Drugs: Has Goa crossed the line of control?
In the interest of tourism there should be effective and purposeful consultation with the stakeholders and more particularly Travel and Tourism Association of Goa
Story: PRABHAKAR | TIMBLE | 04th January 2020, 03:34 Hrs
Three deaths of youth at the Electronic Dance Music (EDM) site lit up the mountain of drug trade in the state of Goa challenging the international image of the tiny bountiful state as a pious, serene, cultured and safe destination. There is no shade of doubt now that the tranquil land of sun, sand, forests and historical heritage is infested with drug trafficking. As a location of traders, peddlers and consumers the state has traversed too far and crossed the line of control. Drugs are seen from the Northern tip of Ashwem and Morjim (Pedne) to Palolem and Galgibaga(Canacona) in the South. The presence is also experienced on college campuses throughout the state.
No illegal trade can flourish without the police-trader-politician nexus in any part of the world. What came as a rude shock was the statement of the Goa Tourism Minister to facilitate another EDM festival in South Goa. The timing of communicating such intention of the government shows the power of illegal businesses over politicians. The minister was sending a strong signal to disconnect the drug deaths with EDMs. In fact, the minister robustly boasted of hotel occupancy figures and a fast buck through a six-fold hike in room tariffs.
Another minister in the state cabinet put the blame on the victims as it is their free choice to consume or stay away from the narcotic substances. The police and anti-narcotics officers shifted the onus on the people to adduce proof. The team of doctors at the apex government hospital brought discredit to their Hippocratic Oath by almost resigning themselves to be tools in the hands of the government and the illegal traders by keeping their judgment and autopsy report opaque and inconclusive. All this is evidence enough that the government is cold and remorseless.
With or without EDM, Goa is a hot pot of drug retail. In today’s age, it would be imprudent to look at drugs exclusively from the cultural or moral lens. From the beginning, the base of Goa’s tourism has been all legal and officially authorized economic activity. With comparative natural advantages and liberal lifestyle, Goa emerged as a preferred destination for the international and domestic tourist. The reckless expansion of beach tourism coupled with the failure to harness available alternatives in terms of heritage, rivers, forests, adventure and hinterlands has made Goa to lose the competitive edge. Largely, out of panic of falling tourist traffic, we are now inserting an illegal base for tourism industry through casino gambling, drugs and prostitution. These are the black markets which provide temporary windfalls to hotels but are definitely not sustainable tourism models for benefiting all the stakeholders by ensuring the trickle-down effect.
Illegal markets and businesses are attractive propositions to police in terms of kickbacks and to politicians for the money spin. Once these illegal markets reach monstrous proportions, they tend to control the politics of the region. Logically, smaller communities and regions are easy prey. In drug commerce, around 85 per cent of income goes to the kingpins. The poor locals get some boon. The consumers or customers are captive as they have no remedy against the supply of substandard or spurious goods. No complaints can be filed against cheating and impure products. Illegal markets are a sellers’ paradise and buyers’ hell. The negative impact is high on economies and would be evident in different
As drug business establishes its roots, crime and violence are perceived to be a normal acceptable phenomenon. Public spending would be necessitated in expensive health care. There is growth in the rate of HIV-infection. Losses in human productivity would creep gradually. Finally, it becomes a region unfriendly for investment. What was earlier sought to be justified or ignored for tourism and hotel occupancy turns out to be the cancer giving a fatal blow not only to tourism but to legal economic activities.
To the Goa Minister who says “the show must go on”, it is in the interest of the tourism industry that there should be effective and purposeful consultation with the stakeholders and more particularly the Travel and Tourism Association of Goa (TTAG). The industry is disturbed over the ‘flop season’ at peak time. The occupancy rate is less than 50 per cent for the hotel industry. The shack operators are distressed with the low footfalls. The other related businesses are unhappy. The talk is that without promotions, Goa used to have tourists flow which catered to the interests of all. Today, with the so-called promotions and foreign jaunts of the ministers and their cronies, the industry is finding it difficult to smile. It is a pointer that something is basically amiss.
Goa still enjoys the luxury of choosing legal markets and above-board alternatives for boosting tourism and answering the problems of the tourism industry. A deliberate choice has to be made to keep tourism delinked from gambling, drugs and prostitution. The argument is not the traditional one of morals and culture. If we do not make the conscious choice, the days of international tourist flow will wither away very fast. The domestic family tourist arrivals will also be numbered. The show will come to a grinding halt for legal tourist stakeholders. For the illegal markets whose survival is through connivance with greedy politicians and corrupt police any
show will do.
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