Goa is being promoted as a tourist destination for its Sun, Sand, and Sea. For a state that depends on TOURISM as the most promising foreign exchange earner both the sides of the coin promise progress and pain. It now seems a long time ago that the half clad hippies came to our land in search of God Forbidden Paradise. Today Tourism has progressed from eco to adventure to beer guzzling to rave parties to what you have! We do not maintain any record of people entering or leaving the state. Tourism is an industry in which we invest all the resources that we possess. The revenue generated will have to compensate for the losses in terms of our identity, our culture, our rich heritage and above all – our values. Therefore we should have a Tourism policy. We have to sell brand ‘Goan Heritage’.
Unfortunately we do not have a definite Tourism policy. In the absence of systems, the bureaucracy demands its pound of flesh, laws are broken by the hour and a tendency to make hay while the sun shines leading to exorbitant rates for rentals of vehicles, for food, accommodation and any tourist related activity. Do we really benefit from this industry? I feel that the ethics, the morality and the social fabric have taken a sound beating.
Some of the job opportunities involve the sale of prescribed drugs i.e. vasoconstrictors, ketamine and mephentamine. These drug cocktails have led to the deaths of tourists on the pristine beaches of Goa.
Goa’s 451 years of erstwhile Portuguese rule where the East and West blend to provide a cultural homogeneity attracts tourists. But this is not a tall order for the success of Tourism the Highway NH17, 17A and 4A that traverse the length and breadth of the State’s 3702 sq kms. There are around 700 billboards that display women in very provocative ways portraying the wrong image of our women..
The transport industry does not lag behind in selling Goa’s women. They offer a cozy package in buses with seating arrangement near unaccompanied women. Travel today with undetected crimes like molestation, rape, daylight robberies skewed remarks and mental harassment of the women which affects their free movement in a state which was hitherto a friendly state. The tourism brochures project this state as a state where wine. Women and song is the “in” thing. Often the hospitality or a friendly disposition is misunderstood as in invitation or a provocation.
Easy money in the short tourism season has affected women adversely. Men indulge in vices like gambling, drinking or drug abuse, sex encounters with strangers which has resulted in several young women being widowed young getting exposed to call girl rackets in the absence of economic support to look after their young families.
According to a recent report, Tourism related pedophilia is moving out of Thailand into the beaches of Kerala and Goa. The affected children are from Karnataka, Andhra and Maharashtra and from poor families of Goa too. Unfortunately it appears that the migrant children are victims of their circumstances. I am sure that all of us remember the Indo German Freddy Peats and his escaped accomplice McBride.
Recently the Government has permitted off shore casinos; many a young man is attracted to easy money. And an easy lifestyle!
Drinking in moderation is an accepted social norm. But interiors of bars violate excise regulations in force for monetary gains. They violate the dignity of woman by portraying her semi nude which makes the men lecherous and solicit drinking. Now a new style of selling alcohol is to employ girls from outside the State to dance with men and make them buy drinks for themselves and the girls. Soliciting customers for drinking and dancing.
The 365 days a year tourism does not warn tourists about dangers of swimming during the monsoons. The undercurrents have claimed many an unsuspecting tourist. Awareness on beach safety should form a part of the welcome and also the dangers of walking alone in certain areas are at their own risk. Tourists visit Goa for peace and tranquility. It is therefore expected that their safety is our priority.
The Government has to rectify the face of Tourism. Tourist advisories should warn against child abuse, speak about our culture and traditions, and promote respect for women insist on adequate clothing while travelling, shopping and sightseeing. All over the world there are areas marked for sunbathing. Tourism as an industry can do more harm than good if it is without a policy. Since Goa hardly records persons entering the State a number of anti social elements and drug peddlers enter here therefore screening of Tourists entering the state for our safety and for that of the tourist himself is a must.
I suggest the following :
• Specialized Training of police personnel with refresher courses to update their knowledge.
• Medical facilities of international standard.
• Price control.
• Should not affect the life of locals adversely – curtail on their freedom.
• Specialised community policing
• Tourism audit to check the amount spent on Tourism and what is the exact revenue turn over from it.
• The garbage generated is a major problem; take measures to handle this situation.
Promote tourism by all means but not at the cost of our women, our children, our environment or our people and their rich culture.