Football fever: six Goa MLAs say they'll pay their own way

Amid mounting public anger at taxpayer-funded junkets granted by legislators to themselves as a perk of office, six Goa MLAs involved in a controversy over a trip to Brazil to watch the football World Cup have now said they will pay their own way.

Goa is among the few football-loving states in cricket-crazy India. The state's fisheries minister Avertano Furtado said on Friday the delegation will personally bear the expense of the tour.

The Goa government's decision to organise a Rs89 lakh-junket for six ruling legislators, including three ministers, drew heavy criticism.

"The six 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 said.

The state's sports minister Ramesh Tawadkar Furtado, power minister Milind Naik, and Legislative Assembly members Carlos Almeida, Glen Ticlo (both from the BJP) and Benjamin Silva (Independent MLA supporting the state government) were part of the Goa government's planned junket, Now, they will leave at their own expense for Brazil on 1 July to watch the quarter-finals and semi-finals of the World Cup.

The junket does not include any Indian player, coach, or football administrator.

Former Indian football skipper and Sports Authority of Goa's joint director (training) Bruno Coutinho said he was shocked and hurt because his name was first included in the list but was later dropped.

While the BJP has not come on record on the issue, Silva, one of those on the junket said the file was cleared by the chief minister himself.

"The chief minister told us to go to Brazil and take a look," he said cryptically.

Responding to a query on public funds being used for the junket, Silva said, "Public funds are used for everything."

The Goa government is facing a fiscal crisis because of a mining ban that has crippled its finances.