Hours after Tourism Minister Manohar Azgaonkar on Wednesday had made known his desire to bring in rules to stop people from swimming at night along the beaches of Goa, two girls, tourists from a communications institute group on excursion, who had gone to Candolim beach at 3am drowned in the waters. The group from Ahmedabad was in Goa along with faculty members. At around 3 am, six of the group of 47 students, went to the Candolim beach for a swim, when a strong wave dragged two of them, and they lost their lives. The bodies were recovered later.
A few hours before this tragic incident, at a meeting with stakeholders, Azgaonkar had agreed that tourists should not be allowed to venture into the sea after dark. And just as there are rules for swimming in hotel pools, there is need for rules that prohibit swimming in the sea at night. The urgency with which to implement such rules, that will penalise persons going into the sea after dark, has been underlined by the death of these two girls, and the rules should preferably be in place before the next tourism season begins.
And with just weeks to go for the next season, Goa tourism is sending out a strong message, not in a bottle, but about the bottle and suddenly appears quite serious about it. On two consecutive days, the Tourism Minister, at meetings with different stakeholders from the industry and the government departments, spoke of plans for the season ahead and the menace of glass bottles on beaches and of people drinking and going for a swim. That is when Azgaonkar said he will approach Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar urging for a law to penalise those drinking and swimming and also those venturing into the water at late hours.
Drinking on the beach and swimming after drinking creates quite a nuisance in Goa, with even photographs of tourists with bottles in their hands in the waters having been published, and even posted on social media websites by those indulging in the practice. There have been instances of glass shards in the sand cutting into people’s feet, that mars the holiday spirit. Worse is when there are deaths due to drowning because of drunkenness. The minister has also asked the department to work out a mechanism to bring in necessary measures within the ambit of the law that would ban the supply of drinks in glass bottles on beaches. After much delay, Goa tourism is making the first moves to tackle this.
The initiative is commendable. But merely rules will not help and these have to be implemented. Drinking and driving is hard enough to detect, how will drinking and swimming be detected so as to stop it? The local authorities at times even find it difficult to implement the Sound Act, how then will the drinking and swimming rules be effectively implemented? The enforcement of the rules, one they are in place, is as important as having the rules.
While Goa Tourism is taking the initiative in amending rules and laws that will benefit the industry, and improve the destination, they have to ensure that these measures are sustained and the rules don’t just remain in the book. The committee being constituted, with representatives of concerned agencies, to meet once a month to review beach safety and water patrol issues, has to be given the powers to enforce the rules. Since the Tourism Minister has taken the first step, he now has to follow it up with deeds, so that the changes that have remained bottled up all these years are now implemented to make Goa an improved tourism destination.