PANJIM: While the MV River Princess is almost on its way out, recovering huge expenditures incurred over it during the last 12 years is now going to haunt the State in the days to come.
It appears that all efforts have only been channelised on getting the vessel off
Goa’s waters, while the larger
issue on the financial implications has been under wraps.
Information procured from the Tourism department shows that the state governments since 2000 have spent crores of rupees on various issues pertaining to the grounded vessel.
These include costs on advertisements inviting global tenders for removal of the grounded vessel since 2000.
On nine occasions global tenders were issued, the first of which was invited by the North Goa District Magistrate and Collector. Thereafter, the matter was handed over to the State Tourism Ministry who invited international tenders through advertisements from time to time.
Details show that lakhs of rupees have gone towards fees for fighting legal battles and arbitration matters which still continue before the High Court. The advocates’ fees have been totalled to around Rs 12.88 lakh on various senior lawyers in
Goa and one from Mumbai.
Expenditures have also been incurred on travel of state government officials to attend court matters while the case was transferred to Mumbai. And huge amounts have also gone towards seeking various technical reports and consulting experts from time to time in a bid to get the grounded vessel removed.
This is in addition to the present tender of Rs 99 crore to M/s Arihant Shipping who are presently engaged in removing the vessel.
Added financial burdens will also come from various taxes that have not been paid since 2001 to Customs, Excise and others as the MV River Princess is a foreign vessel.
According to sources, the Goa Tourist Places Protection and Maintenance Act of 2001 empowers the government to initiate recovery proceedings in such matters from erring parties which in this case is M/s Salgaoncar Mining Industries Limited.
However, it appears that the government has not yet given a thought on this issue. Speculations are that the government may just wait for the outcome of the case before the High Court wherein M/s SMIL has challenged the Goa Tourist Places Protection and Maintenance Act.
Director of Tourism, Swapnil Naik when quizzed on this matter refused to comment.
He said, “The matter will have to be placed before the State Disaster Management Committee.”
It is feared that in case steps are taken to recover all the costs incurred towards removing the grounded vessel from its owners, it may result in another legal tangle.
The former Calangute MLA Agnelo Fernandes who had been spearheading the River Princess Hatao Manch said, “The government must recover all costs from the owners of the vessel.” In his opinion there should be no hesitation on the part of the government to raise the bill and make the owners pay. He further said, “The Act has only been challenged by the owners in court, not struck down.”