The seafood festival, which was scheduled to be held on the Miramar beach from February 9 to 11, has been deferred to a later date, finally bringing relief to those who had filed a petition against it citing environmental concerns about having such a large-scale event on a beach.
The government had announced the event by overruling its earlier decision of not holding festivals on beaches. If it had not been questioned or challenged, the event would have been held unhindered, despite the government giving an undertaking to the court earlier.
The government has to realise that Goa’s citizens are well aware of their environment and their rights. They are well aware of the law and the government can’t just overrule its own policies and run roughshod to hold festivals of such magnitude in eco-fragile locations.
Recently, Echoes of Earth, a festival to celebrate Goa's biodiversity, found itself in the midst of a controversy over trimming down trees that had been going on for years to make way for holding the festival in a forested area. Questions were also raised about the expensive tickets (in the range of Rs 2,000 and onwards) for the festival.
Do we need festivals that generate loud noises that drive away our animals who are integral to our biodiversity? Scientific studies point out that loud music changes the behavioural pattern of animals leading to their migration and putting their lives in disarray.
The government’s Goa Tourism Department went on to praise the festival when in reality it was nothing but a rave party disguised as an environmental fiesta. It shows that we can be easily fooled or it can be surmised that we are blinded by money.
Governance is about doing the right thing, being honest and doing what the people want and working in their best interests. However, what we see is quite the contrary. There is a lack of governance or else how do we explain the disparity between what is assured and what we see on the ground?
A small State like Goa can be the best in terms of governance, but when the political class is overtaken by greed, nothing good can come out of it. And when a government goes against its own policy decisions, nothing good can be expected.
The way we are moving ahead in Goa, it just seems to be in the wrong direction. Today, instead of keeping its focus on political and economic goals and reforms, the government is slowly playing a central role as a religious ombudsman, a task best left to religious bodies in existence.
What we see today is not a safe environment for democracy, though it is made to look like one. In a democracy, people feel safe about speaking up and voicing concerns, but it is not so. A government, which lays emphasis on community and human dignity, will garner more respect from the people in the long run.
Instead of looking at the future, we are more rooted in history. We are building an environment and public spaces more suited to one section and ignoring the other. In Goa, we have always espoused the values of inclusion, embraced diversity and created communally peaceful spaces. And that is the only way forward and Goa is the role model.
For the next five days and starting from today, Goa will erupt in the joyful colours of Carnival and a month away from now, the beats of dhol tashe of Shigmotsav will symbolise the rich cultural diversity we nurture.
Also, festivals like the one that was to be held on the Miramar beach are a good idea, but when these events jeopardise our environment, it is time to say no.