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Friday, Oct 18, 2019

Goa minister promises to waive tax on ore transport barges

The barge owners have been campaigning for a tax waiver with their demands only increasing since the hopes of a revival of Goa’s once thriving mining industry are growing dimmer by the day.

india Updated: Oct 11, 2019 18:57 IST
Gerard de Souza
Gerard de Souza
Hindustan Times, Panaji
Minister Lobo explained that he was approached by a delegation of barge owners who pointed out that since mining truckers were granted the benefit of a road tax waiver, a similar benefit should be granted to the barge owners.
Minister Lobo explained that he was approached by a delegation of barge owners who pointed out that since mining truckers were granted the benefit of a road tax waiver, a similar benefit should be granted to the barge owners. (Photo: michaellobo.co.in)
         

The Goa government will seek to waive off barge tax, a tax which is paid by vessels that transport iron ore from the mines to the port for export, Minister for Ports Michael Lobo has said.

While speaking to reporters, Lobo explained that he was approached by a delegation of barge owners who pointed out that since mining truckers were granted the benefit of a road tax waiver, a similar benefit should be granted to the barge owners.

“The barge owners are saying that the barge tax should be withdrawn because our barges are not being run. When the trucks are being forgiven the road tax, they also want the tax withdrawn,” Lobo said.

“Nothing has been decided, the Chief Minister has heard them, I have heard them. So the file has been moved. The decision lies with the finance minister that is the chief minister,” the minister added.

The barge owners have been campaigning for a tax waiver for some time now with their demands only increasing since the hopes of a revival of Goa’s once thriving mining industry are growing dimmer by the day.

Lobo, however, said that he was hopeful that mining would start by December.

“We have to keep reminding the central government that the issue is pending. The central government is seized with the matter and we are hopeful that a solution will be worked out by November or December,” Lobo said.

Earlier last month, the barge owners had called on Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman who was in the state for the meeting of the GST council, and sought several reliefs including loan waivers from public sector banks as well as offering their now idle barges for use in other states as part of the Sagarmala programme of the central government.

There are around 150 barges operating in the state mainly along the state’s two main rivers Mandovi and Zuari, while others have sold their barges since the mining shutdown in 2012.

The Supreme Court in February 2017 cancelled 88 mining leases renewed by the central government in 2015 and asked that they are granted afresh as soon as possible.

However, since the grant of fresh leases involves the process of auction, and the state government has been trying to avoid auctioning the leases, the mines have remained shut since then.

Earlier Union Mines Minister Pralhad Joshi said that a solution would be found “soon”.

“We are meeting regularly, very shortly we are going to arrive at a decision. Both, as far as the closure of major mines in Karnataka, Odisha and many other places in 2020, and already mines are closed in Goa. We are addressing [the issues] very shortly. I am hopeful of coming off the positive solution,” Joshi said when speaking in Goa last month.

First Published: Oct 11, 2019 16:52 IST

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