THE Kesnand Village Gram Panchayat has called a Gram Sabha on Monday to discuss issues pertaining to Sunburn Festival, and to take a decision on whether to give a no-objection certificates (NOC) for the event.
Deepali Hargade, sarpanch of Kesnand village, said, “The organisers have sought an NOC from the gram panchayat… we have not given the NOC yet. A decision on the NOC will be taken during the Gram Sabha.”
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Meanwhile, preparations are in full swing at the venue for the festival — a piece of privately-owned land, located on a hill in Kesnand village in Pune. The festival, which is Asia’s biggest electronic dance music (EDM) festival, as per its organisers, will be held between December 28 and 31.
For the last nine years, the festival had been organised in Goa but this year, the Goa government banned it, forcing organisers to shift the venue to Pune. A controversy erupted over the festival after Hindutva outfits demanded a ban, claiming that it was against “Indian culture and that it encouraged consumption of drugs. They also claimed that the festival had been banned by the Goa government as the organisers had failed to pay taxes to the tune of Rs 3 crore.
Meanwhile, the district administration is yet to give its permission for the festival. “… we have not given permission for the festival. Organisers will have to get NOCs from various departments like police, forest, gram panchayat, entertainment tax and others,” said Resident Deputy Collector, Rajendra Muthe.
Meanwhile, Shiv Sena MP Shivajirao Adhalrao-Patil has written to Pune Rural Police as well as the district collector, requesting them not to grant permission for the festival.
“If one looks at the history of this festival, it has been that of blatant drug abuse and vulgarity. What is the logic behind holding a festival in Kesnand after it has been banned in Goa? It is unfortunate to see government offices granting permission for the festival. It has become government-supported drug tourism…,” said Adhalrao-Patil.
“We have filed a civil and a criminal suit in Pune courts, to seek a stay on Sunburn Festival. But the courts are yet to pass an order. We have also submitted a letter to the Excise Department in Pune, saying permission cannot be granted for the consumption of liquor at this event, as it is taking place on a piece of open land and not indoors,” said Chandrakant Warghade of Mahiti Seva Samiti.
On whether police would grant permission, Inspector Sarjerao Patil said, “Until now, we have not given permission for the festival. We have asked its organisers to submit the NOCs given by entertainment tax, forest, excise and other departments. We will grant permission only after verifying those NOCs. Police also have a role to play in managing the traffic and law and order situation, considering the huge crowd at such an event.”
Karan Singh, CEO of Sunburn Festival, said, “We suspect foul play and ulterior motives behind the calls for banning the festival by local outfits in Pune. This is our 10th year and we have never violated any law… Sunburn has a strict zero tolerance policy towards narcotics. In fact, there is a separate smoking zone and only adults with a permit will be allowed to buy and consume alcohol. Sunburn doesn’t encourage or promote nudity or indecent dressing… it is not the festival’s mandate to advocate dressing styles. We will obtain all required permissions from all relevant bodies and work strictly in adherence to their guidelines. We have applied for the requisite statutory permissions to host the event in Pune and are grateful to the Maharashtra government… The event is supported by the Maharashtra government’s department of tourism.”