Panaji: Accused of sitting on a Rs.3,500 crore illegal mining scam, the Goa government Friday got a major reprieve after the speaker refused to table the damning Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report in the assembly, the last day of the monsoon session.
A furious opposition walked out of the house after Speaker Pratapsing Rane refused to heed its demand of tabling the PAC report, which points a finger at Chief Minister Digambar Kamat, who has been Goa`s minister of mines for over a decade. The report, however, does not specifically name Kamat.
PAC chief and Leader of Opposition Manohar Parrikar said that it was not within the powers of the speaker to hold back a PAC report, which had been submitted by him Wednesday.
"You do not want to table the report. We are walking out because we do not want to be a part of any illegality," Parrikar said.
He later accused the speaker of acting in league with the government and said nearly "seventy-five percent of Congress legislators were involved in illegal mining".
"The speaker is in league with the government. I have no hesitation in saying that he is trying to protect someone," Parrikar told reporters.
Refusing to table the report, Rane said: "It is my duty to scrutinise the report. If it is not proper, according to the rules, such reports cannot be laid. They should be programmed. I have to go through the report."
Four legislators of the ruling Congress-Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) alliance out of the seven-member PAC had not signed the report, Rane said.
The four had refused to sign the report Tuesday saying they needed time to study the document, which severely indicts the government.
The PAC report charges several state government agencies with turning a blind eye to illegal mining in Goa. These include the department of mines, the pollution control board, the forest department and the police, besides central government agencies like the ministry of environment and forests, the Indian Bureau of Mines and the director general of mines safety.
Addressing the assembly Wednesday soon after submitting the report, Parrikar had obliquely laid the mantle of the illegal mining scam on Kamat`s head.
"Does the chief minister not want to change the situation in the mines department at all? Does he not want to punish anyone guilty? Any third person would take inference that he (Kamat) is involved," Parrikar said.
"When he was the Chief Minister, exports rose from 16 tonnes to 54 tonnes...Production is thrice now. What is legally extracted is 30 million tonnes (of ore). It is perfectly legal, while 20 million tonnes is not legal," Parrikar had said.
Goa exported nearly 54 million tonnes of iron ore in the last fiscal, out of which nearly seven million tonnes is allegedly extracted illegally.