SIT summons former Goa CM Kamat in illegal mining case
A Special Investigation Team (SIT) of Goa police has summoned former Chief Minister and former Minister for Mines Digambar Kamat to the crime branch office on Tuesday in connection with the estimated ₹35,000 crore mining scam. A senior official of the crime branch confirmed on Sunday to The Hindu that apart from Mr. Kamat, who held the mines portfolio for 12 years, former Director of Mines Arvind Lolienkar has also been summoned.This is the second time Kamat has been summoned in connection with the case. He was last questioned along with Mr. Lolienkar in February 2014. The SIT is looking to speed up investigation into the matter after the new Manohar Parrikar government took over recently. Significantly, Mr. Kamat was seen as the front-runner among Congress leaders acceptable to likely allies like Goa Forward Party, to take over as Chief Minister if party could form government post recent State assembly elections.After it made illegal mining and loss to State on that count as one of the major election issues in 2021, BJP had promised to bring to book all those involved in illegal mining and recover the loss to the exchequer because of it. However, Mr. Parrikar continued to face flak from anti-illegal mining groups and activists for not pursuing the matter as promised. On July 26, 2013, the Mines department had filed a criminal complaint in the illegal mining case with the crime branch, seeking that it fix criminal liability against those involved in illegal mining. It also requested that the police file an FIR against persons identified in the Supreme Court-appointed central empowered committee (CEC), the Shah Commission report on illegal mining that estimated the loss to exchequer due to illegal mining to Rs.35,000 crores, and in the reports about illegal mining by then Public Account Committee of the Goa legislative assembly headed by Mr. Parrikar.Apart from Mr. Kamat and Mr. Lolienkar, another retired Mines Director J.B. Bhingui, technical assistant Shyam Sawant, retired senior geologist of Mines department Hectar Fernandes have also been grilled by SIT sleuths so far.The SIT, probing 16 cases of illegal mining, has till date charge sheeted Frost International Pvt Ltd, a mining company before a special court under the Prevention of Corruption Act. The details of extraction, storage and trade till September 2012 — when mining operations were shut by the Supreme Court — information regarding production, export, purchase of ore, domestic sale, iron ore storage, opening and closing stock, clearances from Union Ministry of Environment and Forest, Indian Bureau of Mines among others are already in the SIT custody indicating the magnitude of the cases.