Goa cancels Indo-Russian music fest , sparks diplomatic row

Goa cancels Indo-Russian music fest , sparks diplomatic row

 In a blow to music lovers, an Indo-Russian musical festival slated for Saturday in this coastal Indian state popular with Russian tourists has been cancelled over a fight between taxi drivers and tour operators vying to grab transport services for Russian tourists.

The state government declined to give permission to allow the Great Live Music-2014 - the second Russian-Indian musical festival - on Saturday.

The Goa ministry of tourism in a letter has informed the organisers that holding the festival would be impossible until settlement of a conflict between tourist operators and taxi drivers, according to Itar-Tass.

Several days earlier Goa's taxi drivers went on a rally protesting against tourist operators working with Russian tourists and offering transport services to them. The local drivers maintain their livelihood has been snatched by the tour operators who have grabbed the Russian charter tourists.

"It is a rather strange and rather weird decision, Goa's authorities have made. The cultural event, like the festival, which was approved beforehand, does not have, and may not have anything to do with problems of transport services or serving Russian tourists in Goa," Russia's Ambassador in India Alexander Kadakin told Itar-Tass.

"Those are different aspects. The authorities should rather focus on correction of inadequate taxi tariffs."

"It is unfair that local taxi drivers strip Russian tourists, who have to save their modest earnings for several years to come to Goa," he said.

"The unrighteous approach of the local authorities to organisation of cultural events will affect the inflow of Russian tourists here. Most likely, they will have to choose from other more welcoming resorts," the ambassador said, according to Itar-Tass.

In an angry reaction, Deputy Consul General of the Russian Federation in Mumbai Alexey Mzareulov told IANS: "If Goa wants to lose Russian money fine with us...  The festival may now be shifted to Thailand."

Lawyer Vikram Varma, who represents Russians in Goa, said the organisers had complied with the rules. The Great Live Music-2014 organisers filed their application on Jan 9 for the event and paid for all respective duties.

The festival was to feature over ten musical groups from Russia, Latvia and India, including Latvia's Brainstorm, India's Parikrama, and Gleb Samoilov and his Matrixx group from Russia. They all are in Goa already.

Parikrama's keyboardist Subir Malik told Itar-Tass the group had to cancel several concerts to participate in the festival. The group gave concerts in mid-January in St. Petersburg, where the audience warmly welcomed the musicians.

Great Live Music was first held Feb 1-6.The event featured over 20 groups from Russia, India, Britain, and Ukraine.

In 2013, Goa welcomed a record 2.8 million visitors, including 450,000 foreigners. The region is also very popular with Russians: over 120,000 tourists visited Goa, and the forecasts say in 2014 over 200,000 Russians could visit the resort

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