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Before EDM Organiser Catches Return Flight

The latest event entrepreneur that organized an electronic, dance and music (EDM) festival in the state has followed the footsteps of the earlier EDM organisers and run away with the money due to the public exchequer. Tourism Minister Manohar Azgaonkar informed the Assembly that the post-dated cheques issued by Sudarshan Entertainment Private Ltd of Gujarat, the organizers of TimeOut 72, were dishonoured by the bank citing insufficient funds in the company’s account. The government had obtained a security deposit of Rs 1.50 crore from them in the form of pre-dated cheques to grant them permission. The commercial tax department was requested to not release any security deposit so as to secure their liability of tax payable, which is yet to be assessed. TimeOut 72 was organized by the company at Vagator from December 27 to 29 last year. The organizers ran away without submitting their accounts after the event to the government as was the legal requirement. And they did not keep sufficient funds for the clearance of the pre-dated cheques for the security deposit that they had given to the state government. The whole design seemed to be preplanned. A small, obscure company of Gujarat, with no track record of organizing EDMs, succeeded in blindfolding a whole government and making good its escape!

This is not the first time the government has been cheated by organizers of EDMs. Despite the history of unscrupulousness and evasion by EDM organisers, it is intriguing that the government did not take enough care to foil a similar design by the latest EDM entity. The government claims to have started proceedings against Sudarshan Entertainment Private Ltd to recover its dues. If the government is serious, it should not only go in for recovery of dues but also start criminal proceedings against the management of Sudarshan Entertainment Private Ltd for deceiving it by issuing cheques without maintaining sufficient funds. Though the company failed to submit the accounts after the event, the government has not been able to assess the dues because of Goods and Services Tax. Even though GST is supposed to be a simple regime and the officials have been trained into handling it, it is surprising to note that the concerned government officials have not been able to calculate the amount to be collected from the company. Why is it that the officials are unable to calculate the dues? Is it their ignorance in handling the issue or is their non-action aimed at helping the company get away without clearing the dues to the government?

The state government has failed to recover dues from Percept, the organisers of Sunburn EDM festival, for the years 2013-14, 2014-15 and 2015-16 amounting to Rs 2.40 crore, Rs 86.85 lakh and Rs 37.59 lakh, respectively towards entertainment tax/GST. Percept disputed the claims of the state government and sought to bring down their liability. The government sought help of the concerned district collector of Mumbai in getting back the dues. This had to be done because Percept did not have any property in Goa. It was in wake of the perception of drug abuse, traffic jams, law and order problems, molestation and other ills associated with EDM events that there was demand from cross sections of society that the government should not allow any more such festivals. Though the government initially agreed, it shifted its stance for TimeOut organizer. Approvals for hosting the event were granted barely hours before the event was to be held. It is strange to note that even before they receive government approvals, EDM organizers start advertising their festivals months before the scheduled dates. And they never fail to get all the statutory approvals a few days before the event.

With yet another EDM organiser having conned the government, it remains to be seen whether the government would take the case to a logical end. The TimeOut 72 organiser had earned support of some key ministers during the festival: they had spoken in praise of the benefits the event would bring to Goa. Let us hope the recovery officials do not get hamstrung by political paranoia. Failure to recover money due from EDM organizers would make the people believe that politicians and officials were a party to the theft. As organisers of EDMs are particularly turning out to be tax evaders, the government must either stop giving approval to any EDM in the future or get all its money cash down before letting the organiser catch the flight back home.

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