Former CCP councillor Patricia Pinto approached the High Court of Bombay at Goa not because she is against a seafood festival happening on the beach but because there is no inherent system of keeping the beaches clean.
The court proceedings thereafter exposed the lackadaisical attitude of the Department of Tourism towards the law.
“I plead with the government to keep beaches free from food festivals. As a councillor, it took years to get Miramar beach cleaned. Having a beach cleaning system is one thing and expecting people to follow it is another,” remarked Pinto at the end of the hearings.
The government, after initially not accepting the High Court suggestion of deferring the festival, buckled on the second day, after it became evident – with the evidence being produced in court - that too many skeletons would stand exposed.
The first inkling that something was not in place surfaced when the GCZMA NOC was presented during the hearing wherein the letter requesting NOC was dated 11-01-2023 and the reply read: “This has reference to your letter dated 22-12-2023.”
The GCZMA NOC further reads: “This is to inform you that this office has decided to issue NOC for erection of 35 stalls for food, beverages…” and is signed by the Member Secretary thereby indicating that the NOC was issued without the authority of the board.
The issue arises from an undertaking signed by then Tourism Director U D Kamat that no sea food festival will be held on any beaches in 2004. Events of the 35th IFFI which were supposed to be held on the beach in 2004 were cancelled after it came to light that food stalls were going to be erected.
From the many departments that needed to provide NOC for the conduct of the festival this year, the Corporation of City of Panaji (CCP) was one that had not issued one.
The documents submitted in the High Court indicated that the CCP had in fact written to the Department of Tourism for clarification on the legal standing and there was no reply.
The High Court was also informed that the tender for erection of stall was floated in March 2023 for the food festival wherein it was stated that it would be held at “Sports Authority of Goa (SAG) ground or any other place”. The tendered amount was rupees Rs 2.85 crore and the order was issued on January 23, 2024.
Before asking for deferment, the High Court was presented a “Note For Cabinet” with the title: Beach Event and festival policy of Goa. The note was neither dated nor signed.
It read: “Proposal for holding Sea Food Beach festival at Miramar Beach was discussed and deliberated by the Cabinet. After deliberations, the Council of Ministers decided to permit the Department of Tourism to hold Sea Food Beach Festival at Miramar beach for 3 days in a year subject to the conditions that the Department of Tourism will impose appropriate conditions while giving permission that organisers will have to comply with all statutory provisions and Court orders.”
“The above decision has been taken in order to boost tourism and accordingly the earlier decision not to hold the said festival has been reviewed. This festival will be conducted only once in a year,” concludes the Cabinet Note presented in the High Court.
The traffic plan - created for the festival - was all about the type of traffic signals that would be used and had no details of how many vehicles would be parked where and from what time.
Patricia Pinto, former CCP councillor
The Department of Tourism submitted that wet and dry waste would be segregated at the venue but in another document submitted it was clearly mentioned that each stall will be provided with only one bin.
“I am really glad that the government saw reason and decided to defer the Sea Food Festival. This beach is unique and we citizens, as well as the government, should strive to keep it clean if we want more tourists,” said Pinto.