Panaji: Three years after it created a furore and hammered the first proverbial nail in Goa's multi-billion rupee illegal mining coffin, the legal fate of the controversial Public Accounts Committee (PAC) continues to be in limbo and the document itself is untraceable.
The report drafted by the committee headed by then Leader of Opposition Manohar Parrikar, which had alleged a Rs. 3,500 crore ($571 million) illegal mining scam in 2005-06, cannot be accessed under the Right To Information (RTI) Act because it was never formally tabled in the assembly, a query by activist Sudip Tamhankar has revealed.
In reply to Tamhankar's query seeking a copy of the PAC report, the legislature department under secretary Ligia Godinho has said: "... the draft report of the PAC 2005-06 under the chairmanship of Shri Manohar Parrikar cannot be furnished as the same is not presented to the House."
Tamhankar now claims it is ironical that Parrikar's report which eventually snowballed into a national controversy is now out of bounds for the public.
"That the report itself is not available with the assembly officials is a joke," Tamhankar told IANS.
In 2011, the BJP, then in the opposition, had been going hammer and tongs about illegal mining in Goa for several years. However during the commotion at the time of tabling the report, some members on the committee told the House that they had refused to sign it because it was compiled by Parrikar in a hurried manner.
The confusion prompted speaker Pratapsing Rane to prevent the document from being tabled.
Around the same time, a political probe committee comprising BJP state leaders and Rayja Sabha MP Kirit Somaiyya had estimated the illegal mining scam at Rs. 25,000 crore while submitting its findings to then president Pratibha Patil, also in 2011.
Eventually an exhaustive probe by a judicial commission appointed by the union mines ministry pegged the illegal mining in Goa at Rs. 35,000 crore from 2004 to 2009.
The BJP's disposition to the mining scam, however, changed radically once it came to power, with its leaders downplaying the extent of scandal.
Parrikar himself claimed that the Shah Commission's numbers were exaggerated and said that the overall scam was only between Rs.4,000 and Rs.5,000 crore.
Tamhankar claims that in the light of the climbdown by the BJP, now the ruling party, on the extent of the scam the contents of the PAC report are all the more relevant. He accused the state authorities of hiding the document.
"It was the PAC which made illegal mining such a big issue and now it is not available for public scrutiny. What's going on?" Tamhankar asked.
A senior official attached to the legislature department, speaking to IANS on condition of anonymity, said that the very fact that the PAC report was not tabled means the document does not have the endorsement of the legislature.
"The report is not on record with the legislature," he said, addinge that the PAC stood dissolved after the tenure of the previous house ended in 2012.