Mauvin caught up in subsidy scam

| 10 June 1998 10:24 IST

Goa's power minister Mauvin Godinho, belonging to the ruling Congress party, is found to have been involved in a scandal of unauthorisedly sanctioning power subsidy to around 85 industries in the state, putting government at a loss of over Rs 15 crore.

Pending police enquiry and a court hearing, the state cabinet has now refused to ratify the notification he had issued to grant the subsidy, while also resolving to stop disbursement of all the subsidies since April this year.

The matter was brought to the fore by Manohar Parrikar, the BJP legislator, in March which compelled the power minister to suspend the notification he had unilaterally issued earlier. It was followed by two public interest litigations as well as a police complaint filed by Parrikar against Godinho.

Without consulting the cabinet or concerned departments, Godinho in '96 drastically modified a notification, which was issued in '91 but later rescinded in '95 with cabinet's approval. The original notification was issued to grant 25 per cent power subsidy for new industries, which had applied for availing power connection since October '91, for the period of five years.

As a result of revenue drain, the earlier Congress government however decided to discontinue the scheme from April '95 while the law department specifically stated that no industry which is given high or low tension power supply after April '95 would be entitled for the subsidy.

In the meantime, power guzzling units of ferro alloy and steel rolling mills started coming in since December '93, by creating extra high tension category. To extend the power subsidy benefit to these units, Godinho issued the modified notification in August '96, giving rebirth to the dead notification.

While also including extra high tension units into it, Godinho also changed the wordings to "those who applied for or availed" power supply, to widen the scope of the notification and including all those industries which had applied prior to '91 but had availed power connections later.

He also changed the criteria of calculating subsidy at the rate of power tariff existing in '88 to the tariff rates prevailing from time to time, thereby increasing subsidy amount of around 200 industrial units which were availing fruits of the scheme.

Altogether 21 old industries, which were functioning prior to '91, as well as 47 industries, which had applied before '91 but had started functioning later were brought under the purview of the notification, till it was suspended since March this year.

The state machinery, which was quite on the issue till the state governor directed chief minister Pratapsisng Rane to investigate the issue, has now held that the notification was illegal. The finance department has even suggested that the amount of subsidy be recovered while scrapping the notification.

Though chief minister Pratapsing Rane is still not disclosing the cabinet decision taken recently, he confirmed that the notification issued by Godinho has not been notified by the cabinet, though the advocate general had opined that the notification could be given legal sanctity by ratifying it.

Despite finding his power minister at total fault in committing gross irregularity and misappropriation, it appears that Rane still intends to save him by not making the cabinet decision public. Even top bureaucrats are unaware of what decision would be recorded in the minutes.

While the industrialists are planning to approach the court if the government goes for recovery proceedings, legal experts feel that the court may direct Godinho to pay the amount, on the lines of cases of Capt Satish Sharma and Sheila Kaul.

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