21August2017

Goa's Spirited Online Weekly Magazine.

The Grape Escape – I

If you wondered how easy it was for all our montris to jet across the planet in the series titled ‘Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines’ concluded in August, this one for its sheer audacity should make your hackles rise.  Well, half way at least, because nothing surprises you any longer. 

This investigation called the ‘Grape Escape’ probes the Goa Tourism Development Corporation (GTDC) organized Grape Escapade.  Strange are the ways of government, that for the event held between 13-15 February 2007 a pre-receipted bill for Rs 15,00,000 dated 8 March 2007 was issued by GTDC to the Tourism Department.  A second pre-receipted bill with the same date was made out for Rs 11,03,456.

Earlier, on 20 December 2007 after learning that GTDC had virtually no bills to back this huge expenditure and which it had to produce to the Tourism Department that bankrolled the whole extravaganza, I asked the department for information under the RTI Act.  It took the department several months to coax GTDC into making the information available, some of which was given to me much after 25 July 2008, the date recorded on some answers which were officially given to me.  Why, were both the pre-receipts dated 3 March 2007?  Weird as it appears, this is the way the government does business. 

But, the real scrutiny begins here.  Because, for an event ostensibly held to popularize local wines (this is what the first event promised, but deviated from later) an advertisement was placed in Mumbai’s Mid Day!  Guess what too?  Rs 45,000 was spent advertising in the Mid Day as early as 6 January 2007.  Was GTDC giving its readers enough time to prepare for a short wine drinking sojourn to Goa?  That’s a thought.  None came. Grape Escape, exactly!

A company called Midway Trading Co billed GTDC Rs 23,296 to supply printed flexible hoardings.  It submitted a second bill for Rs 10,088, this time for printed flex on frame.  I understand the need to advertise in the local print media to popularize the event, but I cannot think this one through.  Rs 35,000 billed by Bina Nayak under the head ‘Grape Escapade advertising and publicity campaign’ and Rs 3,000 billed under the head ‘Grape Escapade additional hoarding charge’.

Invitations (360 +envelopes) were printed at Kolhapur at a cost of Rs 5,049.  Later, another set of invitations were printed at the same Rajhauns Printing Press for Rs 5,564 (800 this time).  Leave alone the fact that in recent years the Grape Escapade has turned out to be an escape for wineries from Maharashtra (one popular Goan winery refused to participate in 2007 in protest) the GTDC apparently thinks that local printers can’t do a basic printing job.  And almost like it wanted to make a point of GTDC’s infidelity to Goa’s winers, Grover Vineyard billed it Rs 3,000 for wine served to VIPs and some select journalists.  Grover which spends millions propagating social minutiae and, the grace of wine drinking, could not find the grace to be equally enchanting and serve up its wine free.  Particularly if you consider that if a bottle of wine costs about Rs 600 a bottle, its bill of Rs, 3000 meant it served about 5 bottles.  Come on!

In fact, the only company that did not pluck the vineyard of its choicest grapes, so to speak, was Bluebird Security Services which charged only Rs 5,400 for security services provided.  Thank God for small mercies!

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