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Panaji, Nov 6 (IANS) Guns and guards may just overshadow the 43rd International Film Festival of India (IFFI) beginning Nov 20 as the Goa government has banned all protests as well as the assembly of people after truckers affected by the court ban on mining threatened to block Panaji.
In a bid to keep the capital off limits to these protests, the government has banned "protests, morchas (marches) and rallies" and the gathering of people in the vicinity of the capital as well as the assembly complex during the 10-day film festival period and the days leading up to it.
The annual event attracts over 8,000 delegates as well as VIPs, who queue up to attend the biggest government endorsed film festival in the country.
"This step has been taken keeping in view that various interested groups are likely to resort to agitation for redressal of their grievances and this may create uncontrollable situations, including paralysis of traffic in the city that could disrupt public order, peace and tranquillity," said a government spokesperson.
The move has come as out-of-work owners of over 20,000 trucks ferrying ore from the mining pits to the river jetties have threatened to drive towards the capital and block traffic from entering or exiting.
"By organising the IFFI in the state at this tough time, the government has proved to be insensitive as far as the woes of the truck owners and other related segments is concerned," said Digambar Naik, a spokesperson for the truck owners.
To counter the threat, North Goa District Collector Mihir Vardhan has prohibited all kinds of protests and processions and "any kind of assemblage of people" within 500 metres of the Panaji police station, which in effect covers the main IFFI venue. The ban will be in effect from Nov 17 till Nov 30.
A majority of the 20,000 trucks and their owners are without work, with the Supreme Court, as well as the state and central governments, simultaneously stopping mining activity in the state, after a judicial commission exposed a Rs.35,000 crore scam.
Last year, owners of barges blockaded the river traffic by lining their large vessels across the Mandovi river's navigation channel, blocking traffic for other river vessels like fishing trawlers. At the same time, road traffic was also paralysed in the city after owners of mining trucks drove the bulky vehicles to the entrance of Panaji city, blocking all movement for hours.