest, Fr Cedric Prakash on Wednesday said that Narendra Modi would bring the entire country under the draconian anti-conversion law, curbing freedom of religion guaranteed under the Indian Constitution if he becomes the Prime Minister.

"In 2003, Narendra Modi passed the draconian anti-conversion law. The law mandates any person to seek permission of the district Collector to change one’s religion. The law has put innumerable hurdles, curbing their right to religious freedom. If Modi becomes the Prime Minister, he would bring the entire country under the draconian law," Fr Cedric said, while addressing a meeting organised by the Catholic Association of Goa at the Grace Church Hall, Margao.

He termed as a big lie the Gujarat Government's claim on development saying the social indicators points towards dismal performance.

Fr Cedric Prakash sj, who is the director of Prashant, the Ahmedabad-based Jesuit Centre for Human Rights, Justice and Peace, said the divisive force talk about the Hindu state and Hindu nation when the people of India through the Indian Constitution has opted for secular state, wherein every single religion is accepted and respected as per the Constitution. He appealed to Goans not to be fooled or carried out by the ideology of those who rule Gujarat, while recalling how beef traders in Goa were forced to close down their shutters.

He urged the people of Goa to vote with their conscience and vote for what is right. "We have to tackle corruption in the system. We have to stand up for truth and justice," he said.

Fr Cedric took a dig at the media for creating hype around Modi saying the media has compromised on the principles. "The voice of the media has been throttled and muzzled. People in Gujarat are living in fear. IAS officers are living in fear. The lives of their families have been ruined," he claimed. "We should not fear anyone and at anytime. Jesus says fear no one. I am not a politician. I don't subscribe to any politician or the parties. I will go and vote as per my conscience," he said.

When the media later asked Fr Cedric what message he was giving to Goans when he asked them to be awake before it is too late, he said Goans should join mainstream politics and take active part in what is happening around.

The meeting later adopted resolutions to uphold the secular traditional and maintain the secular nature of the country, that the candidate should ensure that the minority commission is set up in the state and to ensure autonomy for the minority run education institutions.

Anxious moments at meet venue

Margao: The presence of the election officials and police at the Grace Church hall gave some anxious moments as their presence was strongly objected by the organisers on grounds the meeting was a private affair.

Members of the Catholic Association of Goa vehemently objected to the presence of the election officials and police when the latter insisted on the video filming of the meeting. The Association maintained that the meeting is a private meeting held in a private hall and was not attended by any candidate contesting the election.

When activist Jose Marie Miranda spoke to Deputy Collector Sangeeta Naik over the telephone, she maintained that there was a complaint that the meeting was being held to intimidate the voters. "I questioned the deputy collector what sort of intimidation was she talking about when the meeting was not a political one when the code of conduct applies to political parties and the candidates,” he said, while asserting that the election officials and the police were curbing the freedom to hold the meeting.

It was only after Miranda spoke to the District Collector Mihir Vardhan that the police and election officials left the venue, but not before their presence intimidated the people who wanted to hear the Ahmedabad-based priest, Fr Cedric Prakash
 
'Happiness levels of Goans decreasing'
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/goa/Happiness-levels-of-Goans...
Anisha Francis,TNN | Mar 20, 2014,


"Our research has found that native Goans are any day much happier than the business-minded people from other states who have made Goa their home…..”

Panaji: They leave their mark-a smiling yellow sun-everywhere; on trees and t-shirts, on bumper stickers, roadside food carts and even on garbage cans. For the past four years, Goa's 'Live Happy' campaign has quietly been living in the corners of our subconscious through their sunshiney-logo, and are now in the process of measuring Goa's 'happiness quotient'.

"Using the information collected from our interactions with thousands of people from different walks of life, we are in the process of evaluating Goa's 'happiness index'. While most Indians perceive the people of Goa to be the most content and stress-free, we find that this is slowly changing," says Achal Chauhan, one of the founders of the non-profit company, based in Assagao.

While India ranks at a miserable 111 (out of 156) in the UN's World Happiness Report (2013), few studies have attempted to measure the happiness levels of individual Indian states.

The closest came from research firm Crisil, which in 2013 measured the prosperity and equality indices of various states and placed Punjab, Kerala and Gujarat on top. Goa, Kashmir and the North-Eastern states were not included in the survey.

"Our research has found that native Goans are any day much happier than the business-minded people from other states who have made Goa their home. The levels of happiness are going down and stress levels on the rise even among Goans who are now forced to join the rat race in order to maintain the high-quality lifestyle that they are used to. Most Goans are unhappy at having to trade in their once-relaxed pace of life to problems that spring from competition, inflation and pollution," says Chauhan, who left his maddening job as a financial consultant in Mumbai's stock market for the simple country life in Goa.

The report will also evaluate the average Goan's contribution to society, in terms of man-hours spent in doing voluntary social work or community service.

"This is because we find a strong correlation between one's happiness and his 'giving nature'. We recommend that a minimum of ten hours per year spent giving back to society would make a huge difference to our lives," he adds.

'Live Happy' is a Section-25 company that comes up with sustainable business models to fund their social activities, like their 'happiness sessions' or visits to cheer up hospital inmates.

"At present, our main 'business' is to recycle or compost Mapusa's garbage, which is often dumped on the Assagao plateau. We make a surprisingly good amount of money from trash, which is then pumped into dance, yoga and laughter sessions, spreading smiles among the student community or visiting the sick or the underprivileged to cheer them up," adds Felly Gomes, another founder.

To get in touch with the 'Live Happy' team to conduct free 'happiness' sessions contact 0832-2268495.

March 20 is United Nation's International day of happiness
 
Vote for BJP to strengthen Goa govt: Manohar Parrikar
http://indianexpress.com/article/india/politics/vote-for-bjp-to-strengthen-goa-govt...
Indian Express

Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar on Monday said voting for BJP during the upcoming general elections would mean strengthening the hands of the party-led state government...
Click here to read more

Cashew prices soar to all-time high
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/goa/Cashew-prices-soar-to-all-time...
Times of India

"Though Goa's production had declined from 24,000 metric tonnes to about 18,000 metric tonnes in the last few years the state produced more than … Click here to read more

Goa International Travel Mart set to be the biggest B2B Event
http://www.eturbonews.com/43971/goa-international-travel-mart-set-be-biggest-b2b-event
eTurboNews

The Goa International Travel Mart (GITM) will be held from April 2 to 4, 2014 at Dr. Shyama Prasad Mukerjee Stadium at Taleigao. This prestigious B2B event promises to bring together travel companies, hoteliers, State Tourism Boards and  … Click here to read more

Goa Medical College patients open up to knee replacement
http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/goa/Goa-Medical-College-patients-open-up-to...
Times of India

Panaji: A decade ago, the Goa Medical College (GMC) and Hospital, Bambolim, began offering knee replacement surgery. Though the procedure is often the only choice for relief from the excruciating pain of advanced arthritis, the suggestion was largely … Click here to read more
 
'Sacred and Profane' - an exhibition of latest works by Francis De Souza opening on 21st March 2014 at 6 pm
Gitanjali Gallery gallerygitanjali at gmail.com | Mon Mar 17 00:16:44 PDT 2014

Gallery Gitanjali invites you to 'Sacred and Profane' - an exhibition of latest works by Francis De Souza.

The Exhibition will open on 21st March 2014, 6.00 pm at Gallery Gitanjali - Panjim Pousada.

The Exhibition will remain open till 31st March 2014; from 9.30 am to 7 pm at Gallery Gitanjali,Panjim Pousada.

Francis De Souza was awarded the STATE ART AWARDS in 1994, ARTISTS CAMP ORGANISED BY MAHALASA KALA SANGAM (MARCEL) GOA in 1992, 1993 STATE ART EXHIBITION GOA, 1994 FIRST PRIZE AT GOA ART EXHIBITION HELD AT KALA ACADEMY & A.I.F.A.C.S AWARD-2003.

Of his works,Francis says:
My Paintings are essentially an inner journey with all its smooth running, conflicts and battles. They are the galaxy with its multitude of stars and planets and so much more still in the process of discovery. Forces coming together and pulling apart. Worlds created and destroyed. And all of it contained within the one. There is an element of uncertainity, the sense of completion is held in abeyence. The imagery is only incidental...and not subject oriented.

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