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.

ATIKH RASHID

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.

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