31 Dec 2019  |   05:41am IST

Babu wants two EDMs, what about what the people want?

The year ended on a depressing note of deaths of youth at an electronic dance music festival (EDM) at Vagator.
Babu wants two EDMs, what about what the people want?

There were three deaths – two on the opening day and one on the concluding day – surrounding the EDM, but that did not appear to change the view of the Tourism Minister, who instead advocated two EDMs a year, one of which could be held in South Goa. The justification for this is that there is a demand for the event from the South Goa hoteliers, and that during the three-day event in Vagator, the hotels earned Rs 250 crore, as over a lakh of people attended it. 

This appears to be the view of the government, as the Independent MLA in the government, Art and Culture Minister Govind Gaude, also backed the festival, claiming that it is held to attract tourists, and the government does not force anybody to attend it. The opposition in Goa, however, is not in agreement on this. In the past three days the government has faced severe criticism from the opposition, across the board, that clearly wants the State to have no truck with such festivals. All the parties have raised the suspicion of drugs being available on the coastal belt. Congress has been consistently demanding a probe by a special investigation team. NCP’s Churcill Alemao has said that EDMs are not complete without drugs, GFP has held the government responsible for the deaths and alleged that the government has played lip service by saying there were no drugs available around the venue. 

But, it is not just the opposition that has challanged the government on this. Most interestingly, a senior BJP leader has publicly sought to know whether Goa needs such events to promote tourism. Rajendra Arlekar, a former Speaker, former minister and former State BJP president, wants the State to ponder on redefining the priorities for the tourism sector. Will his party do so? Will it even respond to the comments made by Arlekar? An EDM will draw a crowd – a lakh of people in this case as stated by the Tourism Minister – but as Arlekar has said, the State does need to rethink its future tourism plan, and what events it wants to promote. 

Vagator, where the EDM festival was held comes under the village panchayat of Anjuna. A quick review by Herald by speaking to the local residents, a day after the festival ended, found that the villagers do not appear to be in favour of mega events in their locality. Their reasoning is that tourists come to enjoy their holidays, but if people die during such international event then it’s a major concern, as it tarnishes the name of the village and the State. Even the local MLA, Vinod Palyekar, a minister in the government until a few months ago, has reservations on the event being hosted in the village. He is on record as having written to the Chief Minister and the Prime Minister about the narcotics trade along the beach belt. Action, based on his letters has, however, not been taken, he claims, and has renewed requests to act on the drug trade.

There are two issues here. If the residents of Vagator do not want the festival, and if it is only being held for the benefit of the organisers and the hoteliers, then Goa has to definitely relook into hosting EDM festivals. The people’s opinion has to be considered. The second is the availability of drugs that is being alleged by the opposition. There have been raids and drug seizures, but the State needs to take several serious steps to break the drug trade in the State. It exists, the seizures attest to that, so why do the authorities not act to stop it completely?