The State government decided not to give its nod to the popular Sunburn festival, an announcement that took even Tourism Minister Manohar Babu Ajgaonkar by surprise. "We have not given permission and the file has been sent back," disclosed Chief Minister Pramod Sawant at a post-Cabinet press briefing on Wednesday. The cancellation of the EDM is a welcome decision and must be lauded against the backdrop of a resurgence of Covid in the Western world.
Ajgaonkar appears to be perturbed by the decision, and his comment that CM did not inform him of this major decision says a lot about what he chose not to speak. It is surprising that a tourism minister who faced flak over his comment "the show must go on" during the onset of the second wave which eventually spelt disaster for the State, continues to prioritize EDMs mindful of the crowd they draw, the crippling effect they have on the system, and despite knowing that Goans have just emerged from one the most dreadful health scares in recent times.
The tourism minister, by moving the file, overlooked the safety of citizens, and for some strange reason felt that it should have been held. Ironically, Ajgaonkar has remained ignorant of the virus surge around the world. On Thursday, South Africa has detected a new Covid variant, and there have been spikes reported in Israel and the Netherlands, besides a fresh wave in the UK. Europe recorded more than 2.4 million new infections with the World Health Organisation warning people over a "false sense of security" over being vaccinated. The WHO has said that the pandemic is not yet over, and by March fears a fresh death toll of 7 lakh people across Europe and parts of Asia.
On the flip side, we may recall that the organisers of Sunburn have an atrocious track record hosting the event in Goa, not forgetting the time when they refused to pay the crores of outstanding dues forcing the government to take legal recourse towards recovery proceedings. We may also point out that Ajgaonkar has shown initial reluctance in the past only to allow the event on conditions unknown to the outside world. Cut to the present and it is baffling how bookings for the December event went online. Can Ajgaonkar, who has been dealing with Percept Live for the past many years, bring clarity on this? The organisers were running online promos even a few days back, and no State authority saw reason to question this.
Sawant must be commended on this decision. It is no doubt one of the rare occasions that the CM stamped his authority refusing to be bogged down by agenda-driven ministers. With the election season heading into its peak, ministers are bound to try all ways and means to navigate through the poll path. It is obvious that in the name of tourism and economy, large-scale public events and entertainment shows are being unleashed on Goans with no concern of the larger impact. It is a shame that ministers are ready to take such risks with the lives of people.