Under-pressure Natarajan claims she stopped mining in Goa

Panaji, Jan 31 (IANS) Former union minister for environment and forests in the erstwhile UPA government Jayanthi Natarajan Friday became the second senior politician to claim credit for the closure of Goa’s tainted, multi-billon dollar iron ore mining industry, after former chief minister Manohar Parrikar.

Natarajan, who made a stormy exit from the party Friday, said in an interview to a leading news channel, late yesterday (Friday), that in 2012 she suspended environment clearances (ECs) to all mining operations. The decision, she believed, was proof of her diligent work, even as several Congress leaders Friday criticised her for sloppy handling of the ministry.
“…I was the one who stopped all the mines in Goa. And they are still closed. All the mines in Goa are closed. They said the entire economy of Goa is destroyed because of me,” said Natarajan, who has blamed Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi of interfering with the functioning of her ministry and accused the Congress party of a witch-hunt against her.
However, Natarajan’s claims of being the one, who stopped mining in Goa are only half-true.
On September 12, Natarajan during a visit to Goa did suspend ECs granted to 93 mining leases, but that was only days after then chief minister Manohar Parrikar had already temporarily suspended mining operations following the revelation of a Rs.35,000 crore illegal mining scam by the Justice M.B. Shah Commission.
Goa’s mining sector has been non-operational for more than two years because of three successive actions, the temporary suspension of mining permission by the then Parrikar-state government, a revocation of green clearances by the Natarajan-led ministry of environment and forests, and then a subsequent ban by the Supreme Court.
Incidentally Sept 13, a day after Natarajan’s announcement of the suspension of ECs, Parrikar had called her an “irresponsible minister” in a press conference and said that he would be “writing to the prime minister urging him to set things right in the environment ministry”.
Parrikar, while receiving an award from a national news channel in December, had also claimed that he had banned mining in Goa.