Shooting down criticism that his government is anti-mining, Goa chief minister Manohar Parrikar said he is awaiting Supreme Court's order allowing resumption of mining activity but with certain restrictions. "Any restriction which takes care of environment is welcome," he said.
The coastal state's economy has suffered since mining ban was imposed on it by the Supreme Court on account of largescale illegal activities. Parrikar has often been accused by the Congress as being the "kingpin" behind closure of mining in Goa that rendered hundreds jobless.
Clarifying his position in an exclusive interview to CNBC-TV18's Shereen Bhan, Parrikar said he is not in favour of the proposed mining cap if logistical hurdles are removed. He candidly mentioned that the ban has resulted in the state losing 25 percent of its revenue.
Below is a verbatim transcript of the interview on CNBC-TV18
Q: Let me start by asking you about the mining ban in your state. It was a ban that you imposed, it was then taken forward by the Supreme Court, there is hope that a final order in this matter will be delivered by the Supreme Court perhaps by the end of this month. The likelihood is that the Supreme Court will infact lift the ban but the kind of restrictions that are likely to be imposed is where the grey area is. What are your assumptions at this point in time?
A: Any restriction which takes care of environment and proper management of the movement of the ore that means the legality part of it, I welcome. Government has already put in steps and we are in position to put those restrictions in place. There is no harm in them.
Q: But are you in favour of a cap which is what a committee has been set up to look into because my understanding is that the state government is not in favour of a cap on mining.
A: No there is a basic logic, that cap concept has to be explored as I feel where do we cap, cap it for a local mine, cap it for a village, cap it for a taluka, cap it for state or cap it for country. A cap should be production cap, it has to be across country, a country has to decide.
Q: So you are saying there has to be uniformity across every state?
A: Yes and it has to be decided as a country as a whole. What do you mean by intergeneration equity for only a restricted area, it cannot be. The area has to be across the nation. So cap has to be based on the nation as a whole.
For individual mines the cap exists through an environment clearance certificate, there is already a cap. The cap we are proposing is because of logistic and other problems. So if there is no logistic problem and if proper exploration is carried out, based on the real quantum of the ore I feel that cap can be decided but I don''t think you should call it a cap, you can allow things to be controlled based on economy also.
Q: Who should take that call, should the state government take that call?
A: The state government has to take it. State and central government together has to take it. If required the appropriate laws has to be amended wherever required.
Q: You said that a lot of things have been put in place to actually facilitate the restarting of mining, let me ask you about the e-auction process where you actually have been given the clearance to be able to auction the 11 million tonnes that are still lying within the state. Where do things stand, how soon can we see this process take off?
A: It is not 11 million tonnes, there is no figure written in the SC order but what is important is available ore. So, we have started the auction. February 17 is the first lot of about seven-eight lakh tonnes, almost a million which is mostly lying on jetties and port which has been cleared so those jetties get cleared and empty plots we can start movement of the ore from the pit heads.
Q: So you are saying on February 17 the first auction will take place.
Q: There have been reports of differences as far as your opinion is concerned on the buffer zone. Environmentalists believe that the buffer zone should be at least 10 kms, you believe that it should be at least 1 km and you believe if its 10 kms all activity will come to a virtual halt as far as states like Goa are concerned?
A: I don't understand the buffer zone concept. When you have declared a particular area as wildlife you have already taken into consideration the buffer zone. What we are talking is an eco sensitive area beyond wildlife. It depends on the situation. First of all if there is a big river then whatever logic is being expressed stand. So it will depend on the local area how the buffer zone is devised. The concept once it is understood please leave it to the local area, local area specific to decide how much buffer should be there. We in India seems to believe ‘one size fits all’ but it has to be a local concept.
Q: You know the report now seems to have swung the other way from saying that you were anti mining, anti corporate and all of that, now the suggestion seems to be that you have actually turned pro-mining, turned pro-industry and things like relaxation as far as the buffer zone is concerned is a swing towards that direction. How do you respond to that criticism?
A: I don't believe in buffer zone. Eco sensitive zone okay but buffer zone is already taken into consideration when wildlife is notified. Wildlife already has a buffer zone. Secondly, I believe that it should be area specific, there may be area where 10 km is also required but don't make it a general rule.
From where did this 10 km come from at all? It was 10 km initially put up during Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s time for consideration as one of the discussion points but suppose I say 10 km for Salim Ali Bird Sanctuary then the city of Panaji also comes under that. Now do you think Panaji is a sensitive zone for a bird sanctuary? For a bird sanctuary on three sides there is water, on the other side half a km or 300 meters is more than adequate. So you have to be site specific based on the actual ground reality and if required why only 10 km, it can also be 100 kms. For example, Andaman Nicobar may have eco-sensitive area which is bigger.
Q: Let me ask you about the mechanisms that you are actually putting in place and you said, 'we need clear laws and strict implementation instead of a moral debate on the issues of mining, it exists, lets tackle it. What has the government done to put in place a mechanism that will ensure that you don't have unrestricted, unregulated mining activity?
A: The basic logic is we have notified transportation rules, no one can just come up and start transporting.
Q: This is what was happening, there were only 8000 registered truck owners but 16000-20000 were actually operating in the state.
A: Now only the trucks which have proper recognition by the government whatever mechanism, whether it is a barcode mechanism, whether it is radio frequency use, we will decide about that and that will immediately get implemented when this e-auction takes place because that movement will be regulated through this mechanism, we can take the trial.
We will also monitor it at the export point. Most of the Goan ore is exported. So we can fit all those kind of equipments and we will do it unless that is in place we will not allow the movement.
Q: That is as far as the transport side is concerned or the logistic side is concerned, what about the actual mining activity?
A: Mining activity, extraction can be also regulated through direct monitoring, the technologies are available, you have to use the latest technology for it.
Q: But for years, state government after state government failed to do so? The indictment has come in from the Shah Commission, the indictment has come in from the Supreme Court (SC). I agree that let the moral debate be aside but the fact of the matter is that these technologies were already in place?
A: I will explain. Up to 2009, are you aware of what is the revenue state was getting for the mining, it was Rs 9 per tonne, between Rs 7 and Rs 13, average was Rs 9 in Goa. It is only in 2009 September onwards the royalties going to the state has increased to 10 percent. Thereby now today per tonne we get something like Rs 150 to Rs 250. Sometime even Rs 400 if the ore is rich. So first of all, expecting state to invest into areas where the income itself was a small quantum was wrong.
Secondly, even today - then I get Re 1, central gets Rs 7 out of mining whereas they don’t face the ecological - so that requires to be balanced in the quantum of money, which the state and central gets on mining. That is one.
Now we are in place. For example, for every tonne of ore transported, we take Rs 20 CESS for doing all this activity. We have put those notifications in place. So one who extracts, the one who transports has to take into consideration the CESS and the expenses, they will have to bear towards this modernization. Today we can afford, they can also afford, may be 6 years down the line it was not affordable for state government to invest money into this.
Q: Do you believe today if the court were to lift restrictions, was to lift ban as far as the mining is concerned, your government is ready to start the process of mining but in a regulated fashion?
A: Are you aware of our affidavit? I have made it very clear to the SC in my affidavit that to govern is my responsibility. If I do something, send me to the jail but don’t stop me from governing and legislating.
Q: You do believe that this is a situation of judicial overreach?
A: No, they didn’t take it to consideration. It was - the applicant lied to the court. It was during the earlier government what was happening not during this government and if we had just come in and there were only two months after that -- during rainy season the mining stops -- only one and a half months in March and April, the mining went on during my tenure. I was taking the advantage of the rainy season to put things in order. I had already started action.
Q: You do believe that this situation where there was judicial overreach because you have already imposed a ban?
A: No, I am not saying it is judicial overreach. The only complain I have that this decision of banning should have been tackled by the court within six months maximum. Did anyone realize the financial impact it had on the state?
Q: How much has the state lost?
A: Twenty-five percent of the revenue. One lakh people are rendered without business, I could manage otherwise it would have been difficult for me to even pay the salaries of the employees. Are we serious about all this consequences of what we do? I don’t mind court serve it right, ban perfect. Then if you want to ban then hear it day-to-day and solve it. Basically the problem is finally because these issues we brought, court allowed us to do the e-auction because some money will come to this state. Where do I replace this 25 percent revenue from? You are taking away my 25 percent of the revenue, so your ban has that impact. In that case, you quickly decide. It is 16 months now but decision has not come, at least last time the court was flexible enough for allowing the export, this export could have been allowed us during last year.
Q: I will get to the exchequer and the impact as far as this ban is concerned in and your vision to take Goa to 15 percent gross domestic product (GDP) number but let me ask you a quick question on exports before we move on and there have been representations from domestic industry that they are now willing to pick up the low grade ore as well. Where do you stand on that?
A: I have a problem. They are doing it mainly because they are not getting any ore from anywhere that is why they are showing their willingness. The moment they get ore, they will disappear.
Q: You don’t believe that there should be any kind of a cap as far as exports are concerned?
A: No, there cannot be cap for Goa’s ore because Goa’s ore in normal circumstances will not be picked up by local industry.
Q: Which has been the case so far?
A: They have never picked up. Who stopped them? If for example any exporters -- whoever are they -- if they are paid better price by the local buyers, why should they export it? They are exporting it because they get better price in an international market. The local industry wants it at a cheaper rate. That is the only question mark. They do have advantage because the export 30 percent money goes in export duty so they do have an advantage even then they are not picking it up.
Q: So do you believe that there should be any kind of restrictions as far as exports are concerned because now that seems to be the demand or the direction that the local industry has taken?
A: I will not expect normal circumstances export of a rich ore because value addition at national level is a very important aspect. But there are dumps, which the local industry cannot consume or there are ores which are low grade ores, which are better exportable. This is the right time because the international community is starved of it. We have already given one chance to the international community to explore and find out more ore resources in their countries because Goa and India’s 110 million tonne export around that much is export - that quantum has disappeared from the market. So, alternative sources were being hunted around maybe in Australia.
Q: But you also believe that there is an international conspiracy? Not a takeaway from the fact but there were serious problems with the way that mining activity was being conducted?
A: I don’t believe that there was a conspiracy. But I do believe that when the thing started happening, some people might have pumped in some money to play with—no one has planned to do it but when things went wrong, they might have just fanned it. Any businessman will try to do that; nothing wrong about doing that.
Q: Let me move away from mining and talk to you about your vision as far as Goa is concerned and I know that you believe that you can take GDP growth to 15 percent. It has fallen from 2010 to about 8.4 percent, you hope that by the end of this fiscal, you should close at 12 percent, are you on target to do that?
A: Yes, obviously.Even without mining I am growing at the rate of 10-12 percent, somewhere between 8 and 12 percent.
Q: Fifteen percent is incumbent on mining coming back on stream?
A: If mining comes, it will immediately jump to 15 percent without any problem. Even otherwise, Goa has a potential of much faster growth. Goa is one of the state which promotes agriculture best in the country. For example, animal husbandry - I will mix up the two issues because it is part of the same group, we pay Rs 9.40 per liter support price to the farmers. We give farmers 90 percent subsidy in purchase of milking animals. We give them all other kinds of support.
Q: So, you are in favour of subsidies?
Q: However you are not in favour of the kind of subsidies that Delhi government is doling out? For instance power subsidies, water subsidies, you are not in favour of that? There are comments that have come in from you that you want to disassociate from other IITian chief ministers. The reference obliquely would be I would imagine to Arvind Kejriwal?
A: No. I said that IIT is not a political brand. Therefore, you cannot compare yourself with all IITians. I have been in IIT for seven years so I know there are different variety of IITians.
IIT is not a brand for my political activity. IIT may brand me on intellectual level but IIT does not brand me on political level. Political level my branding is whatever I deliver to the people. Deliverability is very important.
Subsidy to the right person who needs it is absolutely must in an essential item. Subsidy to the wrong person is what I don’t like.
What I said is very clear. In Goa, for example, the power rates are only Rs 1.20. How did we achieve Rs 1.20? We achieved it by reducing the cost and stopping the leakages.
We do not subsidise much because of the coal problem some subsidy has to be given now. Otherwise Rs 1.20 was economically achieved and Goa Electricity department is slightly losing money not bleeding like discoms here. So, you have to achieve low price by better efficiency.
I was the mess coordinator, I brought down the bills from Rs 180 in 1975 to Rs 140 in three months. So, I was so popular that for the next three years I was elected mess coordinator in hostel which is a very rare feat. I believe simplicity is my life. It is my way of life. It does not have any impact on my delivering capacity. Governance is a different thing. In governance you have to execute things. Whatever you promise you have to get it executed through all hurdles. When I got my Lokpal bill, whatever it is, I may have difference of opinion on Arvind's Lokpal, whatever he is coming out with.
Q: You have a difference on the bill or you have a difference in the way that he is trying to have the bill passed?
A: I have difference on both. More important Lokpal is not going to solve corruption. I have difference on the base. Anna Hazare pointed out the problems of this country perfectly. Corruption is one of the major problem of this country. However solution was equally horrible.
Lokpal is an individual ultimately, a institution which has to function. What tomorrow if the Lokpal is corrupt himself, he may mot be corrupt when he joins, he becomes corrupt your full system has collapsed. You have to ultimately take the same officer from various place and same civil society to run it. What you require is a building up of character. It starts with you. Simplicity is one part of it but not for advertisement. I have never advertised it. Deliverability is very important. The two have no connection.
Q: You believe that Arvind Kejriwal is using his simplicity to advertise his brand of politics?
A: I don’t point finger at Arvind because I would not like to do it. However there are some people who are good activists, they may be good politicians also but they are not good administrators. Being an activist and being an administrator is a 180 degree difference.
The last issue you asked me about the way it is passed, it indicates either lack of knowledge about administration or probably he is trying to become martyr. He can't run the administration.
Q: Arvind Kejriwal is trying to become martyr?
A: He has to run and show it. He has to surpass all these difficulties. Have I not faced those difficulties? I have also faced it, everyone faces those difficulties in day-to-day life. A politician’s life is negatively projected by many media; they don’t realise that many things which happen also happen because of politicians. So, there are positive things, there are positive people and in administration, you have to surmount the difficulties to get your work done.
Q: Getting back to the Goa growth plan, your prime ministerial candidate is very good at saying we have signed so many MoUs worth so many lakh of crore and so on and so forth but we haven’t heard anything from you. There has been no vibrant Goa, there has been no talk about what you signed so and so or so and so is investing. Do you want to play low key or is there nothing to talk about yet?
A: Gujarat needs to be vibrated, Goa is already vibrating. We have a problem of control sometimes. Till 10pm vibration is going on, big sound, big music and every time we have to send police to stop it because it becomes nuisance sometimes.
There will be investment falling on Goa. Our situation is different from Gujarat or any part. People love to come to Goa. We have to create only good framework and allow those which we want to come to come freely without hassles. There are no kickbacks. I took my own time but I am very sure in next couple of months it should be in place.
Q: An interesting point that you made at the start of the interview where you said that there has to be an national policy as far as these activities are concerned. Are you willing for instance to take the first step and reach out to states like Odisha, reach out to Naveen Patnaik and say lets have a consultative approach, let us sit across the table and talk about what needs to be done?
A: I will take initiative when Narendra Modi is the Prime Minister.
Q: You are sure about that?
A: I am 100 percent sure of it.
Q: You believe majority or do you believe that you will cross 200 and with the help of allies?
A: I will not get into the hazard of guessing figures. However, I can tell that the things are moving in the right direction which even the media has accepted.
The people of this country are very intelligent. We the city folks and so-called intellectuals sometimes get fooled by drumming but village folks are very sound and they understand. They know that this is a time when a country needs a person who takes decision and delivers.
This is not a time when country needs bottlenecks. Taking decision does not mean you have to take a negative decision or take a decision which is damaging. Once you come to a conclusion, you should be having the capacity of taking decision. Today there is no decision making ability and there is no person who takes responsibility for any decision.
Q: If Narendra Modi were to become Prime Minister, do you see yourself taking initiative?
A: I will take initiative in this line. I have not said I will come to Delhi.
Q: And take initiative in Delhi as well?
A: That aspect I have not at all said because I have been elected as a Chief Minister of the state by the people of the state.
Q: Is that something that you aspire to do?
A: No, I have been elected by the people to be Chief Minister of the state. I will prefer and I will remain in Goa for the period at least people have elected me. However, taking initiative that does not stop me, being a Chief Minister of state does not stop me to have some say in some matters at the Delhi level; it doesn’t stop me.
Q: Let me ask you about the GST because the Congress says that the BJP or Narendra Modi to be specific sabotaged the GST. If the BJP comes to power are you in favour, is Goa in favour of the GST for instance because so far the opposition has come in from states like Madhya Pradesh and Gujarat?
A: Since you are economic inclined channel I believe you will not take a posture of everything is black and white. I will put it like this; I am in favour of GST provided all the concerns of the states are properly addressed.
Q: Which means compensation essentially?
A: It is compensation with right. States don’t want to beg to the centre. The centre today like CST for example they did with the state. They are not compensating properly to the state. Remove CST; it is right but when they reduced it from 4 percent to 2 percent, the loss that should have been compensated is not happening. The problem is the states are not confident with this centre.
Q: You believe they will be confident with another centre i.e. a BJP centre and the GST will be a reality?
A: The BJP government was much impartial to all states. They divided it based on a formula whereas Congress tries to pump in money to their states and starve other states. This government is government of dirty tricks. Except three or four ministers I see no ministers.
Q: Who are the three or four ministers that you actually respect in this government?
A: If I tell their names they will be thrown out from Congress only but there are three or four ministers who have the sense of proportion including Prime Minister. He has a sense but he was powerless.