AT a time when the state’s tourism industry is getting set for the new tourist season, a war of words has broken out between ministers and MLAs of the ruling camp over the issue of holding electronic dance and music festivals (EDMs). Tourism Minister Manohar Azgaonkar says his ministry would like to hold EDMs, but his colleague Vinod Palienkar has opposed the same. The BJP legislator from Calangute Michael Lobo has thrown his weight behind hosting EDMs and gone on further to suggest that the two major tourist places in his constituencies, Candolim and Calangute, could be the destinations for EDMs. While the proponents of the EDMs are of the opinion that the events contribute to the state revenue by paying fees and to the trade income by attracting thousands of tourists to the state, the opponents say they encourage drug peddling and consumption and cause problems to local people. It is left for Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar to weigh the pros and cons and take a decision that addresses the concerns of the opponents of EDMs.
Palienkar is not shy of observing that drugs are sold and consumed at EDM venues. Lobo does not agree with the observation. Of course, it would be wrong to say that drug peddling and consumption takes place only during EDMs. Drugs are commonly available in the state throughout the year and in most of coastal places and even hinterland. Recently two young tourists died of suspected drug overdose at Anjuna prompting police to launch a vigorous drive in which 27 drug peddlers or consumers were nabbed. Drugs worth over Rs 41 crore have been confiscated in the state since January this year. As drugs are routinely available in the state and not exclusively associated with EDMs opposing them only on that ground does not seem to be logical. Perhaps if the opponents of EDMs were able to prove that drug peddling and consumption shot up several times during those events there could be a strong case for not allowing them to be held. However, the state police have presented no records to show that the drug graph soars up alarmingly during the past EDMs. There could be an allegation that the records were not there because the local police were bribed by EDM organizers, but then we need proof of that as well to be sure that EDMs drive the drug problem to mega dimensions.
The other argument against EDMs – they cause problems to local people – does have some clear logic. Mega events put pressure on the infrastructure, especially the roads and services near the venues, and the hell lasts for four days. The government should work towards adding newer facilities and infrastructure. As these events bring in substantial revenue to the government, the state could plan creation of special venues in the hinterland for EDMs with adequate connectivity and amenities. To avoid clash of events and pressure on the infrastructure, EDMs should be spaced out in time. EDMs could then be listed on Goa’s tourism calendar as regular annual festivals. The dates for hosting the festivals should be fixed by the government and the organizers should be invited to bid for the same. EDM lovers come for the love of music, to participate in those wild, rocking dances, and not for sightseeing, these festivals can be held before or after the peak season so that there is not much stress and strain on the infrastructure. The police can also provide better security and keep a better vigil on drug consumption.
A word to organizers of EDMs, though: they should not take the Goa government and Goan people for granted. There was a year in which an EDM organizer started selling tickets even before the state government had granted the approval. Organising of EDMs does not mean suspension of ethical practices of business. Although the police have not found any evidence of drug abuse by the participants in the EDMs in the past years, ethics demands that the organizers do not just make a commitment on paper not to allow use of drugs at their venues but also to appoint special teams of security men for keeping an eye on the participants and catching anyone peddling or consuming drugs and report them to the police. EDM organizers still owe huge amounts to the state. The amount is put at over Rs 9 crore. The organizers must be made to pay that amount before any approval is granted to them. In the future, government dealings with organizers should be transparent and details of agreement and receipt of funds through bidding should be put up immediately on the website in order to.