Goa govt slammed for allowing packed Holi events amid Covid surge. Image Source: IANS News

Panaji, March 30 : A string of packed-to-the-brim Holi parties held in Goa's night clubs and resorts on Monday has provided colourful ammo to the Opposition in the coastal state, where increasing Covid-19 cases had forced Chief Minister Pramod Sawant to ban celebrations of indigenous Hindu spring festival 'Shigmo' earlier this month.

On Tuesday, opposition MLAs accused Sawant of giving a "go-ahead" to commercial events related to Holi, as videos of such celebrations went viral on social media.

"The government says it is a logistics nightmare to make Covid-19 certificates mandatory for tourists. And the move would impact the tourism industry. The same government imposed Section 144 without delay. Where has this section been implemented? Did you see any implementation of Section 144 when those Holi parties were held, where people were dancing outside casinos and at Holi parties," former Deputy Chief Minister and Goa Forward party MLA Vijai Sardesai said.

"They (the government) are not at all serious about Covid. They are not taking preventive care. You don't have to panic in the face of a second wave. The CM is moving around inaugurating exhibitions without a mask and he preaches to people. Practice what you preach first," he added.

Earlier on Tuesday, videos of packed Holi events, at coastal beach resorts and night clubs had gone viral, with guests and organisers of the events paying scant regard to SOPs put in place by the state government to prevent overcrowding.

Ricardo DSouza, co-promoter of one of Goa's most popular night club 'Club Tito's' also took to the social media with a copy of a complaint letter to Chief Secretary Parimal Rai, in which he said that government officials were trying to extort money during the Holi festivities, while ignoring several night clubs which were violating Covid-19 related norms.

"In fact, the public roads and beaches which are 'public places' in the actual sense are crowded with people and there is not a single official going there to dispense them as there is no money to be extorted there," D'Souza said in his letter, adding that other clubs which had "openly announced functions hosting big DJs" were not taken to task.

Leader of Opposition Digambar Kamat also weighed in on the controversy, saying the government had shown "step-motherly treatment" to traditional festivals like Shigmo, by banning public processessions, and at the same time was allowing commercial Holi events to flourish despite rising Covid-19 numbers.

Chief Minister Sawant, however, said that people were free to celebrate Shigmo in small gatherings and there was no bar under Section 144 to hold religious events.

"There is no restriction on holding religious functions in villages. It has been excluded from Section 144," he said.

Asked about the lack of administrative action against night clubs for openly violating Covid-19 SOPs, Sawant said: "Section 144 is applicable to public roads or public places. There is no issue with organising activities in private places with restrictions".

A total of 127 persons tested positive for Covid-19 in Goa over the last 24 hours. In all 57,839 persons have tested positive since the pandemic broke out last year, out of which 829 succumbed.

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