A two-day international Indo-Russian music festival, slated to begin on Friday at Baga in the north coastal belt, was cancelled due to last minute denial of permission by the State Tourism authorities. This evoked strong reaction from the Russian side and disappointed music lovers and artistes.

The Russian Embassy in New Delhi and the Consulate in Mumbai have expressed outrage and anguish over the development. A long-simmering conflict between local taxi drivers and Russian tour operators is said to be the reason for the cancellation of the Great Live Music International Festival.

The local BJP MLA of Calangute, Michael Lobo, was also reportedly opposed to the fest. He said the festival was being organised in the vicinity of a chapel, where preparations for the Feast were under way. The locals were also against the event due to the novenas.

“The unrighteous approach of the local authorities will affect the flow of Russian tourists here. Most likely, they will have to choose from other more welcoming resorts,” said a strongly-worded statement from the Russian Ambassador in New Delhi, Alexander Kadakin.

The organisers of the event had even delayed the music festival on Friday and then abandoned the first day’s event. They pinned their hopes on the intervention of the Russian Consulate to ensure that the event was held on Saturday. But it was not to be. Addressing a press conference in the city on Saturday, Alexey Mzareulov, Deputy Consul-General of the Russian Federation, Mumbai, told presspersons that the festival had all the required permissions and no department or Ministry had any objection.

Mr. Mzareulov expressed shock that a conflict between Russian tourist operators and local taxi drivers should be the pretext for the local authorities to cancel the festival and indicate that unless a settlement was reached on this count, it could not be held.

The conflict between local tourist taxi operators in north coastal belt and Russian tour operators is long simmering. A few days ago, Goa’s taxi drivers went on a rally protesting against operators working with Russian tourists and offering transport services to them. The local drivers say that by doing so, the foreigners were “snatching their bread.”

‘Disappointed’

Alexander Antipin, Bureau Chief in India, ITAR-TASS News Agency, said musicians were very much disappointed, so were the Russians, many of whom had specially come in to watch the Indian musicians.