THE Goa government must not repeat the mistakes it committed with the two EDM festival organizers in the past, Sunburn and Supersonic, and make sure that the organisers of the Timeout 72 EDM festival – Ahmedabad-based Watermelon Events LLP and the Sudarshan Entertainment Pvt Ltd. – scheduled from December 27 to 29 at Vagator pay them all the fees. Even though the state level permission committee had directed the organizers to pay all fees, including the licence fee of Rs 1 crore, by 5 pm on December 20, they failed to pay. The commercial tax department had sent the organizers an e-mail to make advance payment of fees. What was more, the organizers did not wait before starting their work at Vagator for mandatory clearance from the Goa State Coastal Zone Management Authority; they got the clearance later. Even without paying fees and obtaining GSCZMA clearance, the promoters were vigorously promoting the event, with concerned government departments and regulating agencies unable to do anything.
As the event venue falls within the CRZ area, the GSCZMA should have swung in action immediately and prevented erection of the infrastructure till it made an inspection and gave it clearance. What is surprising is that though the application from the organizers seeking CRZ nod was received by the Authority last week, it failed to carry out inspection allegedly due to lack of staff. The process to obtain a CRZ clearance is lengthy and cumbersome and it remains to be seen whether due process is followed in granting the permission or it is fast tracked by overlooking discrepancies. It appears that Aayush Mehta, one of the Timeout directors, is a BJP member and a member of Gujarat BJP Entrepreneurs’ Cell. His Facebook posts include a picture with Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar whom he met in June this year. How much Mehta’s BJP connections are helping the EDM promoters with the Goa government approvals can be hard to tell. There is something more to wonder about this EDM: the organizers are asking the state level permission committee to give them tax concessions – waiver of tax on ‘passes’ to be issued and a waiver on other fees – on the plea that they are a ‘start-up’.
It looks almost certain that the organizers will get all clearances from the state authorities. The least that the state officials could do is to ensure that the event does not cause trouble and harassment to local people and is free from drugs and other vices normally connected with such events, but never admitted by the promoters or the police. It would be easier for the state police to keep vigilance at and around the venue as this is the only EDM festival to be held this year, unlike in the past when two EDM festivals were held simultaneously.
Despite the fact that EDM festivals have been successful in drawing crowds, the state is yet to identify sites for such events and draw a calendar of events. It would be in the interest of the state, the organizers and the officials if the government sets aside dates for hosting EDMs and other festivals and calls for bids from promoters well in advance and accords permission following due procedures. The venues for the events should be leased by the state authorities and enough facilities should also be created and rented out to organizers. This will help the organizers to promote their shows and also pay the government its dues in time. Last-minute decisions on according approvals create confusion and doubts for all.
The previous EDM festivals drew thousands of people and the organizers made huge earnings but failed to give the government its dues of around Rs 8.5 crore. Let us hope the state government does not let Timeout 72 organisers get away after winding up the festival without paying all the fees they have to pay to the public exchequer. The state level permission committee has told Timeout 72 organisers to pay all the fees in advance along with bank guarantee. On Friday the organizers claimed to have paid Rs 1 crore to the commercial tax department. The state level permission committee and commercial tax department should not let the organizers dilly-dally on paying the rest of the fees. They should also not succumb to any kind of pressure to give the organizers any tax concessions in the name of being first-time organizers of such events. The promoters are not Goan companies that are going to stay on in the state. Besides, they are event companies and do not generate regular employment. So, they do not deserve any tax concessions.