Parrikar slams critics of defence expo relocation to Goa

Panaji, Jan 18 (IANS) Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar on Monday slammed critics of his ministry’s decision to relocate the Defence Expo to Goa, saying the event was the defence equivalent of a consumer shop, where instead of kitchen articles, military equipment and technology from across the world would be sold across the counter.

Parrikar, who was speaking at a BJP function in Panaji, also said the expo, which is expected to be held at the Quitol plateau in Betul village, 45 km south of Panaji, would be thrown open to all school students in Goa for two days.

The expo may even encourage youngsters from Goa to join the armed forces in the future, he said.

“People are criticising the Defence Expo for the sake of criticism. It is similar (to a consumer shop). It is a display of weapons. Over three days, representatives from big companies will come and offer tanks, artillery, machine guns and aeroplanes for sale,” Parrikar said, trying to simplify the Defence Expo concept to the audience.

“Around one lakh people from outside (Goa) will be attending it. We will also keep it open for a day or two in order to allow children from all schools in Goa to visit it.

“Let them see the latest weapons from over the world. This may even result in an increase in the number of Goans joining the armed forces,” Parrikar said.

Traditionally held in the national capital, the Defence Expo, scheduled to be held in March this year, is being shifted to Goa, because a new convention centre is being built at Pragati Maidan.

However, the Defence Expo 2016, which is the ninth in the series of biennial land, naval and internal homeland security systems exhibitions organised by the defence ministry, has attracted opposition from political parties as well as a section of the civil society over the allocation of six lakh square metres of land in the coastal village to the defence ministry for the expo.

Parrikar, a former Goa chief minister, said the mega event would ensure that locals get employment and that the government should encourage residents of villages near Betul to set up tea kiosks and other stalls for the benefit of those visiting the events.

“Those running taxis will get a lot of business. The event is also being held at the fag end of the tourist season and will ensure that hotels get full occupancy,” Parrikar said.

The defence minister said that if locals continued to oppose hosting of the event in Betul after this year’s event, then another village in Goa, Keri, 35 km from Panaji, that has expressed willingness could be roped in to host the event.

“The Keri panchayat has offered 3.5 lakh square metres of land,” Parrikar said.

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