The Goenchi Mati Permanent Fund is a proposal in the context of non-renewable natural resources in Goa, and more broadly, in India. It is based on decades of international experience. A start in its implementation has already taken place with the Supreme Court order in Writ Petition (Civil) 435 of 2012, which requires the creation of a Goan Iron Ore Permanent Fund.
The state of Goa besides being an ecological hotspot is also blessed with valuable natural resources. Unfortunately, today iron ore mining is a major threat to Goa’s ecology and to its very existence. There have been blatant malpractices in ‘environment clearances’ granted by the Ministry of Environment and Forests for mining leases leading to unchecked, unconstitutional mining. Clearances were issued to more than 70 mining leases without site inspections or listening to villagers affected by mining operations.
In fact, the Supreme Court in 2012 declared all mining activities in the State illegal as they were being carried out without valid licenses and leases. It also held that any lease grant, including renewals, must adhere to constitutional requirements.
Under Article 294, mineral resources are the property of the people of the State, our inheritance. The Government is only the public trustee over these resources on behalf of the people and especially future generations. It is in the Public Interest that the Government capture the entire value of the mineral.
However, publicly available data shows that for the eight year period 2004-05 till 2011-12, the State of Goa has received less than 5% of the value of its ore (after considering all associated expenses). This works out to a meagre Rs. 2,387 crores when it ought to have captured Rs. 53,833 crores. Quick calculations show that the State of Goa has declining wealth on account of the sale of its natural resources for a pittance.
As these natural resources are part of the ‘uttaradhikari’ or ‘virasat’ of the people of Goa, it would be customary for ALL the money got from the sale of these assets to be reinvested into a fresh set of productive assets. Many countries around the world have created pension or endowment funds from money received from minerals. The Supreme Court has already directed the creation of such a permanent fund in Goa, requiring 10% of the sale value of iron ore to be saved for Future Generations.
The Permanent Fund is essentially an endowment fund or a pension fund for the State and can greatly boost the savings rate in the country, and make available vast funds for the large investments in infrastructure that our nation needs.
The income from the fund should be utilised for the welfare of Goa’s people. This is the only way forward to ensure that the State, its people and more importantly the future generations benefit from what is theirs.
We propose that the Goa Iron Ore Permanent Fund be extended to cover 100% of receipts from mining, and to cover all minerals, including manganese and bauxite. Consequently, it should also be renamed the Goenchi Mati Permanent Fund (GMPF).
We do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children.