Panaji, Dec 19 (IANS) As Goa’s political parties drum up the seasonal tempo over the ills of projecting Goa as a destination for electronic dance music (EDM) festivals, official documents have red-flagged several issues of concern vis-a-vis Sunburn, arguably Asia’s biggest EDM festival.
A report submitted by Superintendent of Police (Traffic) Vijay Singh to the North Goa district collector last year suggests that the organisers of Sunburn had used minor children to conduct traffic duties during the three-day event, which sees over hundreds of thousands of music lovers in attendance.
In his report filed last December, Vijay Singh said: “The traffic marshals deployed were mostly minors and higher secondary students who were not mature enough to handle violent Sunburn participants who were mostly under the influence of alcohol.” The comments were in reference to an earlier edition of the EDM festival in 2012.
Sunburn’s promoters have officially refused to comment on the issue.
The report further says traffic management during the music festival, which attracts hundreds of thousands of music lovers from across the country, was worst affected because “no traffic marshals were available on the road after sunset, thereby further worsening the situation”.
Goa’s EDM festivals in Goa have always stirred up political one-upmanship, with both the Congress and the BJP, during their stints as in the opposition, alleging drug use at such festivals.
But when in power, both the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party have accorded the necessary permissions to stage the events.
But it’s not that the allegations of drug use at music festivals have never been substantiated.
In 2009, a 23-year-old Meha Bahuguna from Bengaluru died due to what police claim was “suspected drug overdose” while she was partying at the Sunburn festival.
Similar allegations made in 2012, forced then chief minister Manohar Parrikar to give a public assurance that the event would be stopped “if Sunburn is found playing loud music after 10 p.m. or if there is any consumption of drugs & hellip”.
In fact, a report submitted in 2013 by a senior police officer to the authorities, while referring to Bahuguna’s death, said: “This incident invited severe criticism about Sunburn festival in the press and the electronic media. The party atmosphere is fuelled not just by friends and music but also by drugs.”
Such controversies had even forced Parrikar to make an official noting on a tourism ministry file: “Sunburn has been a big headache due to complaints of drugs/smoking/traffic jams and allegations of kickbacks/forced free tickets. Unless these issues are sorted out all such festivals need a re-look. May discuss for clarity.”
Only last week, the Congress, in a charge-sheet, blamed the state government for promoting “casinos, EDM, drug trade and prostitution” in the name of tourism.
When contacted, Sunburn’s promoters responded with “No comments” to a written questionnaire seeking their response on drug-use at the event site, use of minors for chores and other contentious logistical issues related to traffic, security and the like.
(Mayabhushan Nagvenkar can be contacted at [email protected])