Dear Friends,

New Delhi. 01 April, 2016. Always before going to cover a show I ensure writing a fresh editorial. This was the first time I decided to break the norm and leave it for return. When the world was talking about how Goa was not the right choice, pictures of the barren land with less than  a month to go and the taxi and hotel bookings unbelievable, I decided to wait and watch.

Amidst voices of disagreement, mounting scepticism and protests by local populace, Defexpo 2016 roared in the wilderness of Quepem Taluka of South Goa, first time outside Delhi since its genesis. And the early bird actually got the worm– no jams, no entry queues and a fully functional media centre at 8 AM, was just great.

DEO actually deserved the accolades it got from the Minister and the rest  for having carried out the herculean task in two weeks. The venue  was compact with  convenience of linked halls, numbered even and odd on opposite sides. But the air conditioning in most of the halls left much to be desired, in the sweltering heat and 95% humidity. Ofcourse no fault of the organisors, keeping in mind the lack of technical expertise and availability of resources in the area so remote. Infact all that was there was creditable keeping the venue in mind.

The media centre and the conference halls were unbeatable and better than media centres in most of the shows I have covered in the last 27 years of my career.  The icing on the cake was the  great internet connectivity– but after covering the whole day you can start filing the stories only after 4 PM and work upto seven pm each day. How long can you keep the DPR staff and CISF from going back? How safe can you feel all alone on a return drive from such wilderness each night?

Industry though present in full strength  to have their presence registered in the show of the biggest impoter of arms and equipment, had to actually sit there with not many customers to market their products to. All the retinue of MOD, MHA, para military forces, police forces and officials who made a difference by their presence at Delhi in the past, were not there to see their products. Vice Versa most of the officials who mattered when it came to identifying the needs of the forces both military and para-military were also  not there to see the latest in the market.

Logistics of the wilderness for those who made it a point to attend was also an issue. Bad mobile connectivity, worse internet, exorbitant taxi rates and hotels and bed & breakfasts’ skyrocketing per night charges. So if you were not paid for by a company or by the government, you had it. In retrospect it was actually they who had it too.  And for someone who has always been wary of even overspending the employer’s money, I don’t think it was worth it.

DEO and DPR both did the best but I think good sense should prevail and the next one should be at Expo Mart at Greater Noida if Pragati Maidan is not available. Holding Defexpo at Quepem  was a great task by Mr. Manohar Parrikar,  MP from Goa but not a great decision by the Defence Minister of India.  Please Mr. Minister look for options which are win-win situations for all stakeholders and more viable, for there is no time for the beautiful beaches, if you are actually travelling to and fro from Quepem to be at the show at 8 and leave at 7. Goa is great for a holiday not for Defexpo.

Sangeeta Saxena

01 April, 2016