If there is one book which speaks of all mining blighted societies, then it’s this one. The book by Hartman de Souza breaks all the boundaries of genres and gets its politics and economics right on. At once travelogue, investigative journalism and family memoir, Eat Dust maps the culture, topography and cultural diversity of Goa.
Lineages of Mining in Goa
Raiot is excited at publishing first of the extracts from Eat Dust : Mining and Greed in Goa by Hartman de Souza. For a zine published from Meghalaya, the other frontier of Mining in India, it is fitting that we learn from Goa – that raving beach infested greed fest. If there is one book which speaks of all mining blighted societies, then this is. The book breaks all the boundaries of genres and gets its politics and economics right on. At once travelogue, investigative journalism and family memoir, Eat Dust maps the culture, topography and cultural diversity of Goa. When the mining starts again, as it seems poised to, De Souza’s chronicles will stay behind like the taste of strong coffee, taken with less sugar to give it bite. You can preorder the book here. Eat Dust : Mining and Greed in Goa is in the tradition of that unsung classic, Felix Padel’s Out of This Earth: East India Adivasis and the Aluminium Cartel
Goa’s first business families were traders who hawked everything from cloth to curds as well as being well-known ships’ chandlers and agents, with at least one among them making a killing after World War II by selling blockaded German penicillin stock across the then Portuguese border to the British and the Americans, among others. Then they all diversified into mining.
At the height of Salazar’s fascist rule, in fact, Goa’s mining families were not averse to wining and dining with the Portuguese dispensation, and at least one was bestowed an honorific title of the Portuguese equivalent of baronetcy.
António de Oliveira Salazar, Portuguese dictator
Many say that Goa’s first chief minister, Dayanand Bandodkar, was hand-picked to lead Goa by mining companies because they recognized both his acumen and his sympathy for their own greater cause. Even though he was not of their caste, he was himself the owner of a profitable mine. He was also their conduit to the underprivileged Goan.
Many say that Goa’s first chief minister, Dayanand Bandodkar, was hand-picked to lead Goa by mining companies
What is far better known is that from the early 1960s, this wealthy mine owner emerged out of nowhere like the golden goose of Goan politics, in life as in the hereafter, ensuring that mining in Goa would be the exclusive domain of the few mining families who run Goa.
When Bandodkar’s only son Siddhartha was killed after he accidentally shot himself through the spleen with a revolver – itself an incident coated with much intrigue and mystery at that time – his daughter, Shashikala Kakodkar, took over the mining business. And there she stayed till 1977, ruling Goa and protecting its mining families at the same time. 1
It helps to keep in mind that the mining wealth in Goa, well before crony capitalism became the flavour of the day in the rest of the country, was controlled by just four thoroughbred families – Dempo, Salgaocar, Timblo and Chowgule. The first three, not unsurprisingly, are Saraswat Brahmins while the last comprises upper-caste early migrants from neighbouring Maharashtra.
Originally traders and shopkeepers, they now controlled 60 per cent of the mining leases. The remaining 30 per cent were controlled by Sesa Goa, which – before it was sold first to Mitsui and then to British behemoth Vedanta – was an Italian-German company that operated here well before Goa’s liberation in 1961.
There were also smaller non-Brahmin but wealthy players like the Bandodkar and Bandekar families, and early migrants to Goa from Gujarat and Rajasthan who gobbled up the remaining 10 per cent of the leases. This was not even a fraction of the leases that Goans later found while rummaging through their old cupboards and safes.
Management consultant Rajendra Kakodkar, himself a vocal critic of mining, wrote in the press that every election in Goa since 1961 was fought with the help of mining money. It also played a great role in the coups, changes in leadership, and the many defections witnessed through its political history. Given that we all know now how much the mining families gave to politicians in the 2012 elections (the information was available to the public),2 he wrote that it was highly probable that they supported Bandodkar in quelling two inner party rebellions, one in 1967 and the other in 1972, both of which saw him come back stronger than ever before. The extent of how much the mining families pull Goa’s strings can be adjudged by the fact that there were eleven chief ministers in Goa between 1987 and 1999.3
Kakodkar also noted that, in comparison to Goa, 70 per cent of the mining leases in Karnataka were owned by public sector units NMDC or MML, and the remaining 30 per cent by at least 100 families.4 In Goa, the declared profits of mining – amounting to around Rs 12,000 crore – was shared by a handful of people. If you take the fact that there are 2 lakh families in Goa, Kakodkar added, this could have meant a 6 lakh-rupee windfall for each family.5
- Joseph Zuzarte,‘Raising the dust on illegal mining in Goa’, inforchangeindia. org, September 2011, http://infochangeindia.org/environment/features/ raising-the-dust-on-illegal-mining-in-goa.html, accessed on 6 August 2015.
- Raman Kirpal, ‘The Whos Who of Mining are funding Indian Political Parties’, Firstpost.com, 11 September 2012, http://www.firstpost. com/politics/the-whos-who-of-mining-are-funding-indias-political- parties-451071.html, accessed 6 August 2015.See also: BS Reporter, ‘Black Money trail: Timblo donated nine times to BJP and thrice to Congress’, Business Standard, 28 October 2014, http:// www.business-standard.com/article/current-affairs/timblo-donated- nine-times-to-bjp-and-thrice-to-congress-114102800031_1.html, accessed 6 August 2015.
- Rupesh Samant, ‘Goa looks for political stability as election day arrives’, Rediff.com, 1 June 2007, http://www.rediff.com/news/2007/jun/01goa. htm, accessed 6 August 2015.
- Kiran Tare,‘Miners loot lost paradise’, India Today, 8 October 2011, http:// indiatoday.intoday.in/story/goa-illegal-mining-scam-miners-congress- leaders-digambar-kamat-margao/1/154086.html, accessed 6 August 2015.
- Arwin Mesquita,‘Outrageous: Rich Goa made poor’, Goan Identity blog, 29 January 2013, http://goanidentity.blogspot.in/2013/01/outrageous-rich- goa-made-poor.html, accessed 6 August 2015.