Panaji: The six Goa legislators, including three ministers, whose proposed trip to watch the football World Cup in Brazil on state funds had kicked off a row, today said that they have decided to themselves foot the bill for the visit without taxing the state exchequer.
The Brazil visit of the six MLAs, including ministers Ramesh Tawadkar (Sports), Avertano Furtado (Fisheries) and Milind Naik (Power), sparked a controversy after the state sports department sanctioned Rs 89 lakh for the tour.
That prompted the opposition Congress to yesterday term the trip a "wasteful expenditure" while seeking Prime Minister Narendra Modi's intervention to "stop the junket".
"The six (of us) legislators met last evening. We decided to go to Brazil on our own without taking money from the state government. We don't want to spend money from the state treasury. We don't want to be a burden on the state coffers," Furtado told PTI today. He said that the decision was unanimously taken by the six of them, including also the legislators Benjamin Silva (Independent), Glen Ticlo and Carlose Almeida (both BJP), after the media created a "hype" over the tour.
"It was a big hype created that we are going at the cost of the state exchequer. All six of us decided that we will pay from our own pockets and visit Brazil," said Furtado, a former goalkeeper of Salgaocar Football Club. All six MLAs are expected to meet Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar later in the day to convey their decision. Defending the decision to send the MLAs on a state- sponsored 10-day trip, Parrikar had yesterday said that the tour was "an investment by the state government which has declared soccer as a state sport".
Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar. File Pic/Mohan Patil
"We are looking at this as an investment. Goa has declared football as a state sport. The delegation, which has been approved by the state government, has MLAs who are actually footballers. The government considers this to be an investment," Parrikar had told reporters yesterday. "The decision (to send a delegation) has been taken in the interest of the state. Recently, we held the Lusofonia games, which had Brazil as a participating country. The current trip is a continuation of the organisation of Lusofonia games," he had said.
The decision of the state government had not gone down well with the two Goan footballers who were supposed to be a part of the delegation. Arjuna award winners Bruno Coutinho, a former India captain, and Brahmanand Shankhwalkar had yesterday said they were hurt at not being included in the delegation. Coutinho had voiced his displeasure about his name being deleted from the list at the last minute.
"It is hurting that the name was in the file but later changed with a new list proposed by the sports minister (Ramesh Tawadkar)," he said. Shankhwalkar said he had expressed his willingness to be a part of the delegation but the request was turned down by the government.
Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar has slammed Bharat Ratna awardee Sachin Tendulkar to justify a Rs 89 lakh junket for six legislators, including three ministers, to witness the FIFA World Cup in Brazil.
Parrikar on Thursday backed his decision to send only ruling party politicians to the World Cup on the all-expenses paid international junket.
Parrikar gave the Tendulkar analogy subsequently, while defending his decision to send only politicians. They, according to him, are the potential organisers of international events and not Goan footballing legends and coaches.
"Sachin Tendulkar is a good player, but he could not become a good captain. Organisation is a different ball game," Parrikar said.
Parrikar claimed that ministers can be given responsibility for organising mega sporting events and not the players "because no one would listen to them".
Tendulkar, who retired from all forms of cricket recently, is one of the world's greatest cricketers and has been credited by cricket pundits for having not only virtually unmatched talent, but also a fine cricketing mind.
Tendulkar was awarded the Bharat Ratna, India's highest civilian honour, for his services rendered in the field of cricket.
With the Opposition coming down heavily on Goa's decision to organise and pay for the junket, the state government's has been caught on the backfoot over the issue in which Sports Minister Ramesh Tawadkar, Fisheries Minister Avertano Furtado, Power Minister Milind Naik and legislators Carlos Almeida, Glen Ticlo (both from the BJP) and Benjamin Silva (Independent MLA supporting the government) are scheduled to leave for Brazil on July 1.
They will watch the quarter-finals and the semi-finals of the 2014 World Cup.
The Opposition has slammed the junket with state Congress president John Fernandes demanding that the six ruling legislators should either cancel the trip or lawmakers should pay from their own pockets for their trip to Brazil and back.