2008-07-02 04:54:16 UTC
By Sujay Gupta
Goa's green movement has shades of black
Every dream has a tinge of a nightmare. Every revolution , has a hero.
And a villain. And every movement has a body of truth. And a body of
greed and misuse.
As proud believers and supporters of every genuine peoples movement in
Goa, it's a nightmare to live through times, when a section of
environmentalists, including some of the very heroes who continue to
fight Goas wrongs, have taken upon themselves the role of downright
but selective environmental bullies.
Selective, because the target's carefully orchestrated, are people,
companies and corporations, in the garb of an euphemism called the
Last week, a serious issue of the havoc caused by illegal mining
companies and an urgent need to address it was hijacked, trivialized
and crushed by charges of a mining lobby nexus with Manohar Parrikar
and with Digambar Kamat, and the alleged role of yours truly of deftly
managing to make the Leader of the opposition and the Chief Minister
to make statements such as the presence of naxalite activity in mining
areas, to suit one of the biggest mining companies in Goa.
I humbly state, that I have, at least not yet, acquired those skills
and even If I do, they will be used to rid Goa of some of environment
destroying illegal mining companies as well as fake and compromised
What followed was an orchestrated exercise by a lobby of activists
and their sympathisers to hold court and pass verdict on every single
issue such as my credibility, my act of compromising with miners, and
how I have suddenly turned traitor to the cause, simply because I
chose not to blur the lines between irresponsible activism and
I am forced to start on a narrow myopic platform, because that is the
gutter level to which environmentalists like Claude Alvares and
bloggers who are afraid to bark with their signature and do so in the
dark, namelessly and shamelessly calling themselves Pen-Pricks; have
(I just wish they had not insulted the pen because that is a sacred
tool with which writers and thinkers work and pen pricks is a very
poor pretender and a false claimant to that tag).
I will first handle individuals and their roles in this story before
addressing key and serious issues at hand. At the root of this recent
upsurge against mining companies, actually a few and specifically one,
is a series of skirmishes and battles Claude Alvares has fought and
lost against the mining company and other companies managed and run by
The two agitations at Advalpal and Colomb are areas where this company
has mines operating. In Colomb where the entire focus on how this
mining company had not acquired forest and environment permissions and
therefore should be stopped, there is a specific court ruling
declaring that the activities are legal. The court has even ordered a
specific injunctions preventing militant activists from entering the
mines and creating disturbances.
Now gentlemen and lady crusaders, irrespective of which side you are
on, a court ruling needs to be respected, if for nothing else than the
fact that Claude Alvares dwells, dabbles and professes legalities. So
if you respect the law, please do so even when the law finds you on
the wrong side.
Yes, there are illegal mines operating in Advalpal, where permissions
have not been acquired, yes there are fly by night operators who even
attempt to mine in 25 x25 square feet of land and make a fast buck,
and yes forests have been cut and hills raped, by people who have not
even sought permission. There is a need to agitate, protest and
initiate coercive action against those individuals and companies.
But if that is a genuine motive, why is that motive getting coloured
by a selective attack on one or select mine owners whose pictures are
painted black and they are selected in every speech and village corner
meeting for special verbal attack. And the irony is, that such genuine
mining companies have mined, created jobs, changed lives and bettered
livelihoods for decades, in an industry which by its very nature takes
a lot away from the land and involves in a fair amount of environment
This leads to serious doubts that need to be answered. Doubts whether
a certain environmental lobby targets people and companies they cannot
do deals with and spares those with whom they do.
It all looks very pretty to some when a motley group of crusaders
storm offices and mines, call for bandhs and block roads. Genuine
tools of people protest. But I need to draw the attention of a wider
group of people like the readers of the Herald, of some of the
activities of some of these protesters. And I leave it to you to draw
your own conclusions.
There is a certain individual who is seen with the new crusaders led
by Claude Alvares and has in its ranks Sebi Rodrigues and others,
including a sensitive and good human being Minguel Braganza, in whose
eyes, I have lately fallen. This fellow's name is Shyam Sundar Naik .
Naik led the protests against mining operations of a company in
The same Shyam Sundar Naik, accepted a compensation cheque from the
same company of Rs 48000 in 2006. In addition, he demanded money from
the company for his local cultural organization Varchawada Kala and
Sanskruti Kruti Samiti and accepted a cheque (no 597271) drawn on
Canara Bank Margao dated 22.12.2006, of Rs 11,44,000 from the company.
Will Shyam Sundar Naik or his activist masters care to explain how
this money meant for cultural activities was used?
For long companies have been repeatedly pressurized and bullied to pay
up to buy peace. You call this activism?
And by the way, the same Shyam Sundar Naik has trucks operating in
the very same mines, even till this day. This is a classic case of
double facedness where you are contracted to a mining company and get
donations for your cultural organization, and at the same time,
mobilize, and to my knowledge, even in a subtle fashion threaten
people to agitate against the same company.
But if a mature debate, of which there appears to be no sign, is to
be held, the issues here are simply this. Mining companies should be
prevented from mining illegally and there should be a serious citizens
watchdog to ensure this. Secondly, mining companies should replenish
what they take from the earth in the best manner possible. And this
needs to be monitored. Any such failure should lead an immediate
cancelling of leases and non renewal of future leases. And thirdly,
companies should be personally responsible, in the event of very
little governmental intervention, to ensure that pollution and it's
after effects on health of local residents are controlled
A list of such companies should be prepared by watchdogs, proof
gathered and cases filed. If the ground work of the watch dogs is
genuine, let courts declare stringent punishment and ultimate closure
That is what a genuine agitation and a people's movement is all about.
However, if the end result of agitations isn't a closure of the
problem through genuine solutions, then activism borders on
What also needs to be addressed is, is all mining bad and should
mining be banned completely, or is illegal mining bad and should be
stopped. I, and many right thinking people, do not buy the farcical
argument that all mining in Goa is illegal. If that was so, the law
would have caught up with all of them. And if the law is weak, get the
law makers to change the law and then get the courts to declare
companies operations illegal. There is confusion even in the
activists' ranks. Some call for a ban on mining, others call for
nationalisation of mining.
One of the finest movements in Goa's history, the agitation against
the regional plan was focused on the illegal manner in which the
Regional Plan was drawn. The agitation, without any hint of violence,
forced the government to scrap the faulty plan and start the process
of drawing up a new one, with peoples help.
Then, the anti SEZ agitation has merit. One unheard of crusader
procured documents to show how laws were bent and manipulated to
benefit some companies and the protest against housing projects in
villages, has serious and genuine argument.
I, in my limited capacity, salute and support each of these movements
and people like Oscar Rebello, Ritu Prasad, Dean D Cruz, Patricia
Pinto and Franky Monteiro and so many others. But I shall not, even in
the face of incessant personal and defamatory attack, support deal
makers and bullies who espouse people's causes for their personal
There is an old Chinese curse ? "May you live through interesting
times" We are living that curse.
Let Goa be the judge of our heroes and our villains.
The Op-Ed piece above appeared in O Heraldo dated 1st July 2008.
The author Sujay Gupta can be contacted at <iamfeni dot sujay at gmail dot com>