By Sachin Chatte
Most bureaucrats and IAS officers are used to wearing several hats and looking after multiple portfolios. Amit Satija has the responsibility of donning two of the most important ones in India’s smallest state. He has been at the helm of affairs as the Chief Executive Officer of the Entertainment Society of Goa for the last year and a half and, since October 2020, he is also handling the all-important portfolio – during these pandemic times – as the Health Secretary for Government of Goa. Not to mention he is also in charge of Urban Development, Transport, Science and Technology, Factories and Boilers, and is the nodal officer for Swachh Bharat Mission and Pradhan Mantri Aawas Yojana.
With the rollout of the Covid vaccine for frontline health workers in the state, he is busy coordinating those efforts while also being fully involved in getting the 51st edition of the International Film Festival of India (IFFI) underway.
With his staff waiting discreetly, if impatiently, holding some files for approval, he took a few minutes off to talk to The Peacock about his experiences this year.
“The circumstances changed drastically earlier this year and by now everyone has adjusted to the new normal, after COVID 19 struck. As a result, we have also incorporated all the safety measures and precautions possible,” Satija said.
In consultation with the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, a plan was mapped out this year for the festival, and the number of venues where activities were planned was reduced. “We have consciously avoided places where many people could gather. Last year being the Golden jubilee year of IFFI, we took cinema to different parts of the state, went all out to involve people into activities around the Campal promenade, and held exhibitions which received tremendous response. But this year, with the situation being different, we have restricted it to the core activity of films for delegates, with just two venues, Kala Academy and the Old GMC precinct.”
Satija also informed us that there will also be a break of about 90 minutes between films, in order to sanitize the auditorium. Following the MHA guidelines, only 50% or 200 seats, whichever is lower, will be allowed to be occupied – which means that even Kala Academy, with a capacity of around 900, will host a maximum of just 200 delegates.
“I would also like clarify about the hybrid format of the festival,” he added. “You can register for the festival for in-person viewing or you can register for online screenings, they are two different things. The films shown in the two formats will also be different, some of the sections are exclusive,” he clarified.
When asked how it has been for him personally to look after two high profile events, he said that they are used to handling multiple activities. “As the Health Secretary, it is an advantage because I am familiar with the protocols and measures, so there is no need for a special guidance from another department. It is easier to coordinate the situation,” said the 2008 batch IAS officer.
On the administrative front as the CEO, he has also been instrumental in the renovation of the multiplex, which will generate income for the government. “In the last couple of years, we have put in a lot of work and from being a revenue-sufficient organization, we have become a revenue surplus organization that will contribute to the exchequer and use the money for the promotion of entertainment in Goa,” he said referring to the new contract with the multiplex where ESG will earn around Rs.54 lakhs per month with an increase of 5% per year. ESG also intends to reach out to other departments to help them organize events, since they have the expertise of organizing IFFI, which undoubtedly is the biggest annual event in Goa.
While parting, with COVID vaccinations rolling out across the country and IFFI getting underway, you could see that the young officer has a sense of professional satisfaction.