Panaji: NGO Goa Foundation on Monday vehemently opposed the decision of Pramod Sawant-led government to divert the funds collected from the Iron Ore miners towards COVID-19 relief efforts.
Goa Foundation, whose petition in the Supreme Court, two years back, had resulted in the quashing of Iron Ore mining leases, have written to State Chief Secretary Parimal Rai cautioning of the consequences of any such decision.
Sawant last week had announced diversion of certain percentage of fund from District Mineral Foundation and Goa Iron Ore Permanent Fund to meet the financial requirements to fight back COVID-19.
Goa Foundation Director Claud Alvares has claimed the decision of State government to divert the fund from these coffers as a “raid.”
He said that both the funds collectively amounts to Rs 800 crore.
“If indeed the news (about diversion of funds) is correct, then these are absolutely illegal decisions and acts of the Goa government for which there will be consequences,” he said.
“Monies placed in the DMFs are, by law, only allowable to support activities that enhance the welfare and opportunities of persons directly affected by mining in mining districts,” he pointed out.
“People have suffered the worst effects of mining in these areas for several years. Hence, by no stretch of the imagination or the law can the funds meant for them and their communities be used for government activity related to the COVID- 19 pandemic,” Goa Foundation has said.
Alvares claimed that the Central Government does not have any power to approve diversion of such funds. Neither is there a provision in the MMDR Act which allows such approvals by the Central government, he said.
“There are already orders of the Hon’ble High Court of Bombay (at Panaji) laying down specific conditions for utilization of these DMF funds, including getting prior approval from you for any scheme or project even for mining-affected in excess of Rs.2 lakh,” he said.
Alvares said that DMF funds can only be administered by the District Committee headed by the District Collector in consonance with the Goa DMF rules which largely follow the Pradhan Manri Khanij Kshetra Kalyan Yojana (PMKKKY) rules.
“It is truly scandalous that while there are several proposals pending consideration by the two Goa DMFs submitted by communities in areas affected by mining, your government is proposing to run away with those resources,” he alleged.
“No moneys should be transferred out of DMF for purposes other than the needs and requirements of persons affected by mining in mining areas. That, in any case, is the law,” Goa Foundation said.
The NGO has said that as regards the proposal for raiding the Goa Iron Ore Permanent Fund, we will be bringing this to the notice of the Supreme Court, where this matter is pending consideration.
“That Fund is exclusively for the benefit of future generations and cannot be touched. It is a conservation fund, not a spending fund. Politicians have shown they are capable of cheating the present generation,” he said.