All hat, no cattle: Goa promise to build IFFI Village before 50th edition still on paper

Over the last few years, the state’s successive chief ministers have been promising to ready ‘IFFI Village’ before November 2019 when the 50th edition of the festival is scheduled. Information obtained by The Indian Express using RTI shows that there has been little progress on ground.


FIVE years after it announced a plan to build a permanent complex to host the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) and with the event’s golden jubilee just a few weeks away, the Goa government is yet to award a contract for the Rs 1,100-crore ‘IFFI Village’ project, according to information received by The Indian Express in response to an RTI query.

Entertainment Society of Goa (ESG), the state government body which is a co-organiser of IFFI and has recently been entrusted with the IFFI Village project after another government body (EDC Limited) failed to make significant progress, has said it can start work on the project only after IFFI is over.

Over the last few years, the state’s successive chief ministers have been promising to ready ‘IFFI Village’ before November 2019 when the 50th edition of the festival is scheduled.

While organisers have said they are expecting over 10,000 delegates for IFFI’s golden jubilee edition, it’s not clear where they will be accommodated as the existing infrastructure has a capacity of 2500. Also, the availability of the biggest venue, Kala Academy, has come under a cloud due to structural issues. The state government is now looking at the possibility of hiring single-screen theatres near the venue.

The 50 acre plot allotted for the project in March 2016 has seen no work since.
IFFI Village, a convention centre planned to be built on DBFOT basis (Design, Build, Finance, Operate, Transfer), was touted to end the trouble delegates go through due to inadequate seating capacity.

The 50 acre plot allotted for the project in March 2016 has seen no work since

IFFI, the oldest film festival in Asia, started in 1952. Until 2003, it was hosted by different cities every year. It finally found a home in Goa after the festival was organised there in 2004. Goa was made IFFI’s permanent host in 2014 and as per an MoU signed between I&B Ministry and the state government, one of the key responsibilities of Goa government was to “develop and construct a permanent festival venue having a seating capacity for around 12,000 delegates/invitees and other support facilities for organizing opening and closing functions including film screenings”.

Soon after a permanent venue was announced, the Goa government said potential locations for ‘a new convention centre to host IFFI’ have been identified. On March 31, 2016, the state cabinet allotted a 50-acre plot in Dona Paula. In September 2017, then Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar appointed EDC Limited, a state government undertaking, as a special purpose vehicle for the project and set IFFI 2019 as the deadline.

Documents inspected show there has been little progress since.

The request for proposal for the project was prepared only in December 2018 and presented before the ‘Empowered Committee’ headed by then CM Parrikar. A tender inviting bids was floated on January 28, 2019, only to realise that there was a legal glitch in the contract as the state’s Additional Solicitor General Atmaram Nadkarni pointed out that in the current format, the government may end up losing ownership of the land to the prospective concessionaire. This led to issuance of several corrigenda — six till July 2019 — with the last one pegging the bid opening date at October 28, weeks before the 50th IFFI.

In September, the Empowered Committee under current CM Pramod Sawant decided to take away the project from EDC Limited and hand it over to ESG, the government body set up for organising IFFI in coordination with Directorate of Film Festivals, Government of India. This led to EDC withdrawing the request for proposal.

As per the request for proposal, the project is to be undertaken in two parts — the first comprising mandatory deliverables such as theatres to screen films, multi-level car parking and other facilities. The second includes setting up commercial buildings such as hotels. While the first part is expected to require an investment of Rs 350 crore, the second is estimated to cost Rs 750 crore.

The project plan includes a total of 11 auditoria in the ‘IFFI village’ with a total capacity of 8600 seats which will comprise of one large multipurpose hall of 6000 square meter area with a capacity to host 5000 persons, a multiplex with six multipurpose auditoria having a total 1500 seats, one large cinema theatre with 1000 seats, another theatre with 500 seats, two more with 250 seats each and a virtual reality (VR) cinema hall with a capacity to host 100 persons.

At present, IFFI infrastructure in Goa has a cumulative seating capacity of just 2,539 seats at three venues namely Kala Academy, Inox Multiplex and Maquinez Palace. With an average of over 5000 delegates registering every year to attend the biggest film festival in India, this often causes a lot of trouble, disappointments and ruckus during the event as delegates have to wait in long queues to get into the threatres. Kiran Ballikar, Managing Director of EDC Limited said, “It has been decided by the empowered committee to hand over the project to ESG. They will take the project ahead.”

Subhash Phal Dessai, BJP MLA and Vice-Chairman of Entertainment of Society of Goa (ESG) which is responsible for logistical side of IFFI, said that the delay has been caused due to EDC’s lack of experience in handling such projects.

“The state government asked EDC to implement the project as ESG was seen as a cultural organisation with no expertise to implement such a big project of over Rs 1000 crore. However, EDC is a financial institution and also doesn’t have the relevant experience to implement such a project which is essentially a construction project. They don’t have a team of engineers. This lack of competence and interest in the project on part of EDC has delayed it,” said Phal Dessai.

He said that the ESG is presently busy in oganising the 50th IFFI and any work on ‘IFFI village’ project will only be done after the festival is over.

When asked about the plans to deal with problems that organisers may face due to delay in completion of ‘IFFI village project’ and additional footfall of delegates and invitees that 50th IFFI is expected to attract, Phal Dessai said that ESG is planning to increase auditoriums to accommodate more delegates.

“We are in touch with three additional theatres and if the need arises we may use them as well during IFFI 2019. Of these, two are close to the existing venue and one is slightly far. We will make a decision regarding engaging these for IFFI in future meetings of the steering committee. Although there are some structural issues with Kala Academy, the Chief Minister has reviewed the situation and we will ensure that it’s safe enough to host IFFI screenings,” said Phal Dessai.

STATE Govt claims panchayats planted 1.7 cr trees in Pune Division, no evidence for 87% per cent plantation

Field visits conducted by The Indian Express in 20 villages in Sangli, Satara and Kolhapur Districts, showed that that most Gram Panchayats had “distributed” the saplings they were asked to plant. Many couldn’t show the locations of planted saplings.

A resident of Bramhanal village shows a wilted sapling that he said died as the village was submerged in water for days.


While the state government is claiming to have not only achieved but exceeded the target of planting 33 crore trees in the state as part of the three-month-long ‘Green Maharashtra’ drive — which ended on September 30 —a substantial part of the evidence to support this claim is missing from the state Forest department’s portal. Information shows that gram panchayats — which as per government claims planted 8.64 crore saplings — have not uploaded geographical tags and pictures to support the plantation numbers. In Pune Division alone, Gram Panchayats have not uploaded geo-tags and photographs for as much as 87 per cent of purported tree plantations.

The state forest department had created a special portal to monitor the tree plantation across the state by over 59 agencies. It was made mandatory for every agency to geographically tag the plantation sites and take pictures of the site and the saplings before and during the plantation, to ensure that the plantation has indeed been carried out.

According to the government website, 34.54 crore trees have been so far planted in the state with geographic tagging and the target has been surpassed with a 104.68 per cent plantation.

The Indian Express examined the tree plantation data uploaded on the Forest department’s portal for five districts of Pune division and found that while it has been claimed that gram panchayats in five districts — Pune, Sangli, Satara, Kolhapur and Solapur — have planted a total of 1.7 crore saplings, the panchayats did not provide any evidence for the plantation of as many as 1.49 crore trees (87.65 per cent) that they purportedly planted. The sites of these plantations have not been geographically tagged and pictures depicting preparations for the drive (such as photos of dug pits) or those taken during the plantation drive have not been uploaded, raising questions if these trees were indeed planted.

As per the data, in Pune District, the government claims that Gram Panchayats planted 42,33,227 trees. No evidence (geo-tagging, pictures) has been provided for 26,65,687 trees. In Solapur, the government says it planted 29,39,747 trees, but no evidence is uploaded for 27,79,747 trees. In Sangli, where the Gram Panchayat plantation claim is 22,18,170, no geotagging has been done for plantation sites where a total of 18,68,039 trees have purportedly been planted. In Kolhapur, where the Gram Panchayat is said to have planted 32,93,590 trees, the portal has been updated with no evidence for as many as 32,78,135 trees. In Satara, the government claim is 43,24,488 plantation via Gram Panchayats but evidence for only 550 sapling plantation has been uploaded with no geo-tags or pictures for rest 43,24,938 trees.

When reached for comment, Maheep Gupta, Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and co-ordinator for plantation drive by Gram Panchayats, told the reporter to speak to Chief Conservator of Forest (Pune) Vivek Khandekar.

Khandekar said the anomaly could only be explained by the gram panchayats concerned or zilla parishad officials of the districts in question.

“We merely provided a platform for various agencies to upload the data and the pictures, geo-tags. If they did not upload the pictures and geo-tagged the plantation sites, only the gram panchayat officials or Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) of zilla parishad concerned can provide an explanation. All I can talk about is the trees planted by forest department in Pune circle,” said Khandekar.

The Indian Express spoke to gram panchayat officials in about 20 villages in Pune, Sangli and Kolhapur and asked them about the drive and reasons for failure to upload the pictures and geograhpical tags on the portal.

According to them, the target given to each gram panchayat this year (average target per panchayat was 3,200) for tree plantation was “too high” and due to lack of funds for the drive, officials chose to “distribute” most of the saplings among farmers and school children asking them to plant them at home or farm. They said that planting 3,200 trees would have required about “Rs 70, 000 to Rs 1 lakh” for hiring machines to dig the pits and pay wages to labourers for planting the saplings. “The Forest department has made no arrangements for grants towards this expense. It has to be borne by the gram panchayat. Most of the gram panchayats have very little revenue and can’t spare the money for this scheme,” said a gram panchayat office bearer at Palus taluka in Sangli district.

“We had planted about 50 trees in the primary school premise. Rest were given away to farmers and school children,” said a gram panchayat official at Kanwad village in Shirol taluka of Kolhapur district.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity, a Forest department official said that gram panchayats were not supposed to “distribute” the saplings but to plant them. “We have several other schemes and departments that are involved in distribution and sale of saplings. This scheme is about planting the saplings and to ensure that they survive,” said the official.

Kolhapur, Sangli among top performers in Pune division

Though Kolhapur, Sangli districts were in news for devastating floods in August, but according to data provided by the government on the portal, they were among the top three districts in Pune revenue division (along with Satara) to have achieved 100 per cent tree plantation target.

According to the portal, Kolhapur planted 1.13 crore trees between July and September 2019 (100.47 per cent of its target), Sangli planted 75.23 lakh (104.06 per cent) and Satara planted 1.26 crore trees (101.65 per cent) during the same period.

Forest department officials said that since the plantation drive started on July 1, it was possible that the plantation was done before the floods wreaked havoc in the districts in the first week of August.

Residents of several villages in Shirol taluka of Kolhapur and Palus in Sangli — where the floods caused worst devastation — said that even the “50 or 100” saplings that were planted in their villages before the floods by gram panchayats were either washed away or wilted afterwards as they were submerged in water for several weeks.

At Bramhanal in Palus taluka where 17 people had died during floods after a boat carrying rescued villagers had capsized, local residents said that 50-odd trees that the gram panchayat had planted have either disappeared or wilted after floods.

“The water was 15 to 20 feet high. All the houses were submerged. The saplings that were planted by the gram panchayat and were not washed away, have wilted,” said Arvind Chougule, a resident of Bramhanal.