KATHMANDU, July 3: A parliamentary committee on Tuesday directed the government to stop the 20th edition of the IIFA Awards, casting fresh doubts over one of the most prestigious events of the Indian film industry. The Awards to be held in August has triggered a raging political battle ever since Nepal agreed to host it.
Parliament’s Committee for International Relations issued a directive to the government following an internal meeting that concluded the awards function was a ‘threat to Nepal’s sovereignty, independence and prestige’.
The three-day event got caught up in a political storm following reports that Kathmandu Metropolitan City, Nepal Tourism Board (NTB) and the private sector would be spending Rs 1 billion on it. Other necessary arrangements including security and vehicles were expected to incur an additional financial burden on taxpayers.
NTB officials say they are yet to reach a decision on costs with the organizers. They add that the costs would be far lower than reported.
NTB CEO Deepak Raj Joshi said the awards would be a popular platform for branding Nepal as a tourism destination.
“The reason we have chosen cinema for the city branding and nation branding is Bollywood would be a big draw for Indian visitors. IIFA will be branded as ‘IIFA Nepal’ which is going to create a strong brand identity for Nepal,” Joshi told media at a recent a press conference. He claimed that the event would be viewed by nearly 700 million people.
But many within the ruling Nepal Communist Party have opposed hosting the event, saying it would be a waste of taxpayer money.
“It’s surprising to hear that KMC is giving Rs 440 million, and Nepal would be investing around Rs 1 billion for the event...and that the Nepal government has given permission for this. I wonder who does such things and why, in whose interest, at whose incitement...,’’ Bhim Rawal, a senior NCP leader said in a Twitter message.
It remains unclear whether the parliamentary committee’s directive will force the government to reverse its decision. The government has already formed a 17-member coordination committee under the state minister for tourism to make the preparations.
Senior government officials appear in no mood to stop the event. They fear that stopping it could cause embarrassment for Nepal and muddy relations with India.
Minister for Communication and Information Technology Gokul Baskota hinted that there would be no rethinking the government’s decision.
“I want to make it clear the Nepal government won’t engage in any business of loss, it will do business of gain. There hasn’t been any agreement on the advertising revenue it (the IIAF awards) would generate.”
“Our economic and cultural interests will be taken into consideration,’’ Baskota told the parliamentary committee for development.
For hosting the event, the government of Nepal will have an obligation to pay out four million USD plus taxes, make available for 20 days a venue that can accommodate an audience of 4,000, and bear all costs for hospitality, catering and beverage for the visiting guests and IIFA crews at selected and agreed hotels.
Separately, the government shall be required to provide for all air travel to Kathmandu for the IIFA contingent by commercial and chartered flights.