Panaji/New Delhi: An Indo-Russian musical festival featuring top Indian and Russian bands was abruptly cancelled by the Goa government, provoking an angry reaction from Russia Saturday that termed the move “insolent and a starkly unfriendly gesture” by the state government.

The state government declined to give permission to allow the Great Live Music-2014 – the second Russian-Indian musical festival – at Baga, one of the most popular beaches in north Goa, located 20 km from the capital, over a fight between taxi drivers and tour operators vying to grab transport services for the Russian tourists.

In a strong message, the Russian embassy in New Delhi termed the cancellation as an “insolent and a starkly unfriendly gesture” of the Goa government and warned against “further increase of hostility to Russian tourists” in the state.

It said refusal to grant permission was “made under a contrived pretext at the last moment”.

The festival was organized by a Russian company and had top Indian bands like Indian Ocean and Parikrama playing with their Russians counterparts.

The embassy said the move “will inevitably affect the popularity of this tourist region” which is very popular with Russians. Over 120,000 tourists visited Goa last year and the figure could touch over 200,000 in 2014.

The statement said the attempt to link the event “to the scandal over the local taxi drivers carrying Russians looks provocative”.

“Such rash actions do not go in line with the intention stated by the Government of Goa to turn this place into a world-class resort. Moreover, they contradict the traditions of friendship and mutual understanding which the peoples of Russia and India enjoy.”

It hoped the Goa authorities would “manage to find a worthy way out of this situation. Further increase of hostility to Russian tourists in Goa, who make a significant financial contribution to the development of the state, must be stopped”.

The Goa tourism ministry in a letter informed the organisers that holding the festival would be impossible until settlement of a conflict between tourist operators and taxi drivers.

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.

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.

In an angry reaction, Deputy Consul General of the Russian Federation in Mumbai Alexey Mzareulov said: “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 all respective duties.

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

Source: IANS